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Surprise visit to Anisora
04-21-2018, 01:22 PM
Post: #1
Surprise visit to Anisora
This thread follows the visit of a Vittmarker delegation to Anisora in June 7579 in the aftermath of the signing of the Protocols of Gadelhem and Anisora's withdrawal from the Treaty of Ærilar. It is a co-production of Pep and myself.

Chapter One: Arrival

June 7579, just inside Anisoran airspace near the capital Pena

The Keisare Karl had been en route for 30 hours now. The short refuelling stop in Oseidon had been a welcome distraction for the company on board. The Vittmarker delegation was led by Foreign Chancellor Göran Persson Ödebo, but the company of Crown Princes Moa of Vittmark gave the upcoming visit an extra dimension. Her main assignment wasn’t that of first in line of the royal succession, but her recently acquired role as senator for the Kakuri people.

“What is that… creature… on their cloth?” Surprise asked. She was present as head of the Kakuri member state and got briefed about some customs and etiquette of the place they were going to visit. The dragon on the flag of the city of Pena was puzzling her.
“It’s a… an animal,” Moa tried to explain. The Kakuri didn’t have a word for dragon and Moa didn’t know how to describe it.
“What kind of animal?” Surprise continued. “It has three pairs of limbs, only outsiders have that. But it looks like a dry scale… with wings…”

Yuma tried to help. She was present as part of the MP delegation from the coalition parties in parliament.
“Outsiders, that’s what the Chi eat,” she explained. Moa got it. Insects…
“Dryscales, without fur and they lay soft eggs.”
“It’s some sort of dryscale, I guess. In part...”
“Does it live there? I never have seen anything like…”
“It’s a… story… old story,” Moa tried to explain.
“So it’s not a real animal, but they put it on their flag? How adorable…”

June 7579, Pena Airport

Despite reassurances from the Vittmarker ambassador that Princess Moa was in Anisora in her capacity as senator for the Kakuri people, and not as heir to the throne, the Anisorans would not let that technicality result in the princess receiving anything less than a royal welcome. The Grand Prince of Pastana, Prince Titus, the eldest son of the Emperor of the Anisorans, sat waiting under a parasol for the airship to land beside Lord Valiano, Tribune for Foreign Affairs.

The sun was strong today, with only a light breeze - something the Vittmarkers would undoubtedly find oppressive, but perhaps not the Kakuri. Prince Titus, like Lord Valiano, wore a three-piece suit and a top hat, which was becoming itchy in the heat of the day. As the Grand Prince watched the airship make its final approach, he muttered repeatedly under his breath “Prinsessan Moa, välkommen till Anisora,” practising the Wortsproke phrase he had been given minutes before by the translator accompanying him.

As the airship touched down, he rose, followed by the other officials representing the Anisoran government who were there to meet the Vittmarkers. He stepped forward and waited for the Princess, the Foreign Chancellor, and the rest of the delegation to disembark. Protocol dictated that either the foreign chancellor would disembark first, or that the crown princess was led off by the Vittmarker ambassador. Since royalty was here to welcome the delegation, the latter was chosen.

“Grazie sua Altezza”, Moa replied to Titus’ welcoming phrase. The z’s were particularly difficult for a Vittmarker since the sound wasn’t present in their language. For the rest of the conversation they would have to rely on translators.

“Allow me to introduce our foreign chancellor Herr Göran Persson Odebo, her ladyship Ura Shinu Baroness of Kakuri, and the MP’s Gustav Wernemo, Håkan Hult av Iunsala, Inger Alvastra and Fukai Yuma.” The ambassador provided the translation for the occasion.

Urashinu looked as if she had landed with a spaceship, not an airship. Not only was her hair light blonde with a hint of red, her slightly cross-eyed blue eyes were also very uncharacteristic for an Altaian. She had dressed traditionally Kakuri, which was suitable in this weather. Yuma was more conservatively dressed in a dark blue multi-layered dress at ankle length and a white blouse with a looped tie in the same colour.

Prince Titus smiled a practised smile. “It is a pleasure to make all of your acquaintance. I would like to bestow upon you all welcome on behalf of my father and the Anisoran people.” He addressed this to all members of the Vittmarker party, but his eyes lingered on Urashinu a moment longer than the rest. While he had been briefed on the Kakuri, she was not what he had expected with her exotic hair and blue eyes. “May I, in turn, introduce the Marquess of Valiano, the Tribune for Foreign Affairs.”

Lord Valiano was a tall man in his late fifties, with sharp features and greying and retreating hair. He stepped forward, taking off his top hat and bowing smartly to Princess Moa and nodding acknowledgement to his Vittmarker counterpart Ödebo. “On behalf of the Anisoran government, welcome to Anisora Your Grace, Your Lordships and Ladyships,” he inclined his head in greeting to the two Kakuri before turning to Princess Moa. “It is a great pleasure to receive you all. I greatly look forward to enjoying the strengthening ties and cooperation which this much anticipated visit will undoubtedly foster between our two nations. The Prime Minister also wished for me to extend his welcome and anticipation of meeting you all tomorrow.”

Prince Titus stepped forward and gestured behind him. “If you would follow me, Your Grace.”

04-21-2018, 02:01 PM
Post: #2
RE: Surprise visit to Anisora
Chapter Two: Getting some things "Strait"

Palazzo Laterino, Pena, official residence of the Anisoran prime minister

“Straits cartel or not, the Aldsay will keep a lock on Andlat.” Ödebo Persson, Foreign Chancellor of Vittmark, referred to the vital strait being used by ships under the Anisoran flag to maintain the connection between Vittmark and Anisora. With Anisora now outside the cartel, it would be provocative to try to cross the straits.

“Indeed” replied Sir Alessandro Nicotera-Sarno, the Anisoran prime minister. He sat across from the Vittmarker delegation in one of the meeting rooms at Palazzo Laterino. Despite his age, Nicotera-Sarno had a reputation for boundless energy, and many people could not believe he was seventy-two years old, including many in the Vittmarker delegation. “At this juncture it would be unwise to sail any Anisoran ships through the Andlat, including those Vittmarker vessels under our flag. We have already told all Anisoran flagged ships to avoid that strait and make the longer journey around Stoldavia and head into the Medio via friendly Auresian waters. This obviously takes much longer, but at this stage I can see no way around it. In the coming months we will see what the situation is, crucially the results of the Amberian election later this year, and reassess our position. In the meantime, surface shipping should not at any point attempt to cross the Andlat - the Aedelish would jump on that chance all too readily.”

“Surface shipping, yes…” Ödebo replied in short. “I might want to talk further about that a bit later. But first, there is something I want to show you.” He put a stapled book section on the table.

“We usually don’t share this information, not even through diplomatic channels. But my predecessor Kronobäck has put together an investment plan for replacing all military equipment. Modernisation of the navy is a top priority.”

The Anisorans at the table all craned their necks to look at the document which showed an outline for a fully integrated federal navy. It was obvious where he was leading his audience. The Vittmarker government had been fishing through diplomatic channels about the possibility of building new naval vessels of Anisoran design. But even among friends, mutual loyalty had its limits.

“Interesting” said Lord Valiano, Anisoran Tribune for Foreign Affairs. “This is quite a comprehensive programme, if my understanding of the current Vittmarker fleet is correct.”

“It is,” Ödebo replied. “We believe that a fleet of modern vessels with a rotating crew will lead to a more efficient military operation at sea. Which will be quite necessary if we look at the agenda of our geographical neighbours. And our own ambitions of course, defending the crown territories off the Altaian coast. But a swift transition to a modern navy depends on the availability of ship designs. It will take years to develop these ourselves. That is why we have enquired through more informal channels if it would be possible to use existing shipping classes. To be specific, the Raphaello-class of light cruisers. That is exactly the type of cruiser that could serve our purposes. With a design like that we could easily build up our new naval capacity.”

Lord Valiano looked at the prime minister and Lady Terranova, the President of the Anisoran Senate. The prime minister smiled a regretful smile.

“Unfortunately that could prove difficult. Naturally we would be more than happy to supply the Federal Navy with military and civilian vessels to your specifications - that contract could be drawn up very quickly - but I believe their construction in Anisoran dockyards would be more appropriate for such a large-scale project.”

Ödebo sighed. He glanced quickly at the MP’s present. They had strict orders to let Ödebo do the talking, their job was to anchor any outcome back home. Or correct the foreign chancellor on the spot. But there was only one communication channel, even in these talks. The chancellor had to try something else, now he noticed that the talks so far were a carbon copy of the diplomatic efforts so far.

“Just as you don’t like Anisoran designed ships being manufactured elsewhere, so do we dislike the idea of having to buy our naval vessels in a foreign country, while we have building capacity ourselves. In that sense, our reasoning is similar.”

“Similar, but not the same” said Lady Terranova. “You must understand that shipbuilding is viewed as one of the most important industries in Anisora. Anisoran dockyards support tens of thousands of people indirectly, not to mention the shipbuilders themselves. This government would be loath to deprive work to the dockyards at this juncture.” She looked at the prime minister who nodded in agreement.

What she had not told them was that the powerful shipbuilding unions were breathing down the government’s neck and had powerful connections to many tabloid newspapers across the Empire. If they found out that the Anisoran government had deprived the dockyards of a major project, and instead provided designs to the benefit of foreign shipbuilders, the unions could withdraw their all important support for the government. The Liberal Party under Nicotera-Sarno relied heavily upon the industrial cities of Anisora for their seats in parliament, and with the election only months away, this could prove problematic.

Ödebo thought that the argumentation was exactly the same though. It was impossible to sell the idea back home that Vittmarker naval vessels would be built in Anisora. The entire shipping industry was hit heavily during the latter days of the Pan-Anarian War and the following Three Way Conflicts meant that there hadn’t been any time to rebuild the capacity for any decent warships. In fact, Fisks had the best opportunities to build any large vessels at the moment.

“The thing is… if we don’t put in an order for new vessels, your shipyards would be without a job, and if we would build them in Vittmark, your shipyards would also be without a job. I am interested to see if there is a proposal that really could help your shipbuilders at work, but as the foreign minister of another country, that is hardly my responsibility, is it.” He hoped that his rather direct approach, putting the ball in the Anisoran court, would be appreciated.

It wasn’t. Lord Valiano replied in a diplomatic tone, “I understand your concerns. However, if the Federal Navy desires Raphaello-class light cruisers, it surely makes more sense that Anisoran dockyards produce them, as the infrastructure already exists here. While I am not an expert on such matters, my work on the concession at Talpei a while ago has lead me to understand that there are few such dockyards capable of a large scale project like this in Vittmark. Is that not correct?”

While Lord Valiano’s tone was perfectly diplomatic, his reply was designed to be as equally direct and throw the ball back into Vittmark’s court - subtly, but in diplomatic terms forcefully, reminding Ödebo that Vittmark was the one asking for Anisoran naval designs. In fact, Lord Valiano considered the current Vittmarker negotiation strategy to be rather cheeky, considering all Anisora had done for Vittmark in recent years, and the fact that they desired Anisoran assistance, not the other way around. It seemed that the friendly relations between the nations had found a boundary. This was a matter in which neither nation could compromise on any further.

Ödebo decided to let the remark about the state of the Vittmarker shipyards pass. It seemed like the wrong occasion to remind an Anarian about the time when the shipbuilders of Talpå, Ådalen, Östvallen, Liden and Hagen built vessels for all sides of the Pan Anarian War. He looked for pointers at MP Wernemo, who belonged to the same party.

“Build them in Talpå?” MP Iunsala half whispered as suggestion. “Technically, that is Anisora. Kind of…”

“This is not a matter of technicalities, this is about Anisoran jobs,” Ödebo replied. He made a gesture that he didn’t want this translated. But then he realised it didn’t really matter.

“Counter orders,” Wernemo tried.

“Suppose we would place an order for a Raphaello-class cruiser, just for the sake of discussion, what would the Anisoran military order from us?” Ödebo tried this new angle. “I mean, if we’re creating Anisoran jobs with Vittmarker tax money…”

Nicotera-Sarno’s brow furrowed. “While I would have to consult with the Tribune for War on the details, I am unfortunately unaware of any plans to import weapons beyond contracts already drawn up with other powers.” Anisora was an arms exporter, as these very negotiations testified, and what other arms were imported were primarily bought from Auresia and Amberia. The Vittmarker negotiation position was clearly not as strong as they thought, Nicotera-Sarno reflected.

“It does not have to be a military order,” Ödebo tried. But he was fully aware of the fact that the Vittmarker industries had little to offer which the Anisorans could not produce themselves.

“It is my understanding,” continued Nicotera-Sarno changing tack, “that Vittmark seeks to modernise its navy. Anisora is in a position to offer good terms on any and all orders placed by the federal government. How many Raphaello-class cruisers were you looking to acquire?”

