Co-written by myself and Marina.
Besnit, Norman-Kalundan Border
40 Ojhwa, I.Y. 617
13 March 2163 AST
Local time - 6 January 2842
The Norman border town of Besnit, just off the main rail-line, had in ages past been a way-station for the Norman tribute armies collecting girls, foodstuffs, and mineral tributes from the tribal groups and small towns of the south, as well as serving as the starting base for all of the Norman excursions against the Sedevacanticists.
But since the defeat at East Henley and the collapse of their empire under the arms of the Kalundans, Sedevacanticists, and al-Farani, Besnit had suffered from the end of empire. It's thriving slave market and bazaar were now a pale shadow of what they once had been, and many of it's people had ended up moving to other towns and cities in the empire, particularly Ar. The population of what was left was miniscule and certainly among the most depressive in the entire Norman Empire.
Almost all of the town's men were now dead, their bodies gassed, burned, or mutilated by gunfire in the trenches and bombed-out buildings of Kalunda. The handful left were the old or the too young, as well as about two dozen men of fighting age who, as Christian converts, were granted asylum in the catacombs by Father Seamus Finney, the Catholic Underground missionary in charge of the small church in Besnit. Even the town's mayor had been slain in the battle for Kalunda, leaving the town in the care of his wife.
With the tech-worlders' massive army coming up from the south, and the combined forces of the East Henley Valley, the Thantians, and the Amazons coming from her east, the proud woman had been granted no choice but to surrender her town, though in an act of defiance that proved Jhayka's words to Illavna so sadly correct, she buried the city's homestone in an attempt to hide it.
Furthermore, unwilling to surrender to the alien woman who had killed her husband, the woman had instead granted it to Sara Proctor, and so the dreaded flag of the Nemesis flew beside that of the Kingdom of the Devenshires over Besnit's rail station when the General Faeria arrived, finding the town well under occupation and garrisoned by Devenshiran and Valley troops, while the Amazons had consciously already sorted out all their former sisters who had been found in what was left of Besnit's slave markets and estates.
Jhayka's staff, for their parts, brought the train to a stop at the rail platform, and a door was opened, with two guards exiting and standing fast in front of it, while a third Taloran, a blonde Dalamarian with the rank-tables of a major and darker skin than the norm, headed inside, looking for the famed Grand Duchess of Illustrious. Certainly rumours of her fame had been spread even to the Talorans by this point, courtesy of the other peoples, and the Talorans took her rise in a poetic way, with the major in question more than a little curious at meeting this remarkable human for herself.
The major would find Sara inside the station, going over final orders with one of her Devenshiran subordinates. She was flanked by Leeasa, wearing "respectable" Amazon uniform so as to not offend sensibilities, and by General Dao Zi, who was adorned in the traditional golden threads of a royal Zhai officer but who had deigned to don a uniform jacket.
Sara herself was in a regal enough uniform, that of her official rank of Marshal of the Army of Illustrious, with her light blue uniform bearing broad shoulder epaulets of gold tassel and other fine adornment common to dress uniform.
Perhaps the most interesting thing to a neutral observer, when it came to Sara Proctor, was how plain she looked. Her face was wasn't quite round enough to be moon-faced, but wasn't narrow either. Her eyes were a common brown color, as was her short-cut hair. Her body had a pleasing shape for average human taste, but at the same time, she was hardly a woman of exquisite beauty or sexual attraction. Many who met her wondered why a man like King Julio, surrounded his entire young life by the most beautiful sex-addicted slave-girls of his city's Mediterrenean clime, could fall so intensely in love with such an average looking woman. Even Leeasa, standing to her side and looking a bit older, seemed far more attractive from a human male's perspective, and those of Jhayka's entourage soon to meet her would not help but contrast her to the stunning physical beauty of Jhayka's crippled lover Danielle or either of the d'Kellius sisters.
But there was more to Sara Proctor than physical attraction. An observant person could see it in how she carried herself. Her posture, the look in her eyes, the determined expression on her face, this was a woman born to fight and to lead. Willful, stubborn, and crafty, with a strength that had shamed Thantian war chieftess and Norman warrior alike and a charisma that had already charmed thousands of people and persuaded them to take up arms and march far from their homes in war against a once-powerful empire.
