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Parabalanoi start aid mission to Ceris

Aid increased to crisis-racked Adlantic island

For several years now, a series of economic and humanitarian crises has affected the island of Ceris, which lies in the western Adlantic Ocean. This has led to the breakdown in effective government for most of the small states that occupy the island, leading to an ever-worsening situation for the population there. The last thirty years has seen many of the countries suffer coup and counter-coup, as well as outbursts of ethnic violence, which has sometimes even become as bad as ethnic cleansing and genocide, on a par with those that have recently been seen in @Greater Serbia and Machina @Haruspex.

Coupled with this, a dangerous cult – one that has been branded a terroristic organisation by many governments – is spreading across the west of the island. This has made almost the perfect storm for the inhabitants. Warlordism and ethnic strife is on the rise, and many of the countries are on the brink of total collapse. There is almost little hope for there for any internal chances of peaceful resolution to the crises. The east of the island, however, is much more calm than the west, as it lies opposite the Kingdom of @Seylos. The Seylosian government has managed to be something of a stabilising influence, although this may not last all that long as the rest of the island plunges further into anarchy.

Due to the Ceris crisis, as well as the deteriorating state of the other countries that lie to the north, across the Makhaira Thalassa (the Dolch See), the area has seen a marked increase of piracy over the last year. Dozens of pirate attacks happen each day, making this part of Eurth one of the most dangerous in the wurld, perhaps almost as dangerous as the Meteorolas. Ceris itself, due to the lack of effective government for the most part, provides a shelter for many different pirate groups. As Ceris lies at the western end of the trade routes between Europa and central Argis and eastern, and the Basilikoploimon is cooperating with the Kingdom of Seylos in order to stamp out this threat to wurld trade. At the moment, a powerful naval taskforce is operating out of the Adapton base of Adrotiri, including the Protathlites tou Christou class nuclear carrier, the BPK Agios Pantaleon. Both the Basilikoploimon and the Seylosian Royal Navy have reduced the threat of piracy to some extent, although the presence of warships can only go so far.

To this end, the Parabalanoi have started an aid mission to Ceris, in order to try to help with the starvation and unsanitary conditions that are beginning to become prevalent across the island. However, the Agios Basilikon Kounsistorion issued a warning that the safety of the aid workers cannot be guaranteed, even if the local governments extend their cooperation to them. The local warlords may decide to see the unarmed humanitarian workers as a prime targets. “Aid workers carrying out their Christian duty to help the sick, the hungry and the poor should be sacrosanct,” said a spokesperson from the Logothesion ton Barbaron. “However, the barbaroi that populate Ceris may not have the same views as civilised people. Whilst it is recognised that the people of Ceris do need outside help, Agios Basilikon Kounsistorion is not able to recommend that any Arhomaioi travel to the island at this time.”

The Parabalanoi themselves have been questioned on whether they are aware of the dangers that their workers may be facing when they arrive in Ceris. “All of our workers are aware of the terrible situation on the island and they are keen to carry out God's work, despite the dangers that they might face. We have a local presence in many of the countries already, as part of our wurldwide network, and we will be working with the local governments in order to provide protection for our workers, should they need it.”

Undoubtedly, as true Christians following Christ's example, the aid workers will be protected from all harm by the will of God. And, on top of that, it should not be doubted that the locals will be grateful for the aid being given to them by more civilised peoples, which will mean that they are going to be disinclined to harm those who are helping them. The presence of the BPK Agios Pantaleon may make them think twice, too.

 

Mercy International opens Office in Europatorion

Is the Human Rights Organisation a Wolf in Sheep's Clothing?

Mercy International is not an organisation that many had heard about until the humanitarian crisis sparked by the Gharoi invasion of Koussoeia. Few took notice of the non-governmental organisation (NGO) when it set up a temporary headquarters in Tagmatika, or as it began to look around for newer premises somewhere within Arhomaneia. It has purchased a site in Europatorion, the capital of the Megas Agios Basileia for hundreds of years, and the redevelopment of the site is nearing completion. The city is one of the main ports on the Kentriki Thalassa, the Central Sea, and is well-placed for access deeper into the Occident. There was initially local opposition to the site selected, although that was overcome through public consultations and assurances that the new building would respect the architectural styling of the vernacular style of the old capital.

The NGO became one of the loudest, and first, voices raised against the actions of the Sovereign Imperium as they undertook their campaign of ethnic cleansing. It was a voice that was heard before most governments, including that of the country organisation is based in, Orhioneia (@Orioni). The head of Mercy International, Adam Brand, has used this increase in media presence to go on to criticise the government of the Beautiful Empire and state that it needs to be more proactive in holding the Sovereign Imperium to account for its actions.