Ödebo realised that his political answer might get lost in translation. “The new cruiser would become the backbone of our navy, we are talking about 8 to 12 cruisers in total. However, the federal parliament has clearly stated that they want them built in Vittmark. Which is unthinkable from your side, that is clear. And I can understand that. What I am looking for is a way to acquire one, where Anisora would place a manufacturing order of similar value in Vittmark. That is already past the mandate I have received from our parliament.”

Nicotera-Sarno thought for a moment, keeping his frustration from showing. The Vittmarkers want to have their cake and eat it, it seemed. The idea that Anisora would provide a single ship, the design of which the Vittmarkers would then use to build their own fleet domestically, and meanwhile Anisora must place an order of equal value with Vittmark on top was quite frankly insulting. They were requesting Anisoran technology, after all.

The prime minister decided to be direct. “I am struggling to see what Anisora would get out of such an arrangement.”

Ödebo looked at his MP’s. Not for clues, this time. “Are you making notes,” he half whispered to them, “because this is what happens when you send out someone without room to negotiate.”

“Maybe you should ask if they would like to see the Aldsay or Häverists taking care of the shrines at Kulla, or the holy ruins of Skiöldavik,” MP Iunsala countered.

Ödebo started gathering his belongings, his paperwork, his notes and stuffed it all in his briefcase. He closed it, put it on the ground and looked at the prime minister.

“Is it OK if we changed the topic slightly?” he asked directly. “We are also looking into the option of applying Fisks’ strategy to a part of our fleet. Naval vessels are exempt from the Straits Cartel, because the cartel can not expect to have our navy fly a flag of convenience. Simply organise trade as military transport, taking it off the free market. I would value your opinion, Anisora being much more experienced in these matters than we are.”

Lord Valiano smiled faintly. “This could indeed be a convenient way to get around the Cartel, if deployed properly.”

“Indeed” added Lady Terranova, “but if such an arrangement was to work we would need to establish a justification for the increase in military shipping. Naturally nobody would believe it, but it is important to establish such a pretence nonetheless.” Lord Valiano gave her a strange look, as if to say “one does not normally spell it out so blatantly, even to friends.” Lady Terranova was not a diplomat.

“Naturally a large order for military equipment would provide the most plausible scenario” said the prime minister. He was unsubtly providing the Vittmarkers with a further reason to purchase Anisoran weapons, which might provide a more agreeable scenario to sell to the policy makers back in Östvallen.

“I will certainly pass on that suggestion" said Ödebo. "But beside strictly military transport, we are taking the concept one step further. Trade is so essential to the safety and security of the nation that we would make trade a military task. Because that is what Fisks does.” The Anisoran prime minister seemed to visibly stiffen in his chair. Ödebo continued, “they have six huge vessels which are a hybrid of a cargo ship and a battlecruiser. Up to 900 passengers and enough military staff on board to defend itself against just about everything. But no real attacking power, purely defensive. It was necessary for them in order to sustain themselves in the region. It is a concept that could work in the current situation as well.”

There was a long pause after Ödebo had finished. “This troubles me deeply, Foreign Chancellor” the prime minister said, his face very serious now. “Military transport is one thing - the current geopolitical situation certainly warrants such a move as a short-term solution; but to ‘make trade a military task.’ It is a move that deeply unsettles me, and something I must counsel against.”

Nicotera-Sarno had been a fierce supporter of free trade all his political career, and the recent events at Ærilar and Gadelhem had, according to many friends and critics alike, turned him into a borderline fanatic. The prospect of the Vittmarker state controlling trade to such an extent that it became a military operation, even in these troubled times, was abhorrent to the prime minister’s political sensibilities, and was entirely contrary to the line Anisora had publicly taken against the Straits Cartel.

“As I hope you will remember, only last month I delivered a statement before the Chamber of Deputies announcing Anisora’s withdrawal from the Cartel. In it I made my abhorrence of Aedelish desires to militarise the Straits and the trade that flows through them very clear. Turning seaborne trade into an extension of the military is not only contrary to this government’s policy, but it would only be playing into the hands of the Aedelish and Tahani. The prospect of militarising civilian trade during peacetime is something I cannot accept under any circumstances.”

“We are fully aware of your government's stance on free trade,” Ödebo said, “and in general we apply a similar approach. But the reality is that there is no free trade at the moment. We either have to register our merchant fleet in what we would consider to be a hostile state, or take a detour of one-and-a-half continents. With the Straits Cartel, free trade died. As our government sees it, we have two options. We can be free, which means that we cannot trade on a level playing field with the Gadalhem aggressors. Or we can trade, but then it would not be free. That is, the part where seafaring cargo has to pass Andlat.”

“The government of Vittmark is done with bending to avoid conflict with the aggressors. If we bend a bit more, we will break and we will be crushed by the Sörtarnland Company or the Häverists. I don’t see free trade returning in any of these scenarios. Of the remaining Straits Cartel nations, we share a border with three of them. We don’t have the luxury to wait this one out. Since any full scale military conflict will result in Vittmark vanishing from the map, we have to be creative. Sneak our way around it. Just like we did 5 years ago.”

Ödebo was referring to the Anisoran flag of convenience policy. It had saved trade options from a Vittmarker point of view, but it had come at a huge price. Vittmark had handed over autonomy of about a third of the merchant fleet. It was a necessary compromise under the circumstances, but the solution could hardly be labeled as a free trade development.

“You speak as though the Cartel is here to stay” said the prime minister, the old man's energy resurfacing. “We do not expect the Cartel to last anywhere near the amount of time your scenario suggests. The Amberian election is crucial, but even if the protectionists win the election, the Cartel is still unenforceable thereafter. With Anisora and Auresia out of the Cartel, the signatory nations that remain no longer have a monopoly on the straits of Anaria and elsewhere - their entire set up is therefore fundamentally undermined.

“When the Andlat and other such Cartel controlled straits are patrolled by Aedelish military vessels, taking exorbitant tolls and threatening unilateral boarding and seizure of assets, do you think companies of non-signatory nations will want to use those waterways when there are other alternatives? The extra detour is insignificant in the face of such commercial risk.

“The Cartel’s success entirely rides on holding a monopoly over the straits to deprive everyone of any alternative. Anisora and Auresia have removed that at a stroke. If the Cartel does somehow survive, we will make it very clear that companies of all non-signatory nations are free to trade with Anisora, and perhaps Auresia, freely and without risk. When businesses and the governments supporting them consider the overheads of the tolls and the risks involved in unilateral seizure and boarding, the prospect of trading in the signatory nations becomes significantly less commercially viable. We are hoping the Amberians will see this in their upcoming election.” What the prime minister had not told him was that Anisora was already courting Amberian business interests and was currently in talks with the anti-protectionist opposition in Amberia and was helping coordinate their election strategies with Anisora’s own.

“As I’ve said, the Cartel as it currently stands cannot enforce this Treaty. The only tool that remains to them is the use of military force. Anisora, Auresia and, as you have eloquently put, Vittmark have no intention of bending under the threat of violence. However, the only effect militarising civilian vessels will have on current events is that it legitimises the use of force in the eyes of the Cartel. The moment we ourselves militarise trade - and it must be noted that even they have not done so yet - we not only escalate the situation, but lose our diplomatic and commercial advantage at a stroke. It would only play right into their hands and would make war all the more likely.

“You yourself have admitted that in any military conflict Vittmark would be wiped from the map. Why then make war more likely? Militarising civilian vessels contributes nothing to the tactical military situation if a hot war did break out. The naval might of the Cartel would utterly destroy the Vittmarker merchant fleet in an afternoon - with or without defences. However, equipping civilian vessels with weapons does have the potential to contribute significantly to the greater game we are playing - but not to our advantage. If Aedeland and the rest of them want a trade war, they will get it. But we cannot afford to fight a hot war on their terms, not as the Cartel currently stands.”

Ödebo smiled, leaned backwards in his chair and looked towards the rest of his delegation, almost content with the reply he got.

“We asked for your insight in the matter,” he replied, “and we got an elaborate answer. It is reassuring to hear that the Anisoran government sees the cartel as a temporary setback. As a young nation, we are not used to looking at events in a longer timeframe. We have been dealing with this wretched cartel for 5-6 years now, on a lifetime of only 16. With the solid moral and political support of Anisora and Auresia on this matter, we will urge Fisks not to seek confrontation with their vessels. We will comply to this joint strategy, even though our analyses differ.”

The prime minister nodded appreciatively. One of the Vittmarker MP’s tried to add to the reply, but he was cut short by Ödebo. He had made his point. As the foreign chancellor, he is willing to take some punches, try to discuss matters that are beyond the horizon of feasible solutions, all in the name of Vittmarker interests. The MP’s now had witnessed how these meetings went, and that it was impossible for any chancellor to enter such discussions with a narrow mandate from parliament. What Ödebo hadn’t anticipated was the intervention by the representative from the other legislative body present, who was sitting to his other side. Senator Moa Palnesdotter av Blåkulla…

“Can I make a suggestion,” she started. And she continued without waiting for an answer. “For the sake of the good relations between our people and our governments, I would like to suggest a recess, a small one or a larger one. It is obvious that the clergy preparing this meeting have given us the impression that there would be room for considerable progress on these matters. We apologise to our hosts for the somewhat erratic structure of our delegation’s contribution. I would like to get us some time to assess which other issues we want to discuss today.”

The prime minister smiled. “There is no need to apologise Senator av Blåkulla, I understand. However, before we adjourn, I want to express my gratitude to Chancellor Ödebo and want to emphasise my government’s commitment to Vittmark. I do not want you or your government to think Anisora will not support Vittmark militarily - far from it. But, as Your Grace suggests, perhaps that should be discussed later.”

04-21-2018, 02:07 PM (This post was last modified: 06-08-2018 08:00 AM by August Dux.)
Post: #3
RE: Surprise visit to Anisora
Small groups were waiting in the corridor outside the dining hall, where lunch would be served. Each of them trying to digest that morning’s talks. But since Moa had cut short the first round, lunch was not ready yet.

Ödebo kept a keen eye on Nicotera-Sarno. He saw an opportunity when he disappeared into the men’s room without any clerks or translators. He excused himself and made his way there as well, waiting outside for a while trying to anticipate how much time the Anisoran PM would need for a number one. His timing was perfect. When Ödebo entered, Nicotera-Sarno was just washing his hands.

“Your Excellency,” Ödebo started in Auresian. He had spent much of his early years in Auresia while his own father and Queen Anna’s father had lived in exile. But he wasn’t sure his addressing style worked here as well. The prime minister gave a start and looked up at the mirror in front of him, seeing the reflection of Ödebo in it.

“Forgive me for being blunt, but… what would it cost to get the designs for the Raphaello-class? Money, orders… maybe employing Anisoran overseers… equip it with Anisoran engines and weaponry...”

The prime minister finished washing his hands and smiled broadly, clearly telling the foreign chancellor that he did not mind being ambushed in the lavatories. Some of his earliest political machinations in parliament had been orchestrated from inside the gents toilets - one of the few places where one could bizarrely get some uninterrupted work done.

The prime minister replied in Auresian, in a quick, businesslike tone - he liked being able to talk directly like this. “I would settle for half of the orders of twelve or more units, two-thirds of orders below eleven, being built in Anisoran dockyards. The rest can be built in Vittmark, preferably Talpå, with the more complex machinery including main guns and engines coming from Anisoran manufacturies. Anisoran engineers will oversee their construction and Anisoran naval officers will provide training to the Vittmarker sailors during sea trials.”

Ödebo understood that having a minimum number of ships being built in Anisora would be difficult to sell back home. But with some more concrete figures he could do the maths and see if this option was at least economically feasible compared with developing a light cruiser on their own.

“Please could His Excellency see to it that a quick draft is sent to my people? Top secret, for my eyes only, through diplomatic mail by our embassy, or yours in Östvallen. Then I will make sure to gather support for it.”

Nicotera-Sarno inclined his head in appreciation. “I will see to it at once” and he exited the lavatory making a beeline for his personal assistant.

Ödebo almost bumped into Moa who was chatting with Yuma and had strategically moved herself a bit closer to the restrooms. “And…” she asked, fully aware of what Ödebo had been trying to do.

“Diplomatic progress is made halfway during an opera, at the sporting grounds or during meals, not at a meeting table,” he replied cryptically, “and we still have lunch to go.”

04-22-2018, 11:28 AM (This post was last modified: 05-10-2018 07:06 PM by August Dux.)
Post: #4
RE: Surprise visit to Anisora
Chapter Three: Open university

Exemplar Mathars University, Pena

On the third day of the visit, Princess Moa, the Foreign Chancellor and the Kakuri Urashinu and Yuma were invited by the Vice-Chancellor of Exemplar Mathars’ University in Pena, Dame Giulia da Balagnato, to give a special lecture on the integration of the Kakuri into the Vittmarker Federation.

“Shivers between my skin and bones,” Moa explained in the second language to Yuma and Urashinu. “I just hope, the tongues… they get it right…” She was referring to having to rely on translators. Unlike her dad and stepmother, Moa had no real skills in Anisoran nor Auresian.