The Major came to attention and saluted, before bowing low to Sara with a flick of her long mane of hair and the click of her booted heels, doffing her helmet respectfully as she came up, dressed in khaki uniform blouse and black kilt down to the knees, a formal dress uniform for the Taloran Army. "Your August Grace the Grand Duchess of Illustrious, Sara Proctor, I presume?"
"I am she." Sara's response was formal and carefully-toned. "I was informed that Her Highness the Princess of the Lesser Intuit is currently recovering from a lost leg, so my entourage has agreed to meet her upon her train."
"Her Highness is deeply disabled at the moment and recovers only slowly. She sent me a message to give to you, Your August Grace, which I fear I don't understand, but at any rate: 'I am nonetheless still as capable as Jim Bowie at the Alamo.'" The Taloran's expression seemed a bit wry. "She is a far better student of human history than I, Your August Grace. I will, of course, conduct you and those whom you feel important for this discussion aboard at your convenience."
Sara chuckled wryly at that reference, having been in space long enough to pick up on such history. "Her Highness indeed has a solid grasp on Human history, even I wasn't fully aware of that story until somewhat recently," Sara said pleasantly. "Please, Major, I would like to visit Her Highness with Leeasa Avrila, Magestrix of the Amazon Confederacy, and Dao Zi, Commander-in-General of the Royal Zhai Armies and General of the Royal Horse Guard of the Zhai Kingdom."
"Of course." The major offered a passing glance to the two others, and bowed again. "If you will follow me, Your August Grace?"
Sara nodded at her and allowed the Taloran woman to lead them onto the armored train and to the chamber where Jhayka was staying. Upon their entry, the Major formally announced them as, "Her August Grace the Grand Duchess of Illustrious, Her Highness the Magestrix of the Amazons, and General Dao Zi of the Zhai Army, Your Highness."
This was it then. For the first time, these two heroines, vicious enemies of the Norman Empire, met face to face. Sara Proctor, known to the classically-educated Normans simply as Nemesis, who had in her youth escaped from their slave train, rallied the Eastern Region against them, and dismantled their Empire so long ago, and Jhayka itl dhin Intuit, who had fought her way out of their capital city with a small band, leaving ruin in her wake, and who had stymied their new alliance in the trenches and streets of battered yet triumphant Kalunda. These two powerful, eccentric women being in the same place at the same time was history in the making.
For her part, Sara did not recoil from the sight of Jhayka's stigmatic implants, or her alien form. She had heard only rumors so far of Jhayka having a love affair with a human woman from the Alliance, a woman who had suffered grievous brain damage from a near-drowning late in the siege and that Jhayka had mutilated herself in grief upon an errenous report of her lover's death, and despite her hoary old Puritan conservatism recoiling from homosexuality she had long learned to suppress such sentiments in favor of better ones. "Your Highness, it is an honor to meet you," Sara said kindly.
"And an honour to meet you, Sara Proctor. We're peers here. If I may be informal... And you may certainly call me Jhayka. I... I understand that I have caused quite a lot of damage to a place you find very beautiful." She smiled wryly, looking very frail in her chair at this point, and surely not healthy at all, but fully capable in her mental faculties, certainly. "A greetings to the Magestrix, as well, and congratulations--we have plenty to speak about among ourselves--and to the Zhai General, the reputation of his people proceeding him in a fine way." She turned, then, and gestured toward someone dressed, now, in the house-uniform of Jhayka's Principality, a field-green colour, and bearing the rank tabs of a general. "This fine young lady is, I fear, the cause of the recent dispute between our countries. Priscilla Laurentii, the sole surviving lawful heir of the House of Laurentii." A pause, while in the meantime Priscilla stood, staring toward Sara.. With some unquestionable embarrassment. "If you wish, she told me that she would explain her actions in those dark days to you." In the background, Ilavna arrived to begin silently putting out and filling a line of wine-glasses.