This is undoubtedly a good thing – the actions of the Sovereign Imperium have been little short of an outrage. Although the Gerenians are heretics and therefore have fallen from the true teachings of Christ, as mandated by the Church in Arhomaneia, they do not deserve to suffer what they have been forced to go through by the Gharoi. Despite the Orhionioi – and their alliance, the Entente of Oriental States - often being the first to criticise others for abusing human rights, they have done little other than sit on their hands after the multinational humanitarian coalition to help the Gerenians was formed.

Whilst actions of Adam Brand and his organisation are to be lauded, their creeping influence may not be. They present themselves as a champion of human rights but they likely have their own agenda. Their own literature states that their investigations into abuses of human rights are “determined by [their] own administration”. In this regard, they no better than the Mundus Liber Institute, a notoriously biased organisation that repeatedly and egregiously misjudges Arhomaneia and attempts to steer other nations towards their own political ideology. Likely this is true of Mercy International as well, as they are little more than a grouping of barbaroi, entirely ignorant of the ancient culture of the Arhomaioi. Their recent appointment of Plakidia Lukapena as head of the organisation within Megas Agios Basileia is telling in this regard. Lukapena was a member of the Nea Demokrateia, the so-called pro-democracy movement of Isaakios Niketas, which still seeks to pervert the God-guided political structures of Arhomaneia. Lukapena did admittedly quit the organisation due to the dubious practices of Niketas, the disgraced former Proedros, the head of the Synkletos, the Senate.

It is not a giant leap, then, to suggest that Mercy International is not just aiming to draw attention to outrages such as the ethnic cleansing of the Gerenians, but also attempting to disrupt the very political fabric of the nations of Eurth. This can be seen by the fact that demagogues are being appointed to high level and likely given sway over the organisation's policies. That the Agios Basilikon Kounsistorion has not sought to prevent the NGO from worming its way into Arhomaneia or protested the appointment of Lukapena shows how well it can be at pulling the wool over the eyes of otherwise-sensible people. To allow it to continue to be based in our nation, let alone in an ancient capital, is a gross oversight.

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Trade Deal with Salbeia Renewed

More trade deals on the horizon?

It is perhaps not a shock that the trade deal with the Agios Katholikon Autokrateia (AKA) has been renewed. The AKA, also known as Salbeia (@Salvia) has been increasing the strength of its ties with Arhomaneia in recent years, starting in 2014, when a trade deal was signed. Since then, the ties have apparently become even stronger, especially during the Gerenian Crisis, in which the AKA has played a significant role in helping with the heretics. The a non-renewal of the treaty would perhaps have been even more of a shock than anything else. That would have demonstrated a profound break between the countries, one that neither of them would particularly want or need. Although Arhomaneia is seeing something of a period of domestic peace, the AKA has been rocked by scandals and riots, both of secular and religious natures. The latter perhaps should not be unexpected, as this would be the natural human instinct when being subject to endemic and systemic heresy, like the people of the AKA are. The Diarchic Church holds a strong sway over the political life of the Marenesian state and it is weakening through the actions of the inhabitants. Hopefully, this will allow true religion a toe hold in the nation.

The trade deal places an emphasis on agriculture, both products and produce. The Arhomaiki end primarily deals with grain and farming machinery and the Salbeiki side produce such as citrus fruits and olives. Arhomaneia has historically been one of the largest consumers of olives and olive oil, and although our nation does produce much of its own, such a deal with the Marenesian nation means that they will available fresh all year around, along with a range of fruit. Whilst exotic fruits were sourced before, usually from countries in the south of Europa, the reduction in tariffs will mean that they will be much cheaper for the average Arhomaios. This might mean that nations in the south of our continent will find themselves bereft of one of their main markets, most of them are in the pocket of the EOS, so it will be an indirect punishment for handing themselves over to the tentacles of that organisation.

It also seems that the Agios Basilikon Kounsistorion (ABK) is on the cusp of renewing the trade deal with the Demokrateia ton Iberikon, the Republic of @Iverica. Again, due to the historic ties with the western Argic nation such as shared military research, it would have been a surprise if the trade deal isn't renewed. The precise details are yet to be released by the Logothesion ton Kommerkiarionikou, but it is known that the ABK is increasing investment in the biofuels sector, as part of its push for more renewable energy and more environmentally friendly fuels. It will be likely that the ABK is pushing for the Iberikoi to reduce the tariffs on biofuels, which will, in turn, boost the industry in Arhomaneia. It isn't known what the Argic nation will be seeking in return but they may well be trying to get the ABK to open up to its electronics industry, as this is an aspect that Iberikon is trying to expand wurldwide. Although the nation shares the same heretical faith as the AKA, it is at least not the perfidious Elegy Corporation.

