Keno thrust his hands deep into his pockets as he walked in the night, the streetlamps dimly illuminating the sidewalk he walked on. The suburbs he walked through were unfamiliar to him, Keno himself growing up in the urban slums of Alvernia's north. His family still lived in the same one-room house that they had lived in for 16 years, but here Keno was in suburbia, a 45-minute bus ride away. His baggy shorts and t-shirt failed to cover him from the chilly winds, which accompanied the rapid drop in temperature that came with the sunset, while the bag that carried his clothes made his back sweat. Despite feeling chilly, Keno enjoyed the walk. He was alone with his thoughts, a small field to his right and the road to his left. The 2 lanes were separated by a median that made them one-way roads, and the grassy median held a row of trees that extended across the entire road. The leaves whistled gently as the breeze blew while the night air was filled with the noise of the local fauna- the chirp of the local bugs in early fall was especially loud in the night time. A soft mist began to fall as Keno checked the time on his battered wrist watch: 11:30. Despite the late time, the house he was heading to was expecting him. The Piannas were family friends of Keno’s family and Keno and their son, Leo, knew each other since they were 3. After they were both accepted into the same private secondary school, the Piannas had offered to house Keno, aware of their economic situation. With undying gratitude, Keno’s family accepted the proposition. Saving up his money, Keno was able to buy the cheapest bus ticket he could find, packed his bags, and headed towards the suburbs.
The blaring of a car horn from behind Keno interrupted his thoughts as he whipped his head around. A 4-door sedan had slowed down to a roll next to Keno but he kept looking straight, ignoring the car. The light that poured out of the headlights made him squint and Keno heard the car come to a stop and doors open and close. Even though he was sure he would not be mugged before he had left, Keno had taken a small switchblade with him just in case, the one he had carried with him for years now as protection in the urban slums. The sound of footsteps came closer and one of them shouted out, “Where you going, asinavulo*? We just wanna be friends.” Keno’s throat closed as his heart raced. What was he to do? The bag on his back made it difficult to run quickly. But the Piannas was what, two blocks away? He might be able to make it. He turned his head around for the first time. One person was sitting on the hood with a cigarette in his hand. While three others were walking shadily behind Keno. Running wouldn’t be an option. Upon making eye contact with one of the three, the man smiled. Keno realized all three were reaching into their waistbands; his heart began to thump harder than ever before. Adrenaline pumping, Keno, as quickly as he could, slumped the bag off his shoulders and bolted while screaming as loud as he could. “HELP! HELP ME!” He heard the footsteps of the men behind him inch slowly closer as the car revved and drove towards him. Keno heard one of the set of footsteps disappear for an instant before feeling a hand slap his foot into the other one, tripping him. One of the men and Keno slammed onto the pavement while the other two reached him. Keno fumbled for his blade but didn’t reach it in time- one of them had grabbed the back of his head and was repeatedly slamming it into the ground, cursing him with each blow.
Keno’s face numb and bloody, the man finally stopped. He sat there dazed for a moment before one of them rolled him over, back on the pavement. He couldn’t make out much, but Keno saw four figures around him. He dimly heard a switchblade flick open and one of them saying, “This is for running, you dirty asino.” More blades flicked open as they bent down towards Keno, who laid there, still. They drew their arms back, then Keno felt several sharp stabs of pain in his stomach before blacking out for good.
* * *
Alvernia had not seen so much violence in one week. Not since the People’s War, anyway.
Just five days ago, the death of a native Marenesian by Salvian nationalists ignited anger amongst the native community. In the north, where most of the native population was present, peaceful demonstrations garnered hundreds of thousands while newspapers and local news stations reported on the murder 24/7. The boy was honored as a hero, a martyr, a rallying call for any and all native Marenai who still inhabited the Salvian lands. The story ran quite differently in the south, especially in the overwhelmingly Salvian capital, Soncinia. The men were labelled as “drunken vagrants,” having nothing to do with the Salvian identity. Other, more extreme tabloids went on to discuss the identity of this Marenai boy, saying the event never happened, or that it was in fact the boy that had started the violence. The story spilled over into national politics: several members of the Body of Representatives took sides, while most refused to even acknowledge the rising tensions and conflict between native Marenai and Salvians. States of emergencies were declared across the country as the National Guard and Alvernian military were deployed to quell the revolts.
Keno’s family was caught up in it all. Interviewer after interviewer requested for a conversation with the grieving family, while the mailbox spilled over with letters of compassion and support as well as death threats. How their address was leaked in the first place, none of them knew. Keno, according to the Catholic Marenai tradition that was frequently observed in northern Alvernia, was placed in an open casket during his funeral despite the gruesome outcome of the crime. The family was not allowed to speak, sleep, or eat- only pray- for 24 hours, while anyone invited mingled around and remembered the teen’s life. At the end of the 24 hours, at sunset, the priest sprinkled the casket and the congregation with holy water before burning the casket and after that the family could talk. But they didn’t. Only wept.