Sara smiled diplomatically, but the truth be told, she was uncomfortable with having in her presence the woman who allowed for the evil old Grand Duke to get away scot free, even if he had been a blood relation she'd never known about. "I'm not sure about the legality of that claim given proclaimations from Her Majesty about the status of.... certain lines," Sara replied diplomatically, "but everyone deserves a fair hearing in my opinion, and given that the General Laurentii could have fled long ago but chose to remain and risk death and capture to fulfill her service is an indicator that she is not the monster her father was. I would be willing to hear her explaination as to her actions in those days. But for now, I believe we have other matters to speak of?" Sara gestured toward the window and the direction of Besnit. "The town of Besnit surrendered to my forces late last night. My troops have all but finished removing slaves from households and ensuring public order, though we have not yet found where the late mayor's wife, that troublesome shrew, has hidden the city's homestone. I'm calling in sensor equipment from the fleet today to make the search."
"Well, it's your's to do what you wish with. And that of Ar, for that matter. I may be the commander of the advance, but, truth be told, Sara Proctor, you have a better claim to it than I do. Your feud with the Normans is older than mine. As for the other home-stones we recover, let them be distributed as prizes to the conquering regiments. They will no doubt be a nice memory of this bloody excursion." She seemed rather reticent to explain more, but of course, Danielle was still very much on her mind, and Priscilla tended toward silence. "Ah, well--it's an excellent vintage of red, if you'd like anything to drink?" One of her hands shifted slightly to indicate the glasses, and Ilavna standing respectfully beside them.
Sara nodded and accepted the wine, as did Dao Zi and Leeasa. "A toast, then, Jhayka, to our conquest of Ar and the final destruction of the Norman Empire and all their wretched customs?"
"To the toppling of their capitol and the end of the Norman reign," she answered readily, adding, "I will go where I have been before," before drinking, Priscilla joining them though Ilavna not doing so, understandably, considering her own consciously modest role.
The toast was shared by the five, after which battle plans were laid. The Devenshiran officers had already made it clear to Sara that they did not want to be under Jhayka's command, so Sara opted to offer them for the purpose of keeping any Normans from retreating back into Ar from their growing position on the Heights to the west.
As for the rest, bombardment would soften the Normans and pave the way for the final attack. Jhayka insisted and Sara agreed that Arlisa's corps from Kalunda would be granted a position anchoring the left and center, a symbolical position from the last great battle Sara had waged on Gilead, given that the Janissaries of Kalunda had fought at Artemisia on the left flank and that the Army of Kalunda, upon going over to Julio, had charged up the broken center of the Valley Army to crush the Norman reserves and send their army into flight.
That said, Jhayka was cautious not to spend the Kalundans. Instead, the Berglunder mercenaries were stationed in the forefront of the attack lines, better-equipped and far more rested, with Arlisa's corps providing the mass to back them up; the honour would still be there, as the Berglunders were now serving technically as part of the Kalundan Army. Jhayka, however, preferred to see the mercenaries face the fire now instead of the troops she had commanded for so long, even while the honour went to the later. The main attack, however, would come with the armour on the right, which would drive through the enemy force with the--as far as the Normans were concerned--unbeatable strength of a mailed fist, and wheel around to cut off the retreat of the left and center of the enemy. The rest of Sara's army, along with certain detachments of power-armoured troops, formed the reserves.
This was acceptable, and so the battle planning came to an end. At that point, casual talk was what remained for them. "I have heard rumors, Jhayka, but nothing more, so I would like to know more about what brought you to conflict with the Normans, and about 'Admiral Verdes' as I have heard some call her. I heard from Julio that she was captured by the Normans and tortured, and you rescued her. How did this come about?"
"She was given that rank by Julio. She was a Commander in the Alliance navy," Jhayka answered. "Ahh... Suffice to say that she was captured twice. The first time she was looking for her friend Fayza--who is down the hall, and, well, she suffered much worse in captivity than poor Danielle did. We're caring for her, ourselves, personally--as a debt obligation. She had a nervous breakdown when she heard that Danielle had been so grieviously injured, and it's clear she's suffering from stress-shock on account of much worse..."