It seems that there are several aims that the ABK is pursuing with the renewal of the trade deals with the Salbeioi and the Iberikoi. Both nations are members of TRIDENT and it appears to be part of Arhomaneia's plan to draw closer with that organisation, which appears to be paying off. Iberikon is one of the leading nations in the defensive alliance and is also one of the most powerful nations in western Argis. With the decline in the alliance with the Exousiokrateia ton Gharon, a counterbalance to that nation is required. With the AKA, there are ancient ties, even if they haven't always been harmonious. It is also the state in Marenesia that most aligns with the Megas Agios Basileia, as the other nations in the archipelago tend to hold themselves to themselves.

Finally, the increase in Marenesian trade is hoped to revitalise the port of Dymafos. The southern port used to be the main port on the Ragas Thalassa under the opening of the Isthmos Kanalos, the Isthmus Canal. This meant that whilst traffic through the Ragas Thalassa increased, most of it bypassed the southern port. This resulted in much of the port falling out of use and a significant increase in the local unemployment rate. The ABK is working with the local authorities to reduce fees and rates in order to encourage businesses back to the port. Due to its former position as the main Arhomaiki port, it has great road and rail links with the rest of the country.

 

Koussoeiki Prince Released from Hospital

Failed suicide given over to the care of ex-pat community

Late last year, an incident in the Plateia tou Agios Konstantinou, St Konstantinos' Square, shocked the whole of Arhomaneia. Or, rather, it would have shocked our country in normal circumstances. But the circumstances were not normal – Koussoeia, the old ally of our nation, had been invaded by the Exousiokrateia (@Haruspex) and was in the process of being conquered, which it still is. The Agios Basilikon Kounsistorion stood by, not wanted to waste the lives of the Arhomaioi to defend a country that had already collapsed by that point. It was lamentable but Koussoeia had already fallen apart, another victim of the Great Europan Collapse. Although the Megas Agios Basileia perhaps should have moved in and provided aid to the remains of our ally, the ABK had other priorities at the time.

The shocking incident in the Plateia tou Agios Konstantinou is almost forgettable when compared to what had been happening before and what was to come afterwards. An individual, claiming to be the surviving grandson of Shahanshah Janus IV, doused himself in petrol and gave a speech about how Arhomaneia and the rest of the wurld had failed his nation. The man then attempted to light himself on fire and it was just quick action by the Spatharokandidatoi, Imperial Bodyguards, who wrestled the man to the floor before he could ignite himself. The Spatharokandidatoi had been in front of the Basilikon Synkrotima Palation, getting their lunch whilst off duty, insofar as those who guard God's Representative on Eurth can be considered to be off duty.

After the failed suicide attempt, the man was taken to a nearby hospital, attached to the Church of Agios Alexios. He was kept there for some weeks as a precaution against any other attempts at carrying out a sin of such magnitude and monitored for any further psychological or spiritual issues, not including the debilitating one of not being of the Christian faith. At first, the man's contact with the outside wurld was purposefully limited, both for his safety and to prevent any foreign powers meddling in the affair. The Arhomaiki Noimosyni Dykton and the Esoteriki Epitheorisi Pliroforion investigated the identity of the individual whilst he was in the hospital. It was eventually confirmed that the he was indeed speaking the truth – he was the surviving grandson of the last Shahanshah, Janus IV.

In the end, Shahzadeh, or Prince, Arsaka was released into the care of the members of the Koussoeiki expatriate community, who are primarily based in the port of Trapezon and focussed around Hormisdas Haakon, formerly the Axwarbed or Stable Master, a court official of middling rank. As yet, there seems to have been no attempt to crown Arsaka as the new monarch of Koussoeia and the Agios Basilikon Kounsistorion has made no official comment on its opinion on the matter and it has not been stated whether our government will recognise any future monarch as the true heir to the throne. However, this is likely due to the fact that the relations with the Exousiokrateia are still fraught and there is a large detachment of the Tagmata and aid workers from the Parabalanoi still working in Gharon.

It has been stated by the Demokrateia ton Iberikon that they are intending to make a puppet state of Koussoeiki origin on an island far to their west, working alongside a quasi-military organisation called “Monarch Group” – reportedly headed by a member of the Seilosiki (@Seylos) royal family, just to add an even more bizarre twist to this tale – but it is likely that this is going to be more of a Gerenian homeland than a Koussoeiki one. It is likely due more to barbaroiki ignorance than any true understanding of what is happening in the Occident and a justification of a land-grab.

No more news has come from Kouessoeiki community about how Shahzadeh Arsaka is getting on, other than he is making a slow but increasing recovery from the traumatic events of recent years. Haakon remains the focus of the community, which has grown in recent months through an influx of refugees who managed to escape the talons of the Gharoi. They are, however, being closely monitored by the intelligence services and it does appear that the ABK is attempting to tread a fine line between offering those that wish it sanctuary and not precipitating a further crisis in the Occident. May God find it that this state of affairs continues.