“Welcome,” Urashinu replied, indicating that she recognised the feeling. She had to rely on Yuma and Moa to make herself heard all the time.

Dame Giulia da Balagnato, Vice-Chancellor of the University, stepped behind the lectern at the front of the lecture hall and addressed the students and professors who had come to hear the Vittmarker talk.

“My lords, ladies and gentlemen, it is my greatest pleasure to introduce our most distinguished guest speakers today for their talk on “The Integration of the Kakuri People into the Vittmarker Federation.” Please welcome Her Grace Princess Tovemor of Vittmark, His Excellency Göran Persson Ödebo, Foreign Chancellor of Vittmark, Her Ladyship the Baroness av Kakuri and Her Ladyship Fukai Yuma, Member of Parliament for the Kakuri people.”

After Dame Giulia finished the room applauded as the group walked on stage, with Princess Moa taking her position behind the lectern.

“Good morning, everyone. Thank you for showing an interest in the Kakuri case. When I first met representatives of the Kakuri culture just over three years ago, I could not imagine that it would lead me here, a university aula in Pena… My name is Moa Palnesdotter and I will give short introductions to the recent history, Kakuri culture, legal aspects regarding their status and lastly the moral implications, not in the least in relation to Vind’s Master Plan. I will take questions after each part.”

Moa paused after every sentence, so that the translator could do his work. She noticed that there were quite a few people who understood her Wortsproke. She had heard about an upcoming interest in anything Vittmarker over here in Anisora, but had not expected this. She calmly spoke about her first nightly meeting in the jungle, as if it was an adventurous mission without any repercussions.

“And yes, I was surprised as well when Urashinu took off her cloak and revealed herself. So not all Altaians look the same, I learned pretty quickly.” The quirky intonation somehow got lost in translation. She continued speaking about the visit to the Kakuri town of Toshi-bu.

“I will hand out some pictures that give you an impression of the place, a town with sandstone buildings adapted to geography and climate, accommodating everything including advanced metal works and textiles screen printing, all of that hidden from the air under the tropical canopy. Please pass them around, but I will need them back. All of these pictures were taken by Her Majesty Queen Anna herself during her visit a year later. That’s not why I want them back, but we want to distribute them through a lottery, where your seat number is your lottery ticket. So 16 of you will leave this lecture with an original Anna av Kulla, framed, hand numbered, with the royal seal of approval. Which will give Anisora a larger collection of Her Majesty’s work than Auresia in just one afternoon”. When the translator had finished there was laughter throughout the lecture hall as well as some ears pricking up with interest.

Everybody knew that most of Queen Anna’s work during her education in Cedelphia had been moved to Vittmark or destroyed by orders of King Karl. There was a huge demand for Anna’s artwork photography, primarily because she was royalty these days. The aesthetic value was a lot more difficult to set a price tag on, since there were only a few remaining pieces available to the general public. And a lot of forgeries of course.

“So the Kakuri delegation was reaching out to a federal representative and handed me a handwritten letter, while they had been avoiding contact with Fisks for decades. This showed the government in Östvallen that the Kakuri had a good understanding of how Vittmark is organised. However, we had difficulty with translating the message, since they were providing a translation in Hallish.” Even here there was laughter, because Hallish is a niche language that just happens to be used by the colonisers on the northern mainland.

“But I will say a bit more about the language later on,” Moa continued. She had had long conversations with Urashinu about what she could say about the language. The Kakuri language could only be learned by the person wanting to learn, it should never be taught. So any explanation about the language should not include too much substance.

“We invited a Kakuri delegation to Östvallen in order to keep communication going, to find out what they wanted, if anything. We sent over an anthropologist to research the matter more on location. But it took several months to reach a breakthrough. It happened during my second visit, when an ethnic Kakuri was made available full-time as cultural liaison.”

Moa left out the bit that Arimu had been banned from society and that it took a fistfight to settle this matter with the Kakuri leadership. In fact, the wound she got during the event still was a sore spot on her back.

“We learned each other’s languages and then it became clear. The emissaries I had met were actually the current leaders of the Kakuri people. They wanted the federal government to safeguard their souls and way of life against the Fisks settlers. Or to be more precise, they wanted Queen Anna to protect them. They appealed to Her Majesty personally. So she could only respond to this request by visiting the Kakuri herself.”

“About a year ago, two of the Kakuri leaders filed an Exemplar at the registries of Hederskulla and Grönkulla. It was on their initiative, showing once again that the Kakuri have a good understanding of our ways. They followed the rituals, all the requirements, like any true Orkanan. And then they surprised us by asking for statehood status.”

“This is, in a nutshell, how the relationship between the Kakuri and the federal government of Vittmark developed. I was present during most of these events. The Kakuri leadership no longer just sees me as a representative of the federal government or crown, they consider me a part of their leadership. That is why I got the role of senator for the Kakuri people, in a Mellanhand tradition where the people swear loyalty to the lord or lady that will represent their interests in the best way.”

She looked around. She had skipped parts of her prepared presentation, added some things by improvising and now she was worried that she was messing up the structure she had carved out for this morning’s lecture. So she decided it was time for questions. She pointed to a small man with a huge jet black moustache, although his hair was snow white.

“Princess Moa, you mentioned that the Kakuri filed an Exemplar at the Kulla registries. Could you tell us more about this exemplar, and how this came about? Are we to understand that the Kakuri people have converted to Mellanhand Orkanan?”

“That is an interesting question,” Moa replied, “in fact, this exact issue is in the final part of my presentation. But I can address it right away…” She started flipping through her pages while she improvised an introduction.

“Chikara was born in 7105 on the island we today know as Fisks’ Gilles Carls. The Kakuri usually earn their name, and in this case Chikara became Gacha Pin. The name means ‘strong fingers’, he received it after he was found grasping the ridge of a steep cliffside at
the age of 13. In that era, the extent of the Kakuri culture seemed to have been much larger than it is today. After a catastrophe which ended the pre-Kakuri realm, Gacha introduced the current cultural meritocracy that characterises Kakuri leadership. Roleplay, poetry and music became the core… Gacha saw to it that creativity through performing arts became the centrepiece of Kakuri culture. He is regarded as the founding father of the Kakuri nation as we know it today.” She paused a while to find the passage where she connected history with the present.

“If we travel forward in time, to 400 years later, when the Kakuri were included as a separate stond within Fjällsta Stift… That is a congregation within the Mellanhand tradition. Did this make the Kakuri full fledged Orkanans? Not at once… That is a process. In the Mellanhand tradition, everyone makes the decision to contribute to Vind’s Master Plan. Is a baby, whose only worries are about sucking his left or right thumb, Orkanan or not?”

“That was a rhetorical question,” she added a bit redundantly. “As an Orkanan congregation, we evaluate progress. Tensho Kirisaki of the Nokumo Nobono, the Kakuri leadership, took the initiative to have Gacha registered as an Exemplar. Which proves that the Kakuri are committed to following the Orkanan way. It was not something that was suggested to them. She travelled to the registry at Herrkulla, crossing the Gäddedevida plains, visiting several shrines. A couple of days later her colleague Nenne did the same at Grönkulla. The registration was accepted at both locations, by mainstream Mellanhand clergy. That says enough…”

“If her ladyship allows me,” Yuma interrupted. “I arrived in Vittmark only one year ago. I started reading, listening, Queens of the Silver Age, Sisters of Mercy… It is not our history, it is not our tradition… But there is something… universal in it.”

There were nods of approval and a few smiles around the room after Yuma’s words were translated. Even Moa was impressed. She then decided to change subject and pointed to a tall woman with large spectacles in the front row. The woman began to speak in a small, whispery voice, which the translator had to strain to hear even though she was so close.

“I find the relationship between the Kakuri leadership and the Vittmarker royal family most interesting. Have the Kakuri sworn personal allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Anna? And what led the Queen herself to think it necessary to visit them in person on the other side of the planet?”

That was a question Moa wasn’t prepared for. “I am not at liberty to speak about Her Majesty’s motives, I’m afraid. In our political system, that is only up to herself, the prime minister and the grand master of the crown. Maybe chancellor Ödebo wants to….” She turned around only to see Ödebo raising his hand, indicating that he passed on the opportunity.

“But I can elaborate a bit,” Moa continued improvising. “When Vittmark was formed in 7564 it was by agreement of some of the current member states. The leadership of these states, as well as the territories that gained statehood in a later stage, they have all sworn allegiance to the crown of Kulla. This includes those that applied for membership voluntarily in a later stage: the Bengtists in 67, Fjällsta in 69, Fisks in 70 and the Kakuri only last year. Some of those leaders developed a close, personal tie with the royal family.”

Moa waited or the translation to make the impact she had hoped for, but it didn’t. She would have to take this one step further.

“The Lord of Fjällsta eventually married Queen Anna. I am his daughter, not hers. I was not born into the royal family… But maybe Urashinu would like to add something on this matter.”

Moa started translating into Kakuri. The audience was baffled by this. A member of a royal family speaking a native language, it was unheard off. Moa made sure that Urashinu’s answer was translated back to Wortsproke by Yuma. It was a complicated procedure. Especially since Urashinu did not have the faintest idea what had been discussed so far.

“On behalf of the Kakuri people, the Nokumo Nobono reached out to the leaders of this union called Vittmark. Queen Anna is a warm soul, she has an open mind. The crown princess is dedicated, loyal, trustworthy… Lord Kristersson is like a rock. We do not spend much time together, but when we do, we get along well. Even when we don’t speak, or don’t understand each other.”

Moa then moved to her next question. “For those Kakuri who have taken up residence in Vittmark, how effectively have they integrated into Vittmarker society, if at all?”

“You’re looking at them,” Moa replied with a smile. “I am the senator for the Kakuri people, which technically makes me Kakuri.” There were some looks of shock at this and some more of confusion. “Fukai Yuma is the only other Kakuri living in Vittmark. I think we integrated pretty well. It’s not often that you land a top government job within a year of your arrival, as Fukai Yuma has done.”

She skipped the part where her lady-in-waiting Arimu was a Kakuri native, but no longer registered as a Kakuri. Too complicated, too personal. But in the end, she has integrated the best of them all.

“The whole purpose of the Kakuri people seeking protection from the crown was to safeguard their way of life. They have no intention to live in our cities, or move to mainland Vittmark. I may have to remind the audience that Vittmark is very much a pillared society. There are hardly any Hagenites living in Liden, just as Lidenites would never move to Ådalen. Even in our large cities, these communities mostly live parallel to each other with hardly any contact between them. In that sense, the Kakuri are very well integrated, preserving their own way of life and not wanting to be bothered by their neighbours. It’s the Vittmarker way.”

Moa next pointed to a rather angry looking man, although from her position she did not see his face. The man stood up, revealing a furrowed brow and a stern expression on his face. “I find it hard to believe that Vittmark, as a civilised Orkanan nation, and despite its youth and inexperience, would willfully accept those,” he paused contemptuously, “people into the Federation as equals of Anarian Orkanans. I do not doubt that there was substantial opposition to such a decision?” He phrased the last sentence as a question and sat back down briskly.

Around the room there were awkward coughs, although a small number of people in the audience seemed to agree with the man. Dame Giulia seemed a bit embarrassed, but Moa insisted that she wanted to know what the commotion was about. When she got the translation, she made clear that she was intending to provide an answer.

“Are you a student here, or do you belong to the faculty staff?” Moa started with a question of her own. She didn’t wait for an answer though. “Because you still have a lot to learn. We are Stoldavian Orkanans, we take care of the heritage of the Greater Stoldavic Empire, the Orkanan Realm. So I cannot accept being called Anarian…”

It seems that part of the original question and Moa’s message had been lost in translation, as according to Anisorans ‘Anaria’ encompassed not only Anaria-Major and Minor, but also Thultannia, Stoldavia and the Cheltic Isles. But Vittmarkers didn’t consider themselves Anarian, they identify as Stoldavians.

“There is nothing wrong with being an Anarian, nor a Thultannian, a Stoldavian or an Altaian Kakuri. Stoldavians weren’t very picky when we embraced Anarians and Thultannians into the Orkanan family. We were right then, we are right now… or maybe it turns out in a couple of decades that we were completely wrong. But at least we can say that we have tried to extend the Orkanan way of life to the next continent.”

“Was there any opposition to this? Of course there was. Any innovation, any new policy or law will have its opposition. About 25% of the people will oppose, while two thirds will support it, even with the best proposals. And from good opposition, new proposals will arise. Good opposition is based on facts, on new insights, even creativity. Bad opposition is based on ‘let’s keep everything as it has been for the last decades’. I don’t know about you, but I like using the telephone or travelling to a wonderful place like Anisora by airship. There was opposition to the formation of Vittmark as a nation state, or handing over a piece of our territory to foreign nations for the sake of cooperation, exchange, trade and innovation. These people…”

Moa made an abrupt turn in her argumentation.