"I'm not a human psychiatrist, and I can only do so much," Ilavna interjected a bit impulsively, looking to Sara.. And then adding some kind words: "But General Laurentii has been very kind to her. She kept care of Fayza for nearly the past two weeks on her own in addition to her very extensive military duties. Anyway, uhm... I was the one who proposed to Her Highness that perhaps you could offer some reassurance to Fayza. She's been through the same sorts of experiences that you have... And I know it seems odd to spend so much attention on a single person when this whole continent is awash in blood, but we take debt-obligations very seriously..."
"And since the war started over Danielle looking for Fayza," Jhayka continued where Ilavna had left off quite smoothly, "and forgive me for not introducing my physician and confessor, Acolyte Ilavna Lashila, to you before--it was clearly only moral that in Danielle's name we take the best possible care of her, personally. We've ended up a strange sort of family, in a way." Jhayka propped herself up with her right arm gently, looking somewhat tired, though without the eyes it was always hard to tell. "Alas, for my tale. I promised to aide Danielle, after her escape from the slave-market in East Port, in finding Fayza. She thought that her friend had been taken to Ar by an Orion trader. She had, actually; but she wasn't sold there, as it turned out. I was traveling, as you know, for anthropological purposes, and had simply intended to buy her out.. But instead, Danielle had found the massive arms caches in the warehouses of the city while looking through them for Fayza, who had last been seen in that area--it turns out Olopanthro was smuggling arms as well as flesh--and was taken in and tortured by the very same man who had put up my entourage in his mansion, the trader Xueson. One of his men defected to me--a noble soul who died on the 50th day of the siege--and based on that I went and was able to rescue her.... And we fought our way out of the city. We were scarcely a platoon, but they had never fought a modern war before, and all our equipment was the best... With General Laurentii commanding the armoured train here outside the city to support our escape. She did marvelous work, and my soldiers fought like the possessed. We killed.. Perhaps thousands of them. But we left more behind, dead all, than I would have cared to, and I must at the least recover their bodies to have peace."
Sara sighed at the tale. "Do we know what happened to Fayza after this 'Olopanthro' left Ar, at least? As it is, I am quite certain that if she was in Ar, held as a slave, she was most certainly raped by any man this Orion trader had as a guest."
It was Priscilla who spoke up, then. "Yes. She was brutalized extensively by the mad brother of Erik Berglund, the leader and commander of the troops now serving with Arlisa's corps. His name was Ilian.. I've still not heard where he died, if he did at all. He may still be alive, though he is wanted by the government for extensive crimes during the period of chaos. I.. To call it merely rape is wrong." She had kept quite aware of the histories of the post-war nobility of Devenshire, and so she looked levelly, with eyes filled with sadness, toward Sara, and didn't mince words. "It was more like the things that went on in my father's household." She spoke the words, and especially 'my father', with an incredible, biting sort of bitterness, like someone gravely betrayed.
"I see," Sara said simply. "Unfortunately, the Gileans were very dishonest about the safety of their world after their reforms. Didn't want people to think they were unsafe, after all." Sara almost smirked, remembering how many nations in which her publishers were sued by the Gileans for the content of her memoirs. "My own experiences may yet pale compared to what was done to Fay. On my first night in East Port, I was raped by a Norman, and on the train trip to Ar I was strapped to an electric current table and tortured for half a day before escaping thanks to the bumbling of one of their slave girls. It haunts me to this day. But yet, what happened to her lasted over weeks, and I am not sure that I can help her cope with that."
"But even if I can't, there are those who can, and I will yet do any part you ask in helping her. There are psychiatrists, and support groups, and I bet there will be even more as we clean up this planet and find more girls like Fay who need recovery and support." Sara clenched a fist. "For too long was this wretched planet and it's idiotic tolerance allowed to ruin innocent lives. We're ending that now, and people like Fayza will be cared for, and I'll make sure the care is paid for, as much as possible, by the people responsible for hurting them."