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The fate of the Gerenians has certainly been lamentable – forced from their homes at the hands of an invasion force, their culture and history swept aside, before being put into transit camps and sent far away from their homeland. This is something that has been watched by the rest of Eurth.

Perhaps the invasion of the Endoxi Epikrateia ton Koussoeion by the Exousiokrateia ton Gharon (@Haruspex) could be construed as justified or, if not justified, then understandable. The pattern of a country collapsing due to internal or external factors and then being invaded by its neighbour, whether for peacekeeping or less altruistic reasons, is a pattern that has been repeated across Europa and even in the New Wurld. Often, the country that has been occupied is then set back on its feet and once again becomes a functional member of the community of nations, or it is annexed and incorporated into the conquering state. At times, it undoubtedly helps the population but others, it results in oppression and repression.

In the case of the invasion of the Endoxi Epikrateia, a large population of Christians was intentionally displaced by the invading Gharoi, and their long and ancient history intentionally erased. This was on the order of the now-deceased Exousiokrator, Ji'Mar, son of Sa'Karn, who was long a friend of the Arhomaioi. His son, however, was not and he and his cabal of warmongers have come to a well deserved end. Many of these Christians, of the Gerenian denomination, ended up being shipped to Arhomaneia or held in a miserable stasis in northern Koussoeia. The Agios Basilikon Kounsistorion has attempted to make those who ended up in Arhomaiki lands as comfortable as possible, even though the winter that had passed as been one of the worst in recent years.

The plight of the Gerenians was not one that went unnoticed by the rest of the wurld, however. Other Christian powers stepped up and came to their aid. The response was truly an international one, with nations from Argis and Marenesia stepping forward to work with the Megas Agios Basileia to help the displaced population. Although all of the nations involved are not just separated by geography, but language, ideology and varying creeds, it shows that the light of Christ shines through all of these differences and when a people in peril need aid, all countries can work together to help those less fortunate.

Amongst these nations, the Demokrateia ton Iberikon (@Iverica) has set up a protectorate on an island in the North Oriental Ocean, the Voreios Anatolikos Okeanos, known as Monarch Island, Monarchia Nisos. Iberikeia is working to the advantage of the Gerenians and is endeavouring to make the settlement on Monarchia Nisos viable, so that the displaced population now have a land of their own. It is not doubted that the first years of their life on the island might be hard, but the Iberikoi will surely work to make sure that it might become a refuge from the ill-treatment and misery that they have known since the invasion of their homeland. To this end, this protectorate is fully recognised by the Agios Basilikon Kounsistorion and Iberikeia is completely trusted by Arhomaneia, and that nation has shown that even though it adheres to the Diarchic Church, it still holds Christ within its heart.

Similarly, the Enomenon Regason tou Seilosiou, the United Kindgom of @Seylos (etc), has put into place similar measures, with an island of its disparate lands set aside for refugees from Koussoeia. The government of Seiloseia has yet to release the full details of this move, and if it is of a similar nature to those of the Iberikoi, then the Agios Basilikon Kounsistorion will equally stand with our friends in the Makhaira Thalassa and recognise the protectorate that they might establish.

The Agios Basilikon Kounsistorion will also offer scholarships to the higher education establishments of Arhomaneia to those displaced Gerenians and Koussoeioi, in order to help them get back on their feet after the awful trials that they have been forced to endure. Whilst this is little recompense for what they have suffered, it will hopefully show them that the wurld has not forgotten them and will not let them suffer in isolation but welcome them with open arms, wherever they might go.

May God give the Gerenians and the Koussoeioi the peace and security that they so desperately need.

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ArhomaneiaGalahindeia Spat sees No Sign of Abating

Although it has bubbled below the surface for some weeks, the diplomatic argument between the Megas Agios Basileia and the Eniaio Synkrotima appears to be on the cusp of erupting again. There are rumours, unconfirmed as they are, that the only reason that the situation quietened down was due to the fact that the Agios Basilikon Kounsistorion did not pick up on the refusal of Proedros Yiu Amistacia, the head of state of Galahindeia @Galahinda, to apologise for their actions. This was because the reply to Arhomaneia's request was not returned through diplomatic channels, but during a press conference in the aftermath of a fashion show. Perhaps adding to the confusion, the Arhomaiki government did not publicly call for an apology, but felt that one given privately by the Proedros would suffice, thereby diffusing the argument and allowing the barbariki leader to not lose face to their own nation.