“These people have sustained their culture, completely isolated in a steaming hot jungle, managing to be ignored by settlers from Halland, Helreich, Anisora and Fisks. They have been trading in their colonial settlements, undetected, in order to develop as a society. These people… have a manufacturing industry, metal, woodwork, textiles, you name it. A rich tradition of storytelling, music, stage performance. The federal government of Vittmark felt honoured that the Kakuri society chose a direct affiliation. Apart from 25% then. I am aware that there are different concepts when it comes to government or the distribution of Orkanan to other continents. There are more ways that might help Vind realise his Master Plan.”

The reaction to Moa’s impassioned speech was mixed in the lecture hall. The man who had asked the question, a professor of Anarian history at the university, looked outraged and his face was red with suppressed anger. While Moa’s words had been received by approval by most people, garnering some smiles and even a ‘here here’ at various points, the mood of the lecture hall was still awkward. Many in the room did not like someone in their early twenties, royalty or not, admonishing a room full of scholars on their knowledge of history. Some received her argument as a direct attack on Anisoran identity as Orkanan and casting Anisorans generally, and the wider room of scholars, not just the bellicose professor asking the question, as ignorant of Orkanan history. By bringing wider issues of Anisora’s place in Orkanan history into the debate, Moa had unintentionally forced a number of the audience into a defensive position, even though most of them disagreed with the tone, if not the content, of the original question posed by the history professor. Nevertheless, when Moa had finished, a number nodded in support of her speech.

The professor who asked the original question stood up. “In answer to your first question” he said, clenching his jaw, “I am a professor of Anarian history here at the university and have been a scholar for over twenty years. Longer than Your Highness has been alive, I might add. We” he shifted to the plural in an attempt to position his argument with the wider audience, “do not need lecturing on Orkanan history. That is not why we invited you here.”

Moa sensed that she might have overstepped a boundary here. She glanced at Ödebo, who was returning a worried look. But he didn’t intervene. No reason to turn around now. It was time to fully invade the space on the other side of the boundary.

“Unlike the right honourable professor, who is teaching history, I am a part of that history, despite my young age. We have been invited by Vice-Chancellor Dame Giulia da Balagnato of Exemplar Mathars’ University to provide insights into the recent integration of the Kakuri society into the framework of the Vittmarker federation. We’re here to inform so that everyone can form an opinion based on facts. Present you an opportunity to get first hand accounts, before a historical footnote like this gets penned down by whoever writes the history books. If any one of you here still would disagree with our actions regarding the Kakuri people, then you are absolutely free to have a different opinion and vent it. I would urge you to do so, in fact. Friction creates warmth. A blunt collision just a headache. I am not here to convince anyone, nor have we been invited to have to justify ourselves. It is an excellent opportunity this remarkable university provides, to give all of you the chance to get an eyewitness account. Just think for yourself, would you prefer to get this information from someone who was there when it happened, or from a professor who has spent 20 years between books? Today, you will get both!”

The professor got up and was clearly about to protest when Dame Giulia stood up, looking very concerned and clearly uncomfortable with the direction the ‘debate’ was going. “Perhaps another question?” she said over the professor’s protestations, looking around the room hopefully. She pointed at a young man, sitting in the front row, who she knew had prepared a question.

“La tua grazie, permesso… Could you elaborate on the structure and character of Kakuri society?”

Moa had taken the time to take some water and a couple of deep breaths and was absolutely delighted with this question. She rearranged her papers once more.

“Well of course. Kakuri society… The Kakuri people live in small groups, 5 to 12 adults on average, usually the same age. For lack of a better word, we call these ‘friend groups’ in Vittmark. They are not stims, nor are they core families. Proximity in time and geography are more important than blood ties.

“Every birth in a particular part of the Kakuri town gets registered on a metal blade. These blades represent a certain generation. Almost every friend group is from within a single blade. So in that sense, you would have to imagine you form a household with school friends.”

“Kakuri society is pretty much self governing on all levels. There is no monetary economy, people trade services and goods. As soon as this is between blades, it will be registered. Each blade therefore appoints a couple of people who will get trained for these tasks. Only these people will get an education.”

“Registration might seem like a purely administrative task. In Kakuri culture, it is not. They understand the importance of written accounts. Just like with the example of the history book I just gave… The Kakuri people decide who is writing their history. And history is written in short stories, poems, dance, music. This means that Kakuri leadership is awarded to a group who masters all these performing arts. And this is what education is aiming at: creating the most skilled group of administrative performers.”

“The current leadership is called Nokumo Nobono. Tensho Urashinu is a member of the group. I forgot to mention that her name means ‘surprise’. How many of you were surprised when she walked onto this stage? It’s a fitting name… The Nokumo Nobono is a group of nine women, usually performing in shifting groups of five. The previous leaders Oto consisted of eight men, also performing in groups of five. So leadership is not a typical male or female task, it is just that most friend groups tend to be of a single gender. Probably not much unlike your own friend group.”

“Any questions on this particular part?”

Moa pointed to a visibly excited man near the front. “You mentioned the Kakuri keep written records of their history through short stories and poems. Can you elaborate on this? How are these texts transmitted, and since you have emphasised the performative nature of the leadership group, to what extent is Kakuri society an oral culture?”

“An excellent question,” she replied, “to which I don’t have an exact answer. Let me put it this way… Written sources are something you have to take initiative yourself for, in order for them to become useful. And you need to know how to read and write. Performances are a group experience, they are brought to you. It is therefore much more accessible, you can just lean back and let it happen. It’s a different experience. Our preliminary assessment is that the written accounts are used as a back-up for performance.”

“I have to add that performing is not exclusive to the leadership group. Anyone can get the opportunity to show him- or herself. Queen Anna, for example, told about life in Vittmark with pictures as support. That is considered a pretty primitive way of public communication, but totally acceptable as part of the process of becoming better. Her ladyship Fukai Yuma has performed often, as part of her training for administrative duties. Even I have shown my skills on violin. Which didn’t take long...”

“The really good performances trigger audience participation. This could be hand claps, synchronised moves, singing along… those are all signs of having found the right format of preserving recent events in a song, dance or play. So the written accounts are being kept alive by performances. Many new performers start with interpretations of old songs. This way, the old songs are performed every once in a while. Sharing seems to be more important than storing for the purpose of storage.”

“There is however one aspect about sharing I have not mentioned yet. The performers share and the people can join in at that particular moment. But unlike our Mellanhand tradition, it is unthinkable that people would just start to sing these songs on their own. Performing groups and especially the leading group are very picky about who is eligible to play their songs, and which songs. The cultural liaison that I got is allowed to play eight particular songs, Fukai Yuma here just two…”

Yuma put up one finger.
“Just one? No, I’m sure you…” Then Yuma started counting with her thumb, reminding Moa that the Kakuri count each phalanx separately.

“Ah, right… Three songs. I stand corrected.”

“Then there’s the language…” Moa looked at Urashinu and Yuma. “That is not only a complicated matter, but also a sensitive topic. The Kakuri believe that children have to pick up the language when they are ready for it. The language is not taught, if you want to speak the language you have to learn it yourself, from other native speakers. This also applies to foreigners. Which means that I cannot tell you anything about the language that could be interpreted as me teaching this audience.”

“For those of you with an interest in language, there are some characteristics that I am able to share. There is not one Kakuri language, there are two.” Moa waited for the translation. She wanted to see how the information was being received.

“They share the exact same vocabulary and grammar.” Once again she waited to see how the audience replied. There was much interest in the audience - languages being such an important part of Anisoran education and the intellectual culture. Many people were taking notes. There were also some quizzical expressions, evidently reflecting many scholars’ disagreement at labelling two modes of speaking that possess identical vocabulary and grammar as different ‘languages.’ The room was full of scholars - definitions were part of these people’s daily lives.

“The first language is very direct, instructive, to-the-point. The second language is only for initiates, which in Kakuri society means adults. This language mainly consists of idiom, expressions, metaphors… It is completely culture based, a strictly contextual language. So you need to become a part of the culture in order to be able to speak the language. Which also explains why there are so few people outside the Kakuri community who speak the language. I think I know them all, personally… Even the ethnic Kakuri staff that has been working in the settlers’ towns of Fisks don’t know this second language, since they have not been soaked in their culture the same way.”

“Then there is the writing system… we have identified 72 different symbols, each indicating a syllable, usually a consonant and a vowel, in that order, or just a vowel, or in the case of the letters n and m, these are considered syllables as well.”

Moa was intentionally doing this quickly. This wasn’t a language lesson.

“To add to the confusion, some words that are used in the written language quite often, they have gotten their own symbol in the form of a stylised digraph or trigraph. About 10-15% of the population can read and write and there are at least a couple of those for each generational birth blade.”

She glanced quickly towards Yuma, who put her index and middle finger in the shape of a V and quickly touched the ending of her right eyebrow. This indicated that Moa had gotten the approval of the Kakuri about how much she had said about the language.

At this Dame Giulia stepped forward, a broad smile on her face.

“Thank you very much Your Grace for a most stimulating and insightful talk. This has been a great honour and privilege and I know I speak for everybody here and the whole of Exemplar Mathars’ University when I say we are extremely grateful that Your Grace and your colleagues could spare the time in your busy schedules to present your fascinating perspective to us today. I for one have learned a great deal about the Kakuri people and their place within the Vittmarker Federation. I hope you will return to our university again in the not too distant future.” She turned to the audience who then began clapping.

04-30-2018, 08:09 PM
Post: #5
RE: Surprise visit to Anisora
Chapter Four: That’s entertainment

Principe di Pensano concert hall, Pena

“Are you sure you can’t?” Yuma was trying to convince Moa without any effect.

“This is a Kakuri thing. To you, I am Kakuri. In Anisora, I am the Queen’s Dream, not Kakuri.”

Moa walked onto the stage of the concert house of Pena, where a musical presentation of the Kakuri was being held. Through a translator, she introduced this evening’s program.

“Ladies, gentlemen, and especially our hosts… On behalf of the Vittmarker Federal Government and the Crown I am grateful that so many of you have shown an interest in Kakuri culture. Tonight a specially created group will present an outtake of their rich musical history. The company does not play together in this constellation, and not all the traditional instruments are present, but I am convinced these performers will be able to entertain you and show a piece of their heritage. I would like to ask for an open mind, since Kakuri music cannot be compared with anything easily… Without further ado…

“Miss Fukai Yuma, vocals and dance…” Yuma entered the stage in a knee length black skirt and shirt with short boots. “Her ladyship Urashinu Baroness of Kakuri of the Nokumo Nobono leadership, vocals and koto…” Even Urashinu was dressed completely in black, but in a long multi-layered dress. “Herr Amo, koto and shamisen…” The only male in this company was dressed in red and white, also multi-layered.

“And lastly her ladyship Arimu av Blåkulla, vocals and grand piano.” She was dressed in a traditional long Kakuri silk-like dress in light blue with fine printing and white trousers, a very unusual combination. She had her hair in a scarf made of the same light blue fabric. Moa thought that one blonde Kakuri on stage would suffice. She was met by impressed looks anyway, since no one had expected a Kakuri to be able to play the grand piano. It certainly was not a native instrument.

When the introductions were complete the crowd clapped and the electric lights dimmed. Amo started playing on his shamisen. Soon both vocalists started clapping their hands, creating some rhythm until Arimu joined in on grand piano. Urashinu put herself behind the koto and pumped the intro to a climax. Then suddenly they changed key and Arimu started singing from behind the piano.

Yuma had the toughest job on stage. She was used to performing with two or three other girls in synchronised dance moves. But with everyone tied up behind an instrument, she was on her own now. She was actually performing the lyrics through her dance steps, but since nobody got the lyrics and her dance moves were rather symbolic in meaning, her efforts didn’t result in any added value to the audience.

So she was happy when she could take over the vocal parts after the verse. It was more like a spoken word on music, a vocal style that was unheard off in Anarian circles. Before the bewildered audience could raise their eyebrows, Urashinu took over, building up towards something resembling a chorus. That one was done in harmonics by all three, with Arimu hammering down a weird backbeat with her left hand on the lower keys of the piano.

As usual in Kakuri music, the entire sequence was repeated, but in such a way that all the parts were just a bit different. This was in fact a way of working used by many of the classic composers, but this setting with a small group of chamber musicians producing just as much noise as half an orchestra: that was definitely new to the Anisorans.

After the song ended, Arimu continued in one go with the next one. Even with the help of Moa and consulting the music theatre staff, it was a bit unclear if the audience was supposed to applaud after each song, or that they would do so after they finished completely. Arimu decided to decide for everyone and not leave a gap where anyone had to guess if they should applaud or not. She had started one of Yuma’s songs. Urashinu did not play any instrument in it, so she joined Yuma centre stage to back her up with harmonics and synchronised moves. The tempo was ridiculously high for Anarian standards, and probably it was a bit faster than usual due to being on stage in a different country. Nerves…

For the second time that evening, Yuma introduced an unfamiliar vocal technique to the unsuspecting audience: harsh vocals. Which just means screaming your lungs inside out. Sano of the Nokumo Nobono used it as well, but her roar was more that of a lion, low and coarse, not female at all. Yuma’s screams were high pitched, raspy and above all loud. She thrived on the little response she got from the audience, the startled look of the few people she could see in the dimmed lights on the front row. So for the final chorus, which she would do completely in harsh voice, she moved to the furthest edge of the stage and belched it out while arching backwards, only to lean over a bit above the audience for her final note. An unsuspecting audience member was introduced to the Kakuri five feet of vocal fury. There were looks of absolute horror throughout the audience.