"Thank you for your candid statements," Jhayka answered, adding.. "Psychiatrists were the hardest things for us to understand, as Talorans. We don't have something comparable. Save perhaps the priesthood, and... That is another matter entirely. Doctors deal with physical defects of the brain... Families deal with emotional issues, and the Farzian priests.. aide as necessary. I was frankly planning on bringing her with me back to Talora Prime. She will not be in a condition to travel on her own for quite some time... And I've already, by necessity, abandoned Danielle to the care of others. What happens on this planet--Well, for the primitive zone, I will try to accomadate all the customs and needs of humans in dealing with these matters that I can. Your recommendations will be invaluable."
"I will be glad to aid you."
"Thank you. That seems to conclude our business, Sara. And it has been an honour to meet you. Unfortunately... I need some rest before overseeing the next portion of the advance. I'm still healing, after all." The comments seem sparked by a certain look in Ilavna's eyes, and Jhayka hastily added to the Amazon: "Leeasa, all our agreements, in my view, remain intact. You have my work on that matter. I'll begin looking into suitable colonization sites the moment I return to Talora. Forgive me that I cannot speak about these matters in more detail right now, but...."
Ilavna, smiling slightly then, grasped onto the back of the mobility chair. "A doctor can override anyone when they are sick, and I fear it is time for Her Highness to rest."
"Of course," Sara agreed. "We shall meet again in the Ubar's palace at Ar."
With the meeting over, Leeasa and Dao Zi were led out of the train, but Sara remained to talk with Priscilla Laurentii. It was an odd meeting, Sara representing the new Devenshire and Priscilla, at least in the minds of many, a part of the old. "I have heard much about you, but I have always known some was undoubtedly embellishment," Sara said to her. "Queen Minerva values me highly and will listen to anything I say on this subject, so if you wish to give your defense you may do so now."
"The family I was raised in... Was abjectly impoverished. One step above slaves on Devenshire. Eching out an existence where the big slave-run farms made it nearly impossible to run a freehold. But, when you're so close to losing something, you cling to it all the more. Father had chosen carefully in having me raised by this family. I never knew who he was... But I knew I was fostered out, adopted, and I was desperately curious to know who my birth parents were. Well, that was always in the back of my mind. We got things, sometimes... Gifts that kept us going. I knew he had to be rich.... And I dreamed I was princess, of course. Girls always do. But I was raised rough-and-tumble on the farm. You can look at me right now and see that, damnit, I'm just not comfortable with Jhayka's "Ahh, we're peers now, greetings Priscilla," and promises of being recognized like a Grand Duchess back on Talora Prime." A pause was taken, with it, a deep sigh. "We both come from basically the same background. I was a tomboy, working my ass off like everyone else in the family, and I don't think any of us really believed it when my examinations placed me for officer's school. Soldiering was always an option, and I would have gone into it either way.... But I was to be the first officer. I loved my foster parents. They were really my family; I had no memories of my mother and no memories of my father, certainly. I just vaguely knew they existed. But they'd cared for me for years of my life, and I wanted to make that family proud."
"You can look in the records. I lived modestly, I worked hard, I graduated fifteenth in my class. And then I was in the military and damn proud of it. I sent half my pay back to the farm with every check, and on leave you'd find me straight back in the fields." She slumped her head, then, and couldn't hold back crying, though she didn't sob openly, just weeped softly in a bitterly sad way. "When it all came down I was acting commander of a battalion, as you well know. We were the only unit not yet deployed from the base to try and contain the uprisings. Then the situation went to hell, entirely, the Plymouthites were coming in... And the Grand Duke himself showed up. He went right up to me, as the senior officer on the base, I thought. But no. He got closer than that, and he kissed me on both cheeks, and said: 'Priscilla, your real last name is Laurentii. You are my daughter. And you are my only hope.' Here he was, the man I had wanted to meet for my whole life. Not the Grand Duke. Simply my father. And there was a mob licking hot on his heels, fifteen minutes out at most. How can you make a moral judgement about your father in fifteen minutes? How can you trust rumours when he comes up and kisses your cheeks and places all his trust in you?"
At that, Sara could only nod, thinking back to her own father whom she missed so terribly.