However, it now appears that the Agios Basilikon Kounsistorion has now issued a call for a public apology through diplomatic channels to the Proedros, although with the caveat that it can be given as a private individual, rather than as the Galahindiki head of state. It is thought that is to make the apology more palatable and to make sure that the situation does not spiral further. It remains to be seen whether Amistacia will take that step – if their previous actions are anything to go by, then the likelihood of that is minimal. Precisely what, then, the Arhomaiki government will do is unknown. The likelihood is that the relations between the two nations will continue to cool, although it does not seem that they could possibly get much worse than they currently are. However, due to the fact that this is not likely to turn into an open conflict, the worse the situation will get will possibly be a withdrawal of diplomatic representation by Arhomaneia and Galahinda, rather than any sanctions or embargoes. Who will blink first and take that step is, as yet, unknown.

His All-Holiness, Kosmas I Arkhiepiskopos ton Europatorion and Katholikos Patriarkhes was approached by the Arhomaiki Alfa Tileoptikou Diktyou for comments on the statements made by Proedros Amistacia during the press conference. When asked about whether the Proedros resembled a 'champion of the arts', his All-Holiness said this: “Whilst 'art' itself is a remarkably broad topic, the definition and perception of which changes from individual to individual, what was performed on that video was intentionally provocative, in every sense of the word apart from that which implies making one think more deeply about a topic. It was nothing more than mindless, artless pornography.”

It is a remarkably harsh statement by His All-Holiness, who has, in the seventeen years since he was installed as the Katholikos Patriarkhes, striven to act in a more accepting manner and heal the rifts that have developed between the various branches of Christianity over the past two thousand years. It shows the anger that has developed within the Oecamenical Church at the actions of the Galahindoi. It is felt by the Church that its open door policy towards foreign film crews for documentary purposes was abused for ends that mocked and insulted our shared faith. It is reported that the Church looked into retaining a law firm in Cascadia in order to investigate the possibility of a suit against Alyiah Arotica and Yiu Amistacia, although this has not been confirmed, either officially or unofficially.

Perhaps the most surprising thing about the press conference, however, was the appearance of what seems to be military uniforms, manufactured by MYNE. This is the company that Yiu Amistacia represents on the Corporate Board, the governing body of the Eniaío Synkrotima. Whilst the Proedros themselves said that it was an attempt to break into the market of uniforms for other nations' militaries, rumours have flown that it is actually the start of the formation of a Galahindiki armed force, beyond the privatised security bodies that they currently possess. How this might shift the balance of power in the Adlantic Ocean is unknown. It seems that the diplomatic spat between Arhomaneia and Galahindeia may well have been manufactured by the Proedros to provide a reason for a military to be built in the island nation. It is unknown how the other corporations based on the island might react to this.

 

Dairy Farmer Support Draws Further Criticism

The plight of small, independent dairy farmers has become one of the major issues in the farming sector in recent years. As dairy farming is arguably one of the most polluting forms of farming, through the very nature of the cows themselves, it has born the brunt of the attempts of the Agios Basilikon Kounsistorion at making Arhomaiki farming more ecologically friendly. Cows themselves are a massive producer of methane, one of the major contributing gases to the greenhouse effect. However, Arhomaneia is a nation that similarly consumes a significant amount of dairy products – not just the milk in the tea that keeps the nation running, but the cheese in the sandwiches of the average working people that run our country. An increase in price of milk or cheese has always been unpopular, which has led the dairy farms themselves down the trap that they are currently in.

The Arhomaiki consumer is very resistant to the change in the price of dairy products, especially in the aftermath of the Long War, when rationing was slowly reduced. Beef has always remained something of a perceived luxury, with mutton being the main meat consumed in Arhomaneia. Even this has declined in recent years, as meat alternatives become more popular year on year. However, what does not seem to change is the fact that dairy products have always been seen as an everyday necessity. Even as the ABK subsidies arable farmers to reduce the size of their fields and replant hedgerows, which were torn up to increase the size of those fields as the mechanisation of farming intensified during and after the Long War, dairy farmers have not been able to access similar funds to try to reduce their own costs. There are options for mechanisation and even computer-guided milking methods that enable the cows themselves to choose the times that they are milked, but the ABK has seemingly turned a blind eye to these options.

Instead, the majority of dairy farmers are stuck with utilising the machinery of their parents and grandparents – often literally. Whilst the ABK’s options are still open, the two that are gaining the most traction are either subsidising the diary farmers or offering a minimum pricing. Neither of these are precisely desirable, and both have the issue of pushing the cost on to either the consumer or the state. And both of them ultimately favour the large concerns that have been springing up in recent years. Perhaps it is merely a coincidence that two of the biggest farming concerns are owned by the Zemarkhoi and the Kommenoi, two families that need very little introduction. Whilst these families have always shown that they have the best interests of the Megas Agios Basileia at heart, any policy that directly subsidies the cost of diary products or enforces a minimum pricing will benefit those great families more than any other.