Urashinu and Amo played the third song, which wasn’t a Nokumo Nobono one. Yuma supported the vocals this time. In Vittmark, they had compared Urashinu’s voice to that of a skilled opera mezzo-soprano. This was probably a bit more easy to grasp for the Anisoran audience, even though the long solo instrumental battles halfway the song might have sounded alien. Arimu only played some basic chords during Urashinu’s and Amo’s instrumental battle. Moa really missed her own violin part here, but since the audience did not know the song included violin, they weren’t feeling that something was missing.

At the end of the song, they had a bit of a surprise. They were continuing playing, but then backwards. Arimu couldn’t keep up with that, but Amo and Urashinu reversed almost the entire song, skipping the solo battles. Urashinu sang the same lines, but the melody had changed completely. Even Moa had not expected this. She had heard the two talking about it, more or less as a joke, but had never heard them rehearsing. It was a trick that only musicians might understand.

The middle part of the performance consisted of two songs by Arimu, accompanying herself on piano. Yuma backed up on vocals and Amo played some minor details on the koto, but Urashinu had left the stage for these two songs. She came back for Yuma’s second own song, which started with an eerie riff on shamisen and koto. It had a much lower tempo than the previous ones, making it a bit more easy to digest probably. Yuma teased the audience by building up towards a climax and then taking a deep breath, as if she would be using her harsh vocals again, but it didn’t happen in this song, much to the relief of the audience.

It was this attitude that had made her a beloved performer in Östvallen. She had the ability to play the audience, and she could get away with it. But this was no bar in the rougher parts of Östvallen’s New Town, this was a music theatre in Anisora. The percentage of masochistic middle-aged men might be a bit lower here.

They continued with an older Nokumo song, one that Moa had never played herself. It belonged to the eight songs Arimu was allowed to play, since she had written it. Urashinu had explained to Moa that the song had not been played for years in Toshi-bu, but that she wanted to try to perform it with the original composer. The song was executed so well that no one could have guessed that these people had never played together before this week.

Then Urashinu and Amo did two songs that were not Nokumo material. Accompanied only by the koto, Urashinu could show the entire spectrum of her vocal range: which was a lot. It fitted much better in the musical tradition of Anisora than Yuma’s weird vocal outings. It remained to be seen if the audience agreed, though.

Yuma had gotten hold of the translator, she needed him for the introduction of the final song.

“This next song, already the last song of this evening, has a very special meaning. It was this song the Nokumo Nobono performed when they first met Her Grace the Crown Princess. It is about when our people first met Stoldavian settlers. The song is so important to us, that I am not allowed to sing it. Arimu and Amo are only allowed to play it today. Only for you, the good people of Anisora, who have welcomed us with all of their hearts and an open mind.”

There was a round of polite applause as the translator finished and Arimu and Amo prepared for the final song. Arimu started on piano and provided harmonics to Urashinu’s lead vocals. Amo focused on his shamisen, plucking the strings with a large plectrum, creating a plopping sound that complemented the more rounded tunes of the grand piano. Moa noticed that he played it rather differently to how Chopper usually would, but even she did not know if that was a prerequisite for him playing the song, not copying the Nokumo Nobono’s shamisen-player.

As the Kakuri finished their final song and bowed to the audience there was polite applause. Overall the music had been received with equal measures of shock, disgust and ironic enjoyment. The vast majority of those in the audience were musicians trained in the classical Anarian tradition. While many of the younger musicians were champions of new, daring styles, much of the music performed by the Kakuri was so starkly different to anything they had heard before that many in the audience were loathe to call it “music” at all. A number of the more conventional pieces performed by the Kakuri had been received well. However, the screaming vocals had produced looks of abject terror from almost everybody in the concert hall and seemed to have overshadowed the more traditional pieces.

As the crowd clapped politely, with looks of relief on the faces of many, there were mutterings of “truly awful” and “how embarrassing” and even “they’re savages after all, what can one expect?”

Moa could see right through the overly polite response from the people around her. She realised she had failed in her mission to present Kakuri musical performance as a cultural highlight. In Anisora of all places, a nation with a huge history in music. And now it was her task to bury this feeling of abject failure in order not to offend her Kakuri friends.

But she didn’t have to. When she finally met them, about half an hour after the show in one of the dressing rooms, they had done their own evaluation.

“When the walls fell,” Yuma said in her second language, the idiom-filled one. Moa could only look down to the floor.

“It’s their loss,” Arimu continued in Wortsproke. A weird choice of language, since all of the people present were speaking Kakuri, but only half Wortsproke.

“Those songs I played there in the middle? Pretty straightforward piano ballads, but then played a bit faster. And our last song… we tuned it down, based it mainly on vocal harmonics. You know what Urashinu said?” Moa asked Urashinu to repeat. “When we arrived, I wondered why we contacted Vittmark and not this place. The buildings look better, the people have better clothes, the food… But that’s the outside. On the inside....”

“I cannot say people in Vittmark like your music either, it’s… different,” Moa countered. “In Vittmark, people like some of our music. Not all of it. Not all people. Vittmark is like a fast flowing river, people want to move forward and are looking for opportunities. They know they must do better. Anisora… they’re happy with what they have. It is like a stagnant pool of water. And we know what happens with those.”

Moa looked at Yuma, who sat there devastated. “Should not have screamed,” she said half whispering, half apologetic to Moa in Wortsproke.

“Screaming is you, screaming is a part of your music, your culture. No one here can do what you do without ruining their vocal cords. You’re special.”

“I want to learn the tongue,” Urashinu suddenly changed topic. “I want to open the door to knowledge. If they don’t want a part of us, that is their choice.”

05-10-2018, 07:38 PM
Post: #6
RE: Surprise visit to Anisora
Chapter Five: The royal circles are seldom round

Colombera Palace, Pena

Moa woke up on what would be the last full day of the visit. It was completely dedicated to strengthening the ties with her host at Colombera palace, the Anisoran Emperor and Empress. As a member of the royal family, Moa had been staying at the palace since their arrival, while the rest of the company had been housed at a hotel near the embassy. That is, apart from Arimu. She was Moa’s lady-in-waiting at the Blåkulla mansion, and the only one of her four ladies that had accompanied her on this journey.

The Vittmarker ambassador arrived while Moa and Arimu were enjoying breakfast.

“We have been so pro-active to acquire the newspapers today, but I wish we hadn’t,” he apologised.

“That bad?”

The ambassador held up one of the local, capital newspapers. “This one is the best. They don’t mention yesterday’s event at all.”

Moa sighed. “What did Ödebo have to say?”

The ambassador was behaving in the way he had been trained to: diplomatically. “The chancellor is really happy with your contribution to the talks with the PM the day before yesterday.”

“We failed. I messed up the presentation and maybe the musical display was not a good idea.”

The ambassador grinned. “Your Grace, in the end, this is all Ödebo’s fault. As a member of the crown it is not her grace’s responsibility, it is the chancellor’s. He has a political mandate, not you.”

“But I’m Vittmark’s poster girl....”

“We can always print new posters,” Arimu now entered the conversation, “but it will be the same girl.”

“Next week, this will be forgotten,” the ambassador tried to conclude.

“Not by me,” Moa replied.

“Let’s just focus on today’s programme, shall we. Emperor Marius expects Her Grace at the main library at 10. The rest of the company will join for lunch.”

“I’d better get dressed then,” Moa said. The ambassador let out a sigh of relief just a bit too loud.

“You didn’t expect me to meet His Majesty in this?”

“Of course not,” the ambassador lied.

“If you would follow me, Your Grace” said a footman through Moa’s accompanying translator. The tall footman led Moa down a corridor and opened the large doors to the library before ushering her and her translator through.

The library was a large room with tall windows in the north wing of the palace, looking out onto the gardens. The room was appointed in the 75th century ‘Marian’ style, with rich green wallpaper and dark wood bookcases with silver embellishments occupying the ground floor as well as a gallery that surrounded the room above. Despite the seeming uniformity of the large room, small enclaves and reading corners could be found throughout the library, each with an ornate desk.

The footman gestured for Moa to follow him as he walked to an area with two green sofas looking out towards the gardens. The footman was about to stand to attention to announce Princess Moa when he quickly closed his mouth and looked around. The sofas were empty. Moa noticed a half drunk cup of coffee and a book left on the sofa next to it. The footman looked apologetically at Moa, and started walking down the library looking down the aisles.

He stopped and came walking back briskly, clearly having found what he had lost. He led Moa and her translator to the end of a bookcase labelled “Biographiae Exemplorum” (Biographies of the Exemplars). At the end of the bookcase sat Marius III, Emperor of the Anisorans. He was hunched over and concentrating on a large tome sitting amongst a large array of books of different sizes on the desk.

The footman announced in Pastanan, “Her Highness Princess Tovemor of Vittmark, Your August Imperial Majesty.”

The emperor looked up startled - he had clearly been engrossed in whatever he had been reading. He blinked and stood up quickly, straightening himself and smoothing his morning suit, his world famous moustache turned upwards in a stiff smile.

“Good morning, Princess Moa” he said in Anisoran. “We apologise,” he gestured at the books scattered on the desk, “We lost track of time.”

“The Exemplars tend to have that effect,” Moa replied through the services of the translator. “Books are an inspiration for eternity.” She was actually positively surprised. The emperor was also just a normal human being who could be caught up by reading and studying just like any other Orkanan.

“I feel like it’s me who should be apologising for interfering; Your Majesty was clearly near new insights. Should we head back to the sofas or is there anything Your Majesty would want to show me here?”

The truth was that Moa was nervous. Which usually made her talk a lot. Sometimes even too much. But she wasn’t raised as royalty and the presence of an imperial icon like Marius was still unsettling to her. They had briefly met when she arrived, but for the last couple of days they each had had their own programmes. She felt that she had been thrown into the deep end of the pool as good as unprepared this entire week.

“No need to apologise.” The emperor switched languages to Pastanan, recognising the shift to more academic matters - translators in Anisora were always kept on their toes. “I was merely conducting some preliminary cross-referencing of sources on Exemplar Margareta - Exemplar Greta” he corrected himself, giving the Liturgical Stoldavic form, which Moa would be more familiar with. “A scholar by the name of della Moregna at Peradotto University has published a most interesting paper on the exemplar, and we wished to greater understand her insights. We have followed her academic career for some years now and would recommend her theories to those wanting to view the Exemplar’s works in new ways.”

Moa felt trapped now. Studying the exemplars was not her main daytime activity and when it came to new angles on some of the more classical ones, she was without an answer. Emperor Marius, on the other hand, was well known for his academic interests - interests which were sometimes criticised. The emperor’s academic approach often disarmed foreign dignitaries and Anisorans alike and put them on edge for fear of appearing uninformed. It was a common saying in Anisora that an academic ruled from Colombera, not a politician.

“Della Moregna… I should make a note” said Moa. “At the moment, I am more in a creative phase, not so much reflective. But that will come soon enough. I would certainly be interested in new academic perspectives.”

It seemed to work. “We must all contribute to Mighty Vind’s Plan in our own way” Marius said, nodding. The emperor took two of the books, closed them into each other so that he knew exactly where he had been reading and gestured as he walked back to the sofas. Two cups of freshly brewed coffee had been placed on the table.

“It is… interesting to see this is a common hot beverage here,” Moa continued. “In Fisks it is more used as a medicine.” Moa wondered if she would add the anecdote to this introduction, but it seemed she got the opportunity to continue, so she did.

“I enjoyed my first cup only a couple of years ago, at the Fisks Residency. I had just returned from an encounter with the Kakuri and was suffering from a headache and sore muscles. The coffee did wonders.”

She left out the bit where she had been fighting Flower over Moa’s involvement with Arimu. Her current lady-in-waiting used to be a part of the leadership and had not only been kicked out of the group, but the entire Kakuri society. Flower wasn’t happy with the two knowing each other, which led to a physical fight in which Moa got a back injury that would recur every now and then. A long story, and probably way too personal for the occasion.

“Most interesting,” said Marius in his cold, emotionless voice, switching back to Anisoran. “Coffee is the most popular hot beverage of choice amongst our people. It has been since well before the War.”

“It is new to us. Fisks only has a single plantation and no capacity to turn this into an exportable product.”

“Most of Anisora’s coffee is imported from Aspasia - the coffee we are drinking, for example, is coffea marinatea, grown in the foothills on the western coast of the island. Is it to your liking?”

Compared to the coffee Moa had gotten on Fisks, this one was not only roasted much more darkly, it was also brewed a lot stronger. “It is obvious that Aspasia has a much broader experience with coffee than Fisks has,” she replied. “This has a much deeper taste, more powerful. My compliments.”