* * *
“Lunex,” The minister addressed the president while bowing. While the word might seem appropriate for a democracy to an outsider- the word translated most literally meant “leader” or something of the sort- in the Salvian context, it was closer to “king” or “grand leader” than a humble title. Just another of the many “reforms” Lunexus Marzeni had instituted since his first election in 2005. Of course, even if his second victory was legitimate, Alvernia’s two term limit would’ve guaranteed Marzeni leave in 2015, but he was able to convince the entire Body of Representatives to amend the Constitution to grant him four more terms. Yet it didn’t matter- every Salvian loved him anyways. His promises of creating a new and strong Alvernia that would dominate Marenesia and reuniting all Salvian people was pleasing to the ear of many Salvians, even those of the Sanctum Imperium Catholicum. The native Marenai be damned if they stood in the way of the great Lunex’s dream.
The president let the minister stay in a bow for several seconds before gesturing with his hand. Marzeni began talking as soon as the minister stood while fixing himself a drink, “Good morning, piccliocho**. You wish to discuss with me about the Northern situation, do you not?” The minister, Bergio de Wohine, was Secretary of the Poka’i- Marzeni’s new police force he had established a few years back. They essentially replaced all local police departments with a national force that had pledged loyalty to Marzeni. “Yes, Lunex. The Poka’i have been combating the crisis for over two weeks now. I wanted to come to you personally with a request for extra aid. Perhaps calling in the military?”
The pouring of whiskey and clinking of liquor stones stopped abruptly. De Wohine swallowed, Marzeni kept staring at his drink, half poured. A moment of tense silence seized the air before ending as soon as it had started with the Lunex chuckling and continuing fixing his drink. Taken aback, de Wohine began chuckling awkwardly. Marzeni’s glass completely filled, he kept chuckling before violently snapping at the man, “I did not ask for you to laugh!” De Wohine flinched then put his hand over his chest as Marzeni stood and walked towards the window that sat behind the Lunex’s “throne”. Marzeni breathed deeply before sipping his whiskey then walked over to a small table to his right and picked up a knick-knack, closely observing it. De Wohine was frozen the whole time.
“Mi piccliocho. You are very, very unintelligent. You know very little about a true Salvian’s goal in life. Do you even know what it is?” He said this last sentence sharply, looking back at de Wohine while setting the object down. The minister just sat there, wishing he could be absorbed by the upholstered chair he sat in. Thankfully, Marzeni answered the question for him. “It is to unite Salvia, is it not? The asinos are nothing but specks of insignificant, unworthy dust in our path.” He took another sip. “To suggest our great military needs to be deployed in order to combat a couple million rebellious asinos is pure folly.” Beginning to smile and chuckle while speaking, Marzeni continued, “You see now, how funny your joke was?” Marzeni took another sip, shook his head slightly and continued to chuckle. Sighing, he walked behind the minister and put his hand on the man’s shoulder, gripping tightly. “Now, you’ll see that those asinos are dealt with, will you? That’d be excellent.” He patted the minister’s shoulders; the minister just nodded. “Good. Now get the F*CK out of my office!” De Wohine practically jumped out of his seat and quickly exited, rushing to his office.
He was in his own office chair before he even began to think. His heart pounded against his chest as he poured himself some hard liquor, then drank it like a cup of water and poured another.
He had to do something. The crisis was only worsening as the Marenai revolted, boycotting work and Salvian businesses. Marzeni would surely fire him-- or worse-- if he failed.
But maybe this something would instead be against the “Lunex”. With that thought in mind, de Wohine picked up a pad and pen and began drafting a letter.
*Incredibly derogatory term for native Marenai used by (some) Salvians
**Salvian word meaning “little friend,” as if talking to a child. In this context, used in a demeaning and patronizing way
Roué, the capital of the Republic of Paranne (Lycian: République da Paranne). Three Shffahkians are sitting in a limousine.
And then what?
Nothing, it would make a fine set-up for a joke is all. Says Louque Admie, a lanky thin pale man in a suit, whom some call him the living embodiment of an academic possessing several degrees and qualifications of various backgrounds, who also happens to be the sitting president of the Collective of Ministers. Holding a pile of papers barely together with several falling from his clutches with every bump the limousine meets.
Sounds like a pretty terrible joke. It ain't even got anythin' after. The three should be doing something... Like arm-wrestling! Replies a far heftier man, Rémy Rémy. Tall, outgoing and radiating a presence of courage, he is the current president of the Shffahkian Council. Never one to say much and one to almost always forget something important, a popular rumour of him is that he forgot his last own last name.