It was posed by this paper to the Logothesion tou Paroikonikou that the two favoured methods for farmers to either recoup or reduce the costs imposed on them by the ABK would favour those two families and the large concerns over the the small farmer. These same small farmers have seen their costs increase in recent years, especially as the ABK has put into place taxes on diesel and machinery that they are unlikely or unable to be able to deal with, at least in the short-term. What was especially raised was the potential for corruption, as both the Zemarkhoi and the Kommenoi families remain linked to the inner workings of the Arhomaiki government. Megas Logothetissa Andrea Khakonakissa herself penned an answer.

“The Logothesion tou Paroikonikou recognises that there is the perception that any subsidisation or relief given to farmers, whether arable or livestock, will benefit some over others, especially those who have more than most. That is not our intention. Our intention is to make sure that the Arhomaiki farmer, who has long been the backbone of our nation, is not forced out of business by either competition by large-scale combines, foreign imports or the fact that our wurld needs protection from human-influenced climatic events.”

The Megas Logothetissa denied the inference that the ABK's policies were unfairly benefiting those connected to the Arhomaiki government and that the eventual policy decision was going to make sure that the ordinary farmer was not going to lose out, either due to the environmental policies enacted by the government or due to any price changes of their products that might be forced on them by the supermarkets.

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      “If the allegations are true, there will not be any compromise for the perpetrator”, closed him.
    • By Tagmatium Rules
      Spring was finally coming to Gournaion, the capital of the island of Efmoseia and the nation of the Hexanesa. It had been a hard winter across all of northern Europa and even the western countries of Machina @Haruspex and Tagmatium had suffered in the coldest weather in decades. Despite being the two most functional nations in either the Occident or Burania, many of their citizens had died in the cold weather and parts of them had been cut off due to the deep snow and blizzards. In the band of six islands that marked the division of the Thalassa ton Kataigidon (Sea of Storms) and the waters of inner Europa, the weather had been especially hard because the islands had very little resources of their own to call upon. Some of the small fishing villages and semi-permanent logging camps that made up the settlements on the exposed northern coasts of the islands had to be completely abandoned. Vessels and aircraft from the Stolos, the militarised coast guard, were now going out to assess the damage to the settlements and to see if the inhabitants could return. The weather had been a shock after the warm temperatures of the summer and very few people had been prepared for anything other than the usual winter weather, although that was always quite harsh. The economic damage would have to be counted before the country could move forward. The long cold winter had delayed the planting of crops and prevented fishing for weeks when the fleets should have been out laying pots for crab or trawling for Adlantic salmon. Whilst the people of the Six Islands were unlikely to starve over the coming months, the finances of the country and its inhabitants would suffer. The last decade hadn't been kind to the Hexanesa and it seemed like the start of the new one wasn't going to be great, either.
      Those were the thoughts going through the head of a warmly wrapped little old lady as she sat at a cafe table and took sips of a cup of tea whilst looking out over the harbour of Gournaion. The cafe had cast iron furniture arrayed around tables and segregated from the street by low planters with hardy plants, although most of them had died over the winter. A heavyset stheneloser dog lay curled at her feet, its thick black and white fur proof against the cold of the northern islands. There were still boats in the harbour, although most of them were out to sea, trying to catch up with the season's fishing. She had just come from a morning service at the Panagia Theotokos, the cathedral of the Hexanesa. A savoury pastry lay untouched on a plate in front of her. Several newspapers were spread across the table, some from the Hexanesa, some from Tagmatium and even one from @Orioni. It was the old lady's habit to look through the headlines in the morning after church before she pottered back to her house. The headlines, at least of the Tagmatine ones, were mainly about the Megas Agios Basileia's involvement in Ceris – two carrier groups and a corps were now in action there, with suggestions that more might follow on. She shook her head. It was unlikely that “Arhomaneia” was involving itself there for the benefit of the Cerisers, although no one could deny that the Sentists were a plague that wouldn't go away of its own accord. The Orinese paper was at least more hopeful, although it focussed on the ongoing EOS mission in the Bainbridge Islands.
      The papers were full of just more examples of the powers of the wurld bullying the smaller nations. Although the Orinese were much less... conservative, blunt and chauvinistic than the Tagmatines, they were perhaps a bit more hypocritical. They tended to frame all of their actions as good for the people they were subjecting them to, even if it was entirely against their will. The intervention in the Bainbridge Islands had been going on much longer than any operation the Tagmatine armed forces had undertaken in decades. Under the aegis of EOS, the Orinese were bringing peace and stability to the south of Europa, whether it was wanted or not. After a moment looking out to sea again, she broke off a corner of the pastry and crumbled it up further. She then tossed the crumbs to a wagtail that was scavenging around the tables of the cafe but keeping a wary distance from the stheneloser. Another joined it and the two birds bickered for a moment amongst the table legs before seemingly deciding that the amount of crumbs was enough for the pair of them. She watched the small birds briefly before sighing to herself and pouring more tea from the pot into her cup.