After that sentence, she could not do anything other than take another sip, even though most of her body was urging her not to. Luckily for the royal relations, Moa’s mind was stronger. And actually, it started to taste better. The emperor inclined his head in appreciation and took a sip from his own cup.

“But don’t let the people of Fisks ever hear me saying that. They do an excellent effort with the limited resources they have. But this…”

“If we recall correctly, the native peoples of Aspasia have been drinking coffee for millennia. The properties of coffee are mentioned in many ancient poetic cycles of the region that remain to us - many giving pseudo-magical properties to the drink.” He paused. “The name of the poem escapes us.” His hand twitched as if he was about to get up and go searching for a book on the subject, but he thought better of it.

Moa was wondering if the Kakuri had a similar relation to coffee, she could not remember seeing it being used as a hot beverage. “Magical properties, medicinal use or an uplifting recreational drink, that seems pretty closely linked.”

“Very true” replied the emperor. “Since we are on the topic of Aspasia, Her Highness the Rallan of Pakatayu will be joining us for lunch and dinner today.” The Princess of Pakatayu was one of the most powerful Aspasian monarchs under the suzerainty of the Anisoran emperor. “She is in Anisora for the graduation of her daughter from Peradotto University - who we incidentally believe wrote her thesis on Aspasian epic poetry. Most interesting.”

“I have been informed about her presence, I am looking forward to meeting her. The Baroness of Kakuri, who will join us as well, is a poet herself. She writes current events into song lyrics. But we are only in the very early stages of deciphering Kakuri poetry. There is not much knowledge about it. The fact that I am one of the few non-natives able to express myself in their languages says enough. I am not a linguist.”

“Indeed?” said Marius, his emotionless voice masking his interest. “We had heard about the talk you gave at Exemplar Mathars’ University - we are certain there will be a modest number of scholars who would be interested in studying the poetry and language you mention - perhaps they can contribute to understanding the Kakuri people in greater detail.”

“The lecture was not entirely what I expected. It was difficult, a presentation is only going one way and by the time the translation reaches the audience… I could not react to the audience's responses. So it was a learning experience.”

Moa hesitated if she should address the suggestion Marius had made. She decided to repeat a part of the lecture.

“Language and culture are a tight fabric, it is difficult to understand their culture if one does not speak the language, but one needs to understand culture in order to learn the language. The Kakuri themselves aren’t very helpful, they assume you need to pick up the language yourself, they don’t teach nor explain it. I could inquire if they would be willing to welcome Anisoran scholars though. At the moment, the entire area is off limits even to most Vittmarkers.”

“You are correct in your observations on the difficulties of lecturing through a translator. Academic nuance is easily lost and can just as easily undermine your argument if one is not careful.” Due to the prevalence of Pastanan as the academic lingua franca in Anisora and the interintelligability of Anisoran, Auresian and other Dragaric languages, lectures that require translation are not overly common in Anisora. Nevertheless Marius understood from personal experience how difficult it could be to convey complex intellectual ideas indirectly.

“It is our understanding” the emperor continued, “that you have brought your Kakuri to Anisora to foster greater understanding of their ways by other Anarians. We are pleased Anisora is the place you have chosen to exhibit the Kakuri culture - we Anisorans are naturally curious about such things. Yet if the Kakuri people are unwilling to allow outsiders to learn their language they cannot expect those same outsiders to understand them. Language, as you have alluded to, is the gateway to the understanding of culture. One cannot expect insights into the latter without understanding the former.”

Moa sighed. She had indeed a lot more to explain.

“It is not that the Kakuri are unwilling to allow outsiders to learn their language, it is just that they do not actively teach it. This is also how they learn other languages themselves. For example, Midori's predecessor Sohoko learned Stoldish while living in Schangtienrand, without going to school and without getting detected as a non-native of that colony. But it is a relatively small culture, only a few thousand people, and studying them with all of our academic possibilities might easily damage their way of life. We need to find a delicate balance somewhere.” The emperor nodded to signify he understood.

“However, understanding the Kakuri people is not even the main purpose of our visit. We are aware of the fact that our actions have raised some questions. How does a country like Vittmark allow natives from a chartered colony to join as a member state? It is an unusual step, I see that. By sharing our experiences we are trying to make clear that it was a logical decision.”

“The Kakuri have a well organised society, operating at a similar level as many Vittmarker communities. Her Majesty the Queen and two chancellors have visited their main settlement. They made a similar assessment as the federal police’s liaison and the anthropologist that has been working as high administrator on location. The Kakuri came to us, fully aware of how federal government works. It is not my personal hobby project.”

The emperor noticed Moa’s defensiveness and looked at her intently, his face blank and difficult to read. A moment of silence elapsed before the emperor said, “The Kakuri are important to you, and we respect that. However, we fear you will be disappointed if your aim is to persuade other Anarians that welcoming a native people into the federation was anything put problematic.” ‘Problematic’ was an understatement considering some of the responses from within the emperor’s own government - ‘naïvely dangerous’ was a more common description.

“If it is a mistake, it is ours to make. We know that there is no precedent of a similar set-up having ever worked. But it is an opportunity to contribute to Vind’s Master Plan and we’re taking it. Your Imperial Majesty has been honest with your remarks towards me, so let me reply honestly. Of course this Kakuri integration is not free of problems. And if Vittmark has made a mistake, then it was in 7570 when we accepted Fisks into the federation. They have a huge unregistered native population, for which Fisks does not take any responsibility. Her Majesty Queen Anna however feels a responsibility towards all residents of the territories under her jurisdiction. We should have made a better assessment of the situation back then, when we were told that there were only a couple of hundred hunter-gatherers and fishermen on each island. Fisks has not been honest to us, and I can tell Your Imperial Majesty, neither have the Kakuri.”

Moa hesitated if she would elaborate on that. She had a tendency to talk a lot, and this probably was not the best occasion to do so. But she had opened the box; it was time to show the contents.

“I would like this conversation to stay within these walls,” she continued, “because my actions fall under the responsibility of the executive cabinet. However, because of the friendly relations between our families, I am taking the liberty to take this to a more personal level.”

She waited to see if Marius wanted to interrupt her. Moa could not read his body language at first, if he was keeping a distance, if he was uninterested or that his rather neutral expression was his way of him telling Moa to continue. After a moment he gave a shallow nod to signify that he wished for her to continue.

“Upon our first meeting, we were invited to the Kakuri settlement. What we did not know was that the leadership was using our presence to strengthen their claim to power. Simply because we did not know that the young women we met actually were the leaders, and not some messengers. But it was a deliberate move on their side. Just as they allowed me into their closest circle, before I knew it I was their talisman, their anchor to power. And they imposed themselves upon us for a return visit to Vittmark. That was not a cultural misunderstanding, it was their intention to develop direct ties with federal government, above Fisks’ local rule.”

“They are calculating politicians, all of them, opportunistic as well. My Kakuri name, it means ‘free of loops’, which could be translated as uncomplicated or naive. They thought they could play me, at first. But then things got… complicated. The bottom line is that we have reached a way to work together with mutual respect, after we cleared the air. I don’t know… I am 24 years old now… I am sorry, I keep on talking. Maybe it is time I spent more time in a library like this, reflect a bit more, listen more carefully.”

The emperor looked at Moa with an intensity many would find unnerving. While the tale of native manipulation of an Anarian power - no matter how small - left a bad taste in the imperialist’s mouth, Marius was intrigued that Princess Moa had told him all this. In that moment he realised how young and inexperienced she was. She was of an age with his two middle daughters, Victoria and Juliana - one already an accomplished scholar and the other committed to one day becoming the most powerful woman in Auresia. Yet his impetus to reply was not born of sympathy or a desire to dispense paternal succour, for he felt neither. He rather thought it appropriate to impart some advice on a young woman who clearly wanted it and who would one day find herself sitting upon a throne as a ruler of colonial peoples.

“Libraries do indeed have a lot to teach princes of state - the precedent of history is unimpeachable in its ability to warn and advise wielders of power. The situation you describe on Fisks is not too dissimilar to how our own Empire was founded in Aspasia, albeit on a smaller scale.

“When one comes into contact with a native people one does not wish to govern directly, a language of power must be established. The Crown must consider the specifics of the people in question, their rulers, their culture’s conception of power, and how, as an Anarian alien, one can dominate that people effectively with a language of power they understand. The first job of the Crown must always be to establish itself at the very centre of whatever form of power that society respects.

“The beauty of an indirect system of empire, as in Fisks and Aspasia, is that a two-way system can emerge that benefits both parties - the Anarian Crown and the native rulership. Proximity to the imperial power, as you have already recognised, is paramount to defining the native ruler’s own power. It can be used to grant legitimacy and stability to native rulers - and this in turn can ensure their loyalty. But for that model to be sustainable and fruitful, the two-way system can never be between equals. The native ruler or rulers must understand that power flows in one direction only - that power, privilege, prestige and rank is the largesse of the suzerain power and nobody else.

“Opportunistic princes or an ambitious group of friends may seek the right and legitimacy to rule from the Crown - that is a natural and ultimately necessary part of indirect rule. But their relationship with the Crown must be dictated by the Crown. They must be reminded that the Crown demands their loyalty, and that it is in their interest to remain loyal - for control over the succession in a native state is the single greatest weapon in the Crown’s arsenal.

“We are unfamiliar with how the Kakuri leadership operates, but if they came to you and Her Majesty Anna to solidify their claim to power, it stands to reason that Her Majesty may support a rival group should the current arrangement become undesirable. While we recognise that you have reached a position of “mutual respect”, it is vital to remind all native rulers of their dependence on the Crown - particularly if those rulers have shown themselves to be politically astute and opportunistic.

“Princess Sakayana is at Colombera today to pay homage to the Crown - a physical enactment of our relationship. Our father executed the princess’ uncle in the 40s for open rebellion against the Crown and she was chosen to succeed him. She has proven to be a good choice and despite all remains one of our most loyal subjects. She understands and respects our language of power.”

Moa took some sips from her coffee, emptying the cup, while at the same time digesting Marius’ monologue.

“The Anisoran Empire has a different balance between top-down and bottom up than Vittmark,” she started replying. “His Imperial Majesty’s wise words prove that this balance is a dynamic one and could shift, maybe even should shift. Our nation is young. Her Majesty’s father worked his way up, above the kings of the predecessor states, through diplomacy. My own father went upwardly mobile when he changed his ways from violent resistance to accommodating self-determination. Both Her Majesty and myself come from a culture where reaching the position we are in now, always has been our way of life. But we only have a bit of experience in how to stay there.”

Only now Moa felt how silly she was sitting there with her empty coffee cup in her hands. She put it down before she continued.

“His Imperial Majesty is aware of the fact that Queen Anna successfully countered a coup d’état. She also has seen to it that quite a few member states went through a change of power, including Fisks. The way Fisks and the Kakuri are behaving are quite similar, so we’re treating them equally. The big difference is that the Kakuri are unconditionally loyal to Anna. I had to earn their respect, just as they had to earn to be respected. I am used to that, I am a mountain girl with a thin heritage of past lower nobility. Queen Anna trusts me with her throne, so I am doing something right. It’s just that I am unaware of what it is that I am doing right. In that sense, I’m truly a tool in Vind’s master plan, I just try to become more effective.”

Fidelitas Vindo Fidelitas Ipsi,” the emperor replied, with the interpreter translating: Faith in Vind is faith in oneself. It was the motto of the Order of the Fauglia, the red sash and plaque of which Marius wore on his morning suit. The Pastanan motto could just be read surrounding the golden lion insignia of the badge. Moa’s own mother had been made a Lady of the Fauglia on her last state visit.

Suddenly Moa became all practical.

“Could I introduce myself to Princess Sakayana, or should she be introduced to me? I would like to get the opportunity to get to know more from her perspective.”

The emperor continued in a business-like tone. “We will introduce you to her at lunch.”

05-22-2018, 05:49 PM
Post: #7
RE: Surprise visit to Anisora
The lunch company was considerably larger when Moa arrived. Beside ambassador Hägglöv and chancellor Ödebo, even Surprise was present in her role as baroness of Kakuri.

“Your grace, a quick word,” Ödebo insisted when Moa was led into the lunchroom. He handed over two envelopes with handwritten notes in Anisoran. “We have received two letters from citizens who attended the concert yesterday. They both enjoyed it. I will get you a translation.”

Moa looked up. “Do Fukai and Urashinu know?”

“They do.”

“Good. I will answer them myself, if my Lord allows me.”

“I will have to sanction the reply then, since the letters were directed to the embassy, not to Her Grace.”

“Of course.” Moa handed back the envelopes. She felt a bit relieved. Even though last night’s performance had been too far away from the Anisoran cultural tradition, at least some people had enjoyed it for what it was.