Well, I didn't say it would be a fine joke per se. Says Admie as he kneels down to pick up the myriad of documents he dropped during the limousine ride. But rather that it would make a good set-up - ça veut dire - a start to one which then predisposes the listener to the comedic twist, thereby... Agh, great this year's documents for the Port-Réel Celebrations budget are besmirched in coffee.
Ah, so that's where that went. Says Adélaïde Larue as she bends to pick up the leaking thermal mug putting it back on the small pile of thermal mugs of varying colours next to her. Why did you even bring those files, to begin with? Are you planning a parade float of your own or something?
Well excuse me, but I said, many a time, I wasn't going to stop this discussion over the budget of these celebrations for anything. That includes this project of yours, going about galavanting across Paranne. As if the situation in Shffahkiaville isn't bad enough without you constantly avoiding our budget talks. Also, based on that pile haven't you had enough coffee? That addiction of yours is beginning to spiral out of control.
You see... Larue pauses for a moment to sip her coffee. There's a difference between an addiction and a passion.
Of course, there is. One is an all-consuming fire while the other is a spark of enlightenment, correct?
Which stop is next again? Interrupts Rémy looking at one the documents detailing their trip around Paranne. Is it the At-risk Disenfranchised Indigenous Women's Mental Health Association or Parannais Mining Rights Society?
No, we already were at the At-risk Disenfranchised Indigenous Women's Mental Health Association back in Térémaie. Does the hour-long hike to the mining site where the protests were happening ring a bell? We had to walk all the way up the mountain because they don't allow transportation vehicles that far up the mountain.
Those were women? They were by far too hairy to be women; one even had a beard I'm pretty sure. You're sure they weren't the miners? More importantly, you call that a mountain? I've climbed hills that were bigger than that!
They were shouting in... Louque Admie attempts to say before being cut off by Rémy. And I've climbed them without any equipment what so ever!
That's great, but how do you explain the fact that they were very clearly throwing what seemed like dirt towards mining equipment?
Maybe they were protesting salary cuts?
They were shouting in an indigenous language...
How should I know what they were speaking? And why are we even going out of our way to talk to some insane sasquatches up in the mountains? They can't even vote what's the point in that?
Larue intervenes and says Paranne loves to boast of its indigenous cultural presence. Despite only 15% or so of the population actually being made up of that particular group. So making good with that important minority smooths procedures in the long run. Besides the president's husband suggested it to us prior to our visit.
Which one of them was the queer one again? asks Rémy abruptly.
What on Eurth do you mean? inquires Admie, flabbergasted. Émeric Dutoit is the first openly "queer," as you so blatantly put it, president of Paranne. His election was seen as a big step forward in the country.
Ah, so it's Émeric and not Sylvain?
By definition, they both are! Decries Admie, frustratedly at Rémy. And please, do not employ such a word during this trip.
What's wrong with calling the sky blue?
The negative connotations the word drags around as baggage.
Drag, don't tell me they... Says Rémy before being interrupted by Larue Please just stop for goodness' sake.
What if it comes up during dinner?
I highly doubt this particular subject will come up during our dinner answers Admie.
I'm sure we can converse over other topics such as the new ADIWMHA spokesperson... Sasquatch! Interrupts Rémy. Or perhaps the unification deal Larue continues then returning to her coffee.
Ah yes, back to that. So after the dinner, we have two stops left depending on how long the pursuing negotiations are Admie preludes.
They were which again? Rémy asks.
The Animal Rescue Centre of Roué and then the...
Wouldn't the joke be better if it began with something else than three Shffahkians? inquires Rémy.
Excuse me, what? Admie replies with utter despair in his eyes.
Something like a Sunset Sea Islandian, a Shffahkian and a Mauridiviahn are sitting in a limousine.
That does sound more like an actual joke. Larue comments. It seems like we've almost arrived, is everything ready?
As ready as it can be. replies Admie sweating from anticipation. Let's just hope no arm-wrestling happens.
I would say the opposite, you porcelain man! answers Rémy right as the limousine doors open to reveal the glimmer of cameras.
Welcome to all foriegn delegations who have ventured to Dew Point. I hope that you had a relaxing trip. Now to the issues at stake.
1) The fate of the two islands off the coast of Area #82
a ) Are they part of Area #82?
b ) Can they be claimed by any nation, regardless of population limits set forth in the rules of the maps?
2) The Rules of the Map
a ) What are the territory limits to any nation, in the 'in between' areas (ie, land caputed during the war, islands, etc)
b ) What are legitimate reactions by other nations? Should there by any limitations.
We, the Allied States of Meteorola declare the Dew Point Peace Accords (DPPA) offically open.