      A passerby called a greeting and waved at the old lady. The wagtails, always timid, scattered and chittered their outrage at being forced away from their crumbs. The stheneloser raised its heavy head and watched the passerby and the old lady's reaction to them, its eyes darting between the two. When she waved back, it put its muzzle back on its paws, content that there was no threat there and closed its eyes. She reached down and scratched it behind its ears and broke off another bit of the pastry. The dog put its head up again and gave a begging look. The old lady smiled at the big dog and gave it the rest of the pastry, saving a corner for herself. It chewed messily for a moment and nosed up the crumbs that it had dropped. She ate the corner she had broken off and sipped the cup of tea.
      Of course, to the locals it wasn't just an old woman – it was Evangela Leotykhidissa, the Megas Kritissa, the Great Judge, of the Kritakrateia of the Hexanesa. A small bodyguard called the Skouterioi lurked nearby, attempting to make themselves unobtrusive but also trying to be a visible barrier between her and any possible threat. Unlike the bodyguards of the islands' western neighbour, they weren't in ostentatious armour and robes but coats and suits. It was clear that they were still bodyguards, as the tailoring of their suits couldn't quite hide the presence of holstered pistols. The Skouterioi had always made it clear that they weren't happy with the fact their head of government was content to sit in public and let the islanders greet her as they walked by. Although the islands weren't rich, they were strategic. The Arhomaiki Noimosyni Dykton was an ever-present threat, as were the secret services of the Exousiokrateia or the Volskoi. Any of them might try to engineer a takeover of the islands or assassinate the Megas Kritissa. They would likely then try to take advantage of either the islands' position or the possibility of mineral or oil wealth possessed by them. The Gharoiki have been carrying out “hydrocarbon mining” in the areas of the Thalassa ton Kataigidon under their control. It seemed to be a pompous way of saying “oil and gas extraction” and it couldn't be doubted that the Hexanesa were being eyed up by the northern barbarians.
      Evangela took another sip of tea. The Megas Kritissa had been voted into the position in 2016 as a reaction against the regime of Kommodos Iakoumos, as she had been in the election six years before that. The old woman was one of the few of the Lipotakai, the Deserters, still actively involved in the politics of the Hexanesa. She had been repeatedly elected because she was seen as taking a hard line with Tagmatika. There was still an arrest warrant out for her in the Megas Agios Basileia, even though it had been over sixty years since the events at the end of the Long War which had caused the Hexanesa to break away from Arhomaneia. It looked like the relationship between the islands and the mainland were warming up in the reign of Theodosios VI but his death at the hands of an assassin and the civil war that followed had halted that.
      At the time, some of the other Kritai had considered throwing in their support behind the cabal of naval and army officers attempting to revive the Navarkhokrateia but that scheme had been stopped by the then Megas Krites, Ioannes Hegesinos. It just would have meant a vengeful Kommodos landing forces on the islands and bringing them to heel by force. Some of the defeated rebels had tried to flee to the islands in the aftermath of the civil war but they had been turned away, most of those disappearing further east or south. There were rumours that the new regime in Tagmatika had shot dozens, if not hundreds, of rebellious officers. Handing over any refugees would have been as bad as murder even if it would have meant that Tagmatika might have warmed up to the Hexanesa.
      The pot of tea was empty and Leotykhidissa stood to her feet, using the arms of her chair to help her get there. One of the Skouterioi stepped forward to take her arm but the old woman waved him off. The big dog stood up and followed the old lady at her heels as she started on the walk towards her official residence. It wasn't too far away from the harbour and the cafe. Gournaion was not a bustling metropolis by the standards of most nations, even New Wurld ones, but it was the largest city of the Hexanesa. The other people walking the streets knew the Megas Kritissa by sight and waved at her as she passed. Many other heads of state would use a car to get around but the size of the capital meant it was unnecessary and Leotykhidissa also loved to see the city. It meant that the old lady felt like she was more in touch with the ordinary people of her country than others in her position might be. And she could see the effects of the policies that she enacted or the repercussions of wurld events.
      In recent years, the numbers of boarded up shops were more noticeable than ever before. As she walked through the cobbled streets of the port, it was obvious where the road surface had become worn or damaged and been replaced with cheaper tarmac. The Great Europan Collapse had not impacted the islands as badly as others – the government hadn't fallen apart due to economic ruin like in many other countries but the primary industries of fishing and logging had taken a hit. The tourist trade had been nascent but starting to bear fruit, with southerners coming to see the relatively unspoilt landscapes, although others came to see the remains of the battlefields of the Long War. Those were mainly Tagmatioi and their money was as good as anyone else's, even if the Hexanesoi didn't like their government. However, that had dried up and the tourist board of the Kritakrateia just didn't have the money or the pull to try to attract more people to the islands. Foreign faces were now entirely uncommon on the islands.