“Your Highness, my Lords, Ladies and gentlemen, lunch is served” said a strapping footman, gesturing toward the table at the centre of the room. They were having lunch in the Yellow Morning room, which was considerably smaller and more intimate than the large banqueting hall they would be dining in that evening. The room was bright this time of day, with the heat of the day cascading through the large windows looking onto the gardens.

The footmen showed the Vittmarker guests to their seats at the table. The emperor sat at the head of the table, flanked by Princess Moa on his right and Ambassador Hägglöv on his left. Empress Lassinia sat at the opposite end of the table, with Chancellor Ödebo on her right and the Deputy Tribune for Foreign Affairs on her left. The other guests sat around the table, and despite the fact that she could not communicate without Moa, Surprise was put next to Princess Sakayana of Pakatayu and Prince Alberto, the youngest son of the Anisoran monarch.

As everyone stood by their seats, the emperor gestured for everybody to take one another's hands around the table. He turned to Prince Alberto, “Would you give Grace, Alberto?”

“Of course, Father” the young prince said, straightening up, his face eerily similar to Marius’ and as equally devoid of emotion. He took the hand of Surprise and Princess Moa before continuing in Pastanan, “Nourishing and Providing Vind, provide the Light that we may thank You for all, this day and always.” At that the party dropped their hands and the emperor sat down, followed by everyone else.

Anisoran convention dictated that the highest ranking person sitting at the table gives the rest of the party leave to begin talking only once they begin talking. Emperor Marius had a taciturn reputation, and it was not uncommon for him to make his guests wait - family dinners were even known to elapse in complete silence should the emperor not wish to talk. Today however he signified permission immediately by turning to Princess Moa.

“We hope you are aware,” he said in his monotone voice, “that we should desire to make you a Commander of the Order of Colombera this evening.” He gestured for a footman to pour some wine with his eyebrows as the diners around the table began talking amongst themselves.

“That is truly an honour,” Moa replied through the interpreter standing behind them. In this case, Moa’s remark was not an empty phrase. She had no idea why she had deserved the honour, as she could not recall any personal services to the Imperial Crown and the House of Decus. And a Commander, noless, the second highest rank within the order. She felt she had earned it thanks to her affiliation with Queen Anna, who in fact had been of service to the Imperial Crown. It had been quite a task to write an acceptance speech, until she was informed that she would not have to give any - it wasn’t that sort of award. In fact it was common to make senior foreign royalty members of the Order of Colombera in recognition of a visit such as this one. The honour was also a recognition of the two countries warming relations, particularly in light of recent events.

The emperor was about to reply when Moa noticed Surprise trying to make eye contact past Prince Alberto.

“Neria shiatsu?” Surprise asked half whispering.

“Hai,” confirmed Moa.

“Mi a moru…” she added in her second language before turning her attention to the starter course. Moa thought for a while. She knew the expression meant something like ‘to be watched’. Then it struck her. One of the Aspasian constituent states was called Miamoru. The expression must have had its roots in that area.

The emperor waited for Moa and Surprise to stop communicating, taking a sip of wine.

“The Baroness was enquiring if her table neighbour was from Aspasia,” Moa explained. “She is truly grateful for being able to spend time in this royal and noble company and she reminded me of letting His Imperial Majesty know that.”

“She is most welcome” replied the emperor, irritated at being interrupted by the Kakuri. “And yes, Her Highness is from Aspasia. We will introduce you to her after lunch, Princess Moa.”

Marius continued, returning to the matter of the Order of Colombera. “It is important to recognise friendship and the strengthening of ties between our nations - particularly at this time.” He was clearly referencing the rising tensions in Anaria as a result of the Protocols of Gadelhem.

“I do not understand much of international politics, because it seems so illogical to me. Why would nations push this issue so hard? We are already suffering from economic decline since trade volumes are affected by recent events. Aedeland and Helreich must be suffering as well, now they don’t get our iron and coal anymore. It’s so… counterproductive… unorkanan. I truly hope Amberia turns around.”

Moa put down her glass without having taken a sip at all and continued talking.

“I am worried though. We do our best to provide a future beneficial to Vind’s Master Plan through our federation, an effort that has been supported by as good as every Anarian nation. And all of a sudden we get wedged in, surrounded by three nations that are trying to strangle us to death.”

“We quite agree that it is a most unfortunate affair,” replied the emperor. “The formation of Vittmark was an important milestone in post-War international relations, and a cause we were all committed to. Certain parties seemingly wish to dismantle the precious peace we have all helped build since the War.”

“This is becoming a paradox, that we will have to fight to keep the peace,” Moa tried to conclude. “But if there is one thing Aedeland has been successful in, it is creating a common sense of unity within Vittmark. Up to about five years ago, most people would identify as Hagenite or Ådalish. Today they are ready to stand up for Vittmark. Both identities are completing each other now. Border security in the west is no longer seen as a Hagenite responsibility, it is a Vittmarker task. Silver lining…”

“Nothing crystallises a nation or people as much as an external threat" replied the emperor. "It is quite ironic just how much succour a hostile power can inadvertently provide the people they are trying to undermine. Vittmark will indeed come out all the stronger because of this, we do not doubt it. And you are quite right to recognise the paradox of peace - in the words of Exemplar Volund, “For a lasting peace, prepare for war.””

“We prefer not to have to label our neighbours to the west as a hostile power,” ambassador Hägglöv entered the discussion. He could answer the emperor before a translation was made, because he had mastered Anisoran - to some level. “But it is a pity they behave as such.”

“Indeed it is lamentable,” replied the emperor. He never referred to Aedeland as a hostile power, but despite speaking generally, the implication was obvious.

The ambassador’s intervention meant that Moa could turn her attention to her right hand side again. But instead of meeting Surprise’s face, she was looking right into Prince Alberto’s eyes. She had to say something. Pity her pre-travel briefing had not stuck.

“Forgive me for asking, Your Highness,” she started, “but I completely forgot about what it is Your Highness is doing these days. I have been so occupied by my tasks the last couple of days…” Moa just hoped that her candidness wasn’t misinterpreted. The interpreter had now moved behind the chairs of Moa and Alberto, since the emperor and the Vittmarker ambassador did not seem to need his services.

Of the three sons of emperor Marius, Prince Alberto looked and acted the most like him, and the smile he gave Moa was exactly the same as the one she had received from his father earlier in the day. “You are most kind to ask, Your Highness. I have just finished my third year of studying theology at Peradotto. I arrived home only this week.”

Sometimes, Moa just cursed Vind’s master plan, which had put her between the scholar-emperor and his son, the scholar-prince. Then again, she had been able to avoid the mistake of assuming he was going to military academy. That must have been one of his brothers - in fact both his elder brothers Prince Titus and Prince Bruto had attended the military academy. Although, it was not uncommon in Anisora to begin a military career after attending university.

“Then we have something in common,” Moa replied. “I also arrived this week.” She looked if Alberto had a sense of humour, but he didn’t react to the joke - like his father, he wasn’t known for his sense of humour.

“Are there any discussions about the Kakuri at Riverri? I understood from my lecture that it is a sensitive topic. Please, Highness, feel free to be honest with me. I am here for new experiences.”

Now Moa had a brief moment of eye contact with Surprise. She did not seem comfortable in this company, but on the other hand she seemed calm enough to cope with it.

Prince Alberto looked thoughtful for a minute. In the last few months he had been focused on his exams as well as the royal duties he was expected to perform, such as this very luncheon. He had heard of the Kakuri at university, but he considered them a niche interest, with mostly eccentric professors showing them any heed. What he had heard, however, had not been very positive. The acceptance of the Kakuri into the Vittmarker federation had been met with outrage amongst most historians and political scientists at the university.

“If you wish me to be honest” Prince Alberto replied cautiously, “I would have to say that the real controversy lies with the Vittmarker government, not the Kakuri themselves. Not that I hold to any particular view myself, you must understand. I’m merely repeating what I have heard.” He frowned and evidently regretted saying it - he looked at his father who was in conversation with Ambassador Hägglöv.

Moa understood that this conversation was getting outside the realm of diplomacy and kept an eye on Hägglöv and Ödebo as well. This was a chance to gain some valuable observations.

“I appreciate that. We are aware that our steps are viewed upon as unconventional and we would like to gain more insight into what makes it controversial. In that sense, having the Baroness of Kakuri sitting at the same table, in this palace, would be considered controversial as well.”

Alberto looked round at Surprise, smiling awkwardly - the smile might have been interpreted as disdainful, but it was more a smile of uncertainty. Alberto stiffened in his chair, something changing in his face. He became even more detached, cooler.

“Perhaps, Your Highness. However, my father would not have invited her if he thought it unwise.”

“His Imperial Majesty did not invite the Baroness only for her singing voice I presume,” Moa tried to steer away from any controversy. Surprise was not the one using harsh vocals. Alberto had heard something about the Kakuri singing the night before, although he didn’t know the details.

“I’m sure” was all he said, gesturing to one of the footmen for more wine. As far as Alberto was concerned, inviting the Kakuri Baroness was not the issue - it seemed natural to him that ambitious natives would seek to gain the status of Anarians. It was rather the Vittmarker government which was at fault for indulging them. Nevertheless, Vittmark was important to the success of Anisoran foreign policy at this time, and so inviting this Kakuri to dine was a small price to pay for the greater diplomatic games at play.

Moa decided to focus on her food. There was one advantage with these conversations, there was no chance that the warm starter course would get cold because of the interesting conversations going on. It was an excellent dish, even though Moa was not really sure what it was she was eating. Surprise had already finished and was looking around her. She had been briefed not to try to use any of the very basic Anisoran she had started to pick up. There was quite a chance that she would be seen as the stupid native trying to keep up a bit. On the other hand, she could not use her own language because there were only two people here speaking it, and the other one had been sandwiched between the emperor and a prince. She could notice Moa quickly checking on her left side. She didn’t seem to be amused either. Surprise gave her a quick wink with one eye and tried to curl up one side of her mouth, which was actually Moa’s trademark grin. She could see Moa lightening up a bit. Misery loves company. But the food was excellent.

In the meantime, Chancellor Ödebo tried to make conversation with the empress in fluent Auresian.

“Your Imperial Majesty, is this the time to bring up a delicate matter? My government has received two requests about offering Her Imperial Majesty an honorary degree, from two universities. That is long overdue, in my opinion. My personal challenge is to extend to Your Imperial Majesty, even though there is only one institute who can award such a degree first. Is this something you would be able to share an insight in, in this informal setting?”

“You honour me, Chancellor” replied the empress in Auresian. “Tell me, which universities have so decided to honour me, and, forgive me, what do you mean when you say you require an insight?” Although the Chancellor’s Auresian was very good, his phrasing had caused slight confusion.

“One is coming from Kira College of Siutton University in Talpå, for Her Imperial Majesty’s theological insights, while the other is from the University of Östervallen, for Her Imperial Majesty’s contribution to normalised international affairs in general and more specific education across national borders. Both institutes have formulated it much better than I am doing now. Her Imperial Majesty will receive both degrees, if she chooses to accept them, but our government would like to handle this matter in a way which suits your imperial court best.”

“I should be delighted to accept, naturally. I’m accruing quite a collection, I must say” she smiled broadly. “We shall have to arrange the ceremony for when my husband and I are next in Vittmark. It is about time we organised a visit, as neither of us have visited before. I know my husband longs to journey to Skiöldavik on pilgrimage. I should very much like to see your country.”

“On behalf of Her Majesty the Queen and the federal government, I would gladly extend an invitation.” Ödebo’s mind was gearing up now. He saw a new opportunity arising.

“Skiöldavik is an inspiring place for a visit. But there is a major issue regarding the site that our government would like to address with our Orkanan partners. We could continue with the excavations, which are now going on at a very low tempo. We have only prioritised the areas that suffered war damage. We’re nearly ready with those.

"Now the next issue comes up, should we jointly continue to excavate and research the site, or should we stop for a while and leave coming generations of Orkanans the opportunity to do their own research? Once the archaeological work is done, there is no chance of doing it again. We only have one opportunity. It’s a philosophical matter that we as caretakers of the site do not want to make a decision on our own. We could invite other worldly and religious leaders to discuss the matter.”

“That is a fascinating conundrum, I must say.” She paused, clearly mulling over the idea in her head. “Quite the philosophical dilemma - I had not thought of it like that.” She smiled. “I know my husband would accept such an invitation in a heartbeat.”

At this Ermino Forenza, the deputy tribune for foreign affairs who was sat on the empress’ left, spoke up. He had so far listened silently but being a native speaker of Anisoran could understand the conversation going on in Auresian.

“Your proposal, Chancellor Ödebo, is most gracious and would provide our nations with a great opportunity to contribute jointly to Vind’s Master Plan.” Although ostensibly a religious event, the political dimensions of the chancellor’s proposal were whirling around Forenza’s mind. Depending on when this visit was arranged for, the visit could be utilised by the government, and the prime minister, to further their current economic and strategic goals on the international stage. Considering the current geopolitical situation in Anaria, a state visit by the emperor could prove invaluable to his party’s goals, but alternatively it could further exacerbate matters. He knew, however, that such an invitation could only be accepted or declined by Colombera Palace and not the Anisoran government.