"It was straightforward, I thought. We'd just blast our way through to the spaceport. And we did. It was straightforward. They couldn't really oppose us, no matter how hard they tried. There was nothing in the mob to feel guilty about. Just chants of 'Allahuackbar!'. We cut through to a cruiser undergoing repairs... We probably killed lots of people not in the mob at the time. We didn't think about it. And we were trained to accept collateral damage as a matter of course. So we dismounted our vehicles and boarded the ship while fighting a rear-guard action... I was nicked in the hand then, because I stood my ground outside. I'd die for that man, come to it. We blasted off, were heavily damaged by the Plymouthite fleet already in orbit, and just barely got clear. I thought we would be heading in toward the capital. But the government collapsed so fast that we just ran. And up until that moment, I was a lawful officer of the Kingdom of Devenshire. I will attest to that. I did nothing but defend and survive and obey by orders. But then he was sought as a fugitive... And I stayed with him because I didn't have anywhere else to go. Because I didn't.. Because I didn't believe he was that bad, yet."
"We spent the next years bouncing around the galaxy, high-living off the immense bank accounts he had access to. A few hardened men stayed around for pay. They formed the basis of my mercenary unit. And slowly my father's true side came out. I ended up fighting with him constantly, seeing the continuous stream of prostitutes with whom he had kinky sex, the attempts he made to get his men--or ME--to go out and kidnap women for him to torture and amuse himself with. Or girls. We rebuffed him. I rebuffed him. He was dependent on us to avoid capture, the way he lived, and he responded by claiming it was uncontrollable, by turning to drugs and saying he wouldn't be on such risky indulgences if I'd bring him the women he wanted. He pawed on me when he was high like I was another girl for him to rape, when I had to hold him down. The great man I thought I could love when I saw him desperate and affectionate toward me in that barracks... Was indeed a monster."
"And I'm his spawn, with a slave-mother... Whom I don't even know if she's alive or dead. Who was brutalized and impregnated with me at the age of eleven. I know all of it, Your Highness. I know all of what he did. I saw all of what he desired to do to other people. But by that time I was already a fugitive. I was already a fugitive.. Who knew that her foster parents, the family she really loved, was dead. Ripped apart by those same mobs you've charged me for attacking. No, I wasn't going back, not after I heard about that, and I protected him out of habit. Deluding myself that it was moral because at least we kept him from forcing women. Finally we had even enough of that delusion to keep us going. We were discussing turning him loose and going our own way when Sergeant Kandred came in and said he'd found him with no pulse." She wiped her face, calmer, then. "We had the body buried in a quiet place, under a false name. By that point, we were all frankly relieved. He didn't even leave us the access numbers to the remaining money in the accounts, though; he had gone from kissing my cheeks to calling me his bitch-jailer. We knew one thing we could do while outlaws, and that was hire ourselves out as mercenaries. So we formed a free company, and we've been fighting for hire ever since. But I've never backed out of a contract, I've never taken the easy way out. I got a reputation. And that's why Jhayka hired me. It wasn't something in her which made me stay and fight here. It's the fact that I'm honest to my word. And I told my father, in whatever wide-eyed foolishness of youth, that I was going to get him out of Pranton at any cost. So I did. I'll be paying for it for long after any punishment you could mete out could hurt me, Your Highness. To know that you're the spawn of an inhuman monster is something which makes it hard to live with yourself at times."
"And the worst thing was that he ruined my chance of getting to know my mother. I wanted to know her just as badly. But he came there, because he knew that I would be the last reliable person on the planet, the moment he told me. And he was right. I was his girl, after all, and I suppose even watching me from a distance he knew me like a book. I never imagined, until he told me out of spite, just who and what my mother was to him and under what circumstances I'd been conceived. That the only reason I wasn't a slave off to be raped and brutalized myself is that he had a passing fancy for me, and decided to raise me a free-girl like some sort of pet project, a hobby to look over my life from afar and manipulate with gifts and with that academy appointment and top regimental positions. That's all I ever was to him, and he made it very, very clear. And now I know his gift, his honeyed words that night, were the most poisoned thing in the world. Because I can never go back home, and even if I did, what woman would want to meet the person who killed thousands to save the life of her rapist? Even if I am her daughter. I wouldn't blame her for spitting on me."