      The Megas Kritissa got to the official residence of the head of the islands. It was no towering edifice but a low villa, almost in the classical style, if not for the modifications made to the architecture to take into account the frigid winters. A pair of guards in the dress uniform of the Taxiotai, the island's paramilitary police, stood either side of the door. Their faces were slightly reddened from the cold and their breath clouded in the early morning air. Leotykhidissa would make sure that the guards changed over a bit earlier than scheduled to get them out of the cold. The big dog walked up to the nearest and sniffed at the gendarme's boots.
      “Arkadios, come.”
      The dog stopped sniffing about immediately and trotted after the old woman and into the building. It was a comfortable enough building, if slightly more grand than many others in the city. It was the old seat of the Exarkhos, the governor, of the Hexanesa, back before the Long War had dashed that all to the winds. It was, imaginatively, known as the Palati tou Exarkhou, the Palace of the Exarkhos, although “palace” was far too grand a name. Arkadios' nails clicked on the tiles in the hall. The vestibule was cold and a draught blew through it, even with the front doors now closed by the Taxiotai on guard. The only real nod to being in the building was when an aide stepped forward to take the Megas Kritissa's coat and held out a warm indoor robe. Waving the aide away with a gesture, Leotykhidissa took off her coat and changed into the offered robe.
      “A cup of tea to warm you up?” the man asked. He was almost as old as Leotykhidissa and had the air of a trusted retainer about him.
      “Yes, thank you,” replied the Megas Kritissa, giving him a thin smile that still managed to be warm. “Can you take it through to the study? There are some papers I wish to go through before I get anything else done today.”
      “Of course,” he sketched a quick bow and stopped to give Arkadios a pat on the head before he did so. “Anything for this boy?”
      “No, he's had a pastry already this morning,” Evangela said, looking down at the big dog, who was in turn looking up hopefully at the aide with big eyes. He was trying to suggest that he'd not been fed at all today, despite what was being said. “He sat patiently outside, waiting for the service to finish. He's been a good boy.”
      Arkadios' tail wagged at the words.
      “I will bring the tea through when it is ready, Megas Kritissa,” said the aide, finally stopping rubbing the fur on top of the stheneloser's head and walking down the hall. “The heating's on, so the study should be nice and warm.”
      “Thank you, Leontios,” the old lady said and walked further into the residence.
      One of the main changes from the traditionally designed Arhomaiki home was that the study wasn't in a commanding place in the building, open to both ends to allow a good view throughout. Instead, in a nod to the cold weather, the room abutted the kitchen, to allow it to take warmth in from the ovens in the walls. That, along with the underfloor heating, made it one of the most snug rooms in the depths of winter. For an elderly person, it made it very liveable. Arkadios padded into the room and went straight over to the dog bed that lay in between the desk and the door and curled up in it. His eyes were on the Megas Kritissa as she pulled out the chair behind the desk and took out a pad of paper. She looked ahead almost blankly for a moment before taking a fountain pen from the mug of pens on the desk and started writing. It took a long time for the words to start properly coming and the cup of tea that Leontios placed on the desk was stone cold before she took notice of it. Eventually, the big dog had started to fidget and whine slightly, making it known that he needed to go out to go to the loo before Leotykhidissa finally stopped her fitful writing and looked down at the words on the page.
      She sighed and made the sign of the cross in the Aroman fashion – thumb, index and middle finger together, going from right to left – before sitting back in the chair. Of course, as she herself was not a despot, Leotykhidissa would put it before the other five Kritai to see what they would think. Personally, it seemed to be the only way to guarantee the fate of the Hexanesa but she had no idea whether it was the right choice. She was just tired of seeing her beloved nation rot and its people suffer like they had been doing for the last few decades.
      Her status as a Lipotakissa and her stance on Arhomaneia meant that she would probably be the only person who could propose a reunion with the Megas Agios Basileia without it being immediately shouted down and the proposer being arrested for high treason. It was certainly shocking, even to Leotykhidissa, but perhaps it was time for her country to come in from the cold.
       
       
      OOC: It's time to get the ball rolling on the first part mentioned here.
    • By Galahinda
      "And we're live in five, four, three," Rang out across the studio, with the producer finishing the countdown silently on his fingers and pointing to the two women seated across from each other. 
      Without missing a beat, program host and media icon Marie Engelsen began speaking, "Welcome back to the Englesen Angle! Today, we're here with breakout star Alyiah Arotica, creator of the song stuck in everyone's minds; Eat It!" Sitting across from her was the latest interview subject and popular musician and performer, Aliyah Arotica. Known for her equal parts vulgar and creative flow, Arotica had become an overnight sensation among the nation's youth. The pair