Ödebo felt his improvisation had worked better than expected. He now had to put the crown princess into action. But he could not get eye contact with her. Surprise was paying attention though.

“Urashinu, I need Durrum’s attention,” he half whispered in Wortsproke. Surprise was not moving a muscle in her face, so Ödebo had no idea if she got the message. But she turned to her left and addressed Prince Alberto instead. Ödebo’s breath was stuck in his throat now.

“Permettini, Altezza,” Surprise said, which got Moa’s attention too. “Uda Bo,” she pointed towards the foreign chancellor.

“Could Her Grace invite their Imperial Majesties to a state visit to Vittmark?”

“Now? I thought we would do that tonight… during my dinner speech.”

“Now is the time,” Ödebo insisted.

Ambassador Hägglöv pre-warned Marius, much to the emperor’s confusion. “Your Imperial Majesty, Her Grace Moa would like to address an issue we had planned for the formal dinner later this evening. It is by our foreign chancellor’s request.”

Moa reluctantly got up, giving the palace servant enough time to retract the chair.

“Your Imperial Majesties, ministers, chancellors, ambassadors and other members of the nobility,” Moa started improvising. The interpreter had to keep up now. “If a Vittmarker is visiting, always expect the unexpected. His Excellency the foreign chancellor deemed this the best opportunity to address our hosts. With the result that my well prepared speech for tonight’s dinner is still in my room.”

With Moa now the centre of attention, Ödebo could gesture what it is he wanted her to do. She let him know she understood now.

“So that speech will have to wait. When Her Majesty Queen Anna concluded her state visit, here at this very same palace, she invited Your Imperial Majesties over for a return visit to Vittmark. If I understand my foreign chancellor right, it is my sole duty not only to repeat that invitation, but even to make sure that we start planning a date and a programme.

"That is only possible if Your Imperial Majesties would do us the honour of accepting the invitation I am making on behalf of Her Majesty the Queen. I have no idea why this is the right time and why this could not wait until dinner, but I am merely an instrument in Vind’s Master Plan…”

Moa quickly gathered her senses, trying not to keep on talking as usual. She picked up her glass. “To friendship, loyalty, honesty and creativity, through the times.”

The Anisoran guests around the table took up the toast, with emperor Marius and empress Lassinia inclining their heads in acknowledgement of Moa’s speech. Diplomatic protocol and etiquette had been breached, and Marius did not like not knowing why Moa had extended her invitation at an informal lunch rather than the state banquet that evening. Protocol seems to go out the window with Vittmarkers, Marius thought disapprovingly.

“We would be most happy to accept your gracious invitation, Princess Tovemor. We greatly look forward to the opportunity to see your country and people, contributing to Vind’s Master Plan this day and always…” He raised his glass, ending with the traditional Anisoran prayer. “This day and always” the guests replied, returning the toast.

05-30-2018, 08:23 AM
Post: #8
RE: Surprise visit to Anisora
After lunch the party adjourned to the adjoining drawing room where drinks were served and where they could mingle together. A number of other officials and others from the Vittmarker delegation who had not been invited to the lunch were waiting inside.

Moa wanted to address Ödebo immediately, because she felt being tricked into a table speech, a speech that was ill-timed if she had read the body language of her hosts correctly. Then she realised she would have almost two days of air travel ahead where she could yell at him uninterruptedly and without an Anisoran crowd. She remained close to Princess Sakayana, making sure she would not get tangled up in deep conversations until she had completed her task.

As small groups of conversation began to form emperor Marius remembered he had promised to introduce Moa to Princess Sakayana of Pakatayu, one of his most important client rulers in Aspasia. The footman standing next to the emperor retrieved Princess Sakayana from a conversation with Prince Alberto and Moa approached Marius, receiving an invitation from a footman.

“Princess Moa” said the emperor in Anisoran, the translator appearing beside him, “we would like to thank you again for your most thoughtful invitation. We believe the ruins of Skiöldavik were discussed with the empress and we should very much like to learn more. Nevertheless, we shall perhaps discuss that more this evening during dinner.” He turned to Princess Sakayana on his right. “In the meantime, may we present Her Highness Hostia Sakayana Dalah, Rallan of Pakatayu. Princess Sakayana, may we in turn present Her Highness Princess Tovemor of Vittmark.”

Princess Sakayana was a woman of medium height in her mid fifties. She wore a dress of dark purple and had her long black hair tied up in the Amberian style. She curtsied shallowly and smiled.

“Mylady, it is a pleasure and honour to meet you,” Moa greeted Sakayana, “and I would like to thank His Imperial Majesty for the introduction.” The emperor tipped his head in acknowledgement. “Her ladyship tends to pay Colombera regular visits?”

“The honour is mine, Your Highness” replied Sakayana in Anisoran, with a hint of a Taumakan accent. “It is most fortuitous that I should be at Colombera the very week Your Highness is staying. And yes, I visit Their August Imperial Majesties” she turned and curtsied deeply to the emperor, “as regularly as I am in Anisora. While I have not been in a number of years, much to my regret - affairs of state often keep me away longer than I would wish - I am in Anisora for the graduation season.”

“Philology at Peradotta University, if I have been informed correctly,” Moa improvised from the top of her head, not having a clue about the name of the graduating daughter. It might be Ödebo’s style to bluff his way through these kind of social events, but Moa really felt uninformed and therefore could come across as uninterested. At that exact moment she understood why she had been blundering a lot the last couple of days. Not only did Ödebo carry the political responsibility for the actions of the members of the crown, in this case he was fully responsible. She made a mental note that she had to discuss this with Anna.

“We only have graduation ceremonies in a similar way for the level of a master’s degree. Since I only have two bachelors, I haven’t had the pleasure of undergoing it. I am still looking for a master’s education.”

As crown princess, Moa was supposed to get a certain university education. The word “certain” also applied to the content - arts was out of the question, for example. Due to the lack of history in Vittmark, she had picked the unusual combination of mathematics and theology.

“Just so, Your Highness” said Sakayana with a smile. She was very pleased and surprised that Moa had been aware of her daughter’s studies. “My youngest daughter Bukana is likewise considering a Masters course after her graduation next week, although she is still undecided. And I, too, was unfortunate in being unable to pursue a Masters - but it is never too late to continue education.”

During Princess Sakayana’s studies in the 7540s her uncle had rebelled against Anisoran rule in Aspasia in what became known as the Nytalayan Rebellion. The resulting conflict threw her homeland into civil strife and conflict, which ended in the execution of her uncle, the exile of her father, and her placement upon the throne of Pakatayu. They were the hardest years of her life, and considering all she had had to deal with, furthering her education after being crowned Rallan had been the furthest from her mind.

“One never knows when Vind expects us to contribute to his master plan,” Moa replied, knowing exactly what caused the Princess’ lack of opportunity to obtain a master’s degree. “In that way, we have something in common. I had never anticipated becoming the crown princess of a country that did not even exist when I was born. But there is something else we have in common.”

Moa waited for the interpreters to catch up. She also had noticed that Surprise had moved her way towards her as well.

“Indeed” replied Sakayana, smiling. “On those counts we should indeed consider ourselves to be somewhat similar.”

At this point the emperor interjected. “You will have to forgive us as we attend to our other guests.” He nodded in turn to Moa and Sakayana, the latter curtsying, before turning and entering into a conversation with Chancellor Ödebo and Forenza, the Deputy Tribune for Foreign Affairs. While Princess Moa was the guest of honour, he needed to ensure he was seen and spoken to by many of the other guests. He also judged that Moa and Sakayana would have a more beneficial discussion if left alone. He would enquire as to their conversation this evening at dinner.

Moa continued the conversation. “Two years ago I became governor of the Eastern Crown Domains, last year the senator of the Kakuri people.” She took one step to the side so that Surprise suddenly was in the circle of conversation.
“Allow me to introduce Ura Shinu, Baroness of Kakuri, member of the local government.”

She quickly changed to Kakuri. “Asu Pashia Oujo Sakayana...”

“Wosuturu Artetsa,” she replied while bowing towards Princess Sakayana.

Sakayana returned a nod, uncertain of the Kakuri’s place within the hierarchy of nobility. “A pleasure” she said, again unsure of what Surprise had said.

“Mylady has a great deal of experience with governing an overseas territory in the same region as where the Kakuri live. We are new to it and like to avoid possible mistakes that already have been made. We’re not afraid to make our own mistakes though, there is no risk-free recipe for this.”

“I hope you will forgive me, Your Highness, if I might make a slight correction.” Sakayana’s tone was perfectly diplomatic, but she grew tired of explaining and justifying her rank to Anarians sometimes. Nevertheless, she was surprised and somewhat gratified that she was being asked for advice.

“Pakatayu is not an overseas territory like Fisks is. My family has ruled Pakatayu for over six hundred years and my connection to Anisora is through a personal relationship with His August Imperial Majesty. But you are most kind to think of me as experienced - after 34 years on the throne one might consider that a comment upon my age!” She laughed softly, her native Aspasian humour coming out, which Sakayana hoped Moa would appreciate. The joke was also a reference to the emperor’s absence, as she would not have made such a comment should he have remained in the conversation.

“Experience does not come from simply being born many years ago, it’s all a matter of what one does in those years,” Moa replied half apologetically. “And thanks for the correction, I was careless with the use of overseas territory. Fisks is such an entity, but the Kakuri community is not.” She paused a while before deciding to go into the details, but after all she was here to give some insights in the Kakuri issue.

“The Kakuri have taken the initiative to become included in our federation through the actions of their chosen leadership. The Baroness Ura Shinu is included in this leadership, but strangely enough, so am I. And my relation to the crown is also a voluntary commitment from Her Majesty towards me. It is an unprecedented and rather complicated relation. To be honest, I am a bit overwhelmed by it.”

Princess Sakayana took a moment or so to reply. “I am sure, Your Highness. It is a most unusual case, certainly.” She looked at Surprise before smiling. She was becoming increasingly uncomfortable and was trying hard to mask her growing uneasiness, her joke earlier clearly not setting the tone. She looked around the room subtly, aware of the Anisoran politicians and royalty around her. What exactly did Moa want from her?

“Was there anything in particular that I may assist Her Highness with?”

Moa had noticed the sudden changes in body language. “Your Highness, it is rather difficult to formulate an exact question at this moment, and I understand it could be even more difficult for Her Highness to answer them in this company. Would it be possible if I could get to see the governing style of Aspasia on location? Seeing it at work explains more than talking about it… We could even bring along a member of the local Kakuri leadership with basic skills in the Auresian language, which might make it possible to communicate directly. If I am not too forward with my request.”

Surprise still stood beside Moa, not having been able to understand a single word of the entire conversation. But she nodded along with Moa anyway. She trusted her life and that of her people with this red panther.

Sakayana again smiled, thinking very fast. This request put her in an incredibly difficult position. Although she had almost full autonomy to govern her kingdom in internal matters, under the agreements entered into by her ancestors when Pakayatu first became a client state of the then Kingdom of Casella, and again at the foundation of the Anisoran Empire, all matters of foreign affairs were to be controlled by the emperor through His government. As a client ruler Sakayana effectively had no authority to accept a foreign delegation, and the heir to a foreign throne no-less, on a political or cultural exchange. She became increasingly aware that neither could she refuse a request made by such a senior foreign royal for fear of breaching etiquette or jeopardising existing Anisoran diplomatic efforts. Sakayana’s hesitation lasted long enough for Moa to understand she had caused a problem.

“I don’t need an answer right now” Moa continued, “there is always diplomatic mail. It would be strictly on Your Highness’ terms. We could make it a private visit. And ‘no’ is an answer I can live with as well. I respect your authority and autonomy on the matter.”

Sakayana looked at once relieved that Moa had not expected an answer immediately and horrified at the thought that she would refuse the heir to the Vittmarker throne.

“While I should very much like to receive Her Highness, nothing would bring me greater pleasure in fact, we should perhaps, as you suggest, discuss such a visit through official channels. I hope you understand - protocol is of the utmost importance to Anisorans.” She smiled somewhat apologetically. If she wasn’t so concerned by the political ramifications of the request, she would have been gratified that Moa would even want to visit her kingdom at all. Most Anarians she had met showed a meagre interest at best, with even fewer actually interested in the inner workings of the client states of Aspasia.

“Of course this would have to be dealt with through the proper diplomatic channels, but I only want to pursue such a process if Her Highness is willing to accept us in some capacity or the other. After all, this miniature landless member state is as good as a neighbour to Aspasia. We want to cherish the good relations between Anisora and Vittmark, regardless of which part of the globe we’re at.”

Again, the request for a definitive response to Moa’s request, whether informal or not, uneased her. Nevertheless, she had asked a second time and so Sakayana had to give some sort of answer. She could hardly say no, and in all seriousness would relish the opportunity of receiving an Anarian royal at her court. The thought encouraged her to answer with a smile.

“I should like very much to show Your Highness the delights of Aspasia.”


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