Sara nodded calmly at that. "I wish the truth about the Grand Duke had been more public. I'm already well familiar with what he was, because on occasion I ferried his victims out of Devenshire. But he was one of Mad King Michael's boot-lickers, and in those days even the nobility of Devenshire didn't dare say anything that would displease those in charge." Shifting in her seat, Sara added, "As far as I am concerned, you would deserve leniency, for you have already been punished enough. Unfortunately that is out of my hands. The Arabs of Pranton would revolt the moment you stepped on a Devenshiran world without chains. Some may already riot when news spreads that I stood in the same room with you. Injustice has only bred more injustice." Sara lowered her head. "I've spent my life fighting such things, but in this I am powerless. I am sorry, Priscilla Laurentii, for what has happened to you. And I wish you could return home, or that you had something to return to."
"I just wish I wasn't causing more problems. But at the moment, the only place I can go is the Taloran Empire... And, to be blunt, Sara, these people--whether it's by racial nature or by culture--have no concept of public opinion whatsoever. It simply doesn't factor into their situations. I respect the Princess Jhayka enormously for what she's done here, period, let alone to me; and I'm loyal to her. And this warning, therefore, is on her behalf. They will have no idea at all how the rest of the megaverse will react to news of me given positions by them and being feted as a Pretender. And if they did, they wouldn't care. They're good people, but they won't yield an inch on their customs. And I realize now how perfect the curse is. Because my only chance for freedom--is to accept what they want to make me be. And, really, Jhayka has given me some hope, which I will not abandon so easily. Hope that someday I can settle down, at last, and marry some provincial noble back on the Taloran universe's Earth and breed horses and ride the fence-line myself and have children. I'm afraid that I will end up causing problems back home, and thus the sour taste at all the priviliages now dumped in my lap."
Sara put a hand on her head. "Oh dear, you don't know the half of it. If the Talorans do this.... it's entirely possible that Devenshire will have no choice but to sever diplomatic relations, or at the very least keep them very thin. There will be constant demands for your extradition, and worst of all..." Sighing, Sara looked around and bent a little closer to Priscilla. "There is trouble in Pranton. The media hasn't caught wind of it yet, but it's spreading. The Arabs there are growing more and more militant with each passing day. Provocateurs, Islamic fundamentalist imams and clerics, have been claiming that the Christian majority of Devenshire is denying them aid, and this is fueling a religious fundamentalist movement not seen in this universe, I think, since the 24th Century during Terra's Fall." Sara need not mention the irony that it was the prior movement being spoken of, also centered in Pranton, that had resulted in Ian Devenshire conquering the region and enslaving it's Muslims in the first place.
"Maybe you need an external enemy to help keep the country together, then. If you can play up the threat of my restoration by outside force of arms as the ruler of Pranton, you might actually make them more willing to be conciliatory with the government," Priscilla answered delicately. "Look, I don't think the Talorans are going to announce it or anything. And I'll specifically ask Jhayka that they do not. But they don't understand how prying the media is, either. In the end... The best result may be for Minerva to demonize me and suggest that I am a figure around whom the remnants of the old order might coalesce. That might, just might, help in making it worthwhile for the Arabs to keep the peace, long enough for cooler heads to prevail. Please, tell Her Majesty that she has my blessing to slander and defame me and invent falsehoods about me however she wishes if it will be of any service to the harmony of the nation."
"I can only imagine the damage that will do, not just to our relations with Talora, but potentially to our allies if they do not treat Talora equally." Sara sighed at that. Priscilla's loyalty to her homeland was admirable in the face of what was happening, and in a way eclipsed Sara's own, given she had raised arms against Plymouth and had long been a rebel from it. "But I will convey that to Her Majesty. Maybe, in due time, a better solution can be raised."
”A Radical is a man with both feet planted firmly in the air.” – Franklin Delano Roosevelt
"No folly is more costly than the folly of intolerant idealism." - Sir Winston L. S. Churchill, Princips Britannia
American Conservatism is about the exercise of personal responsibility without state interference in the lives of the citizenry..... unless, of course, it involves using the bludgeon of state power to suppress things Conservatives do not like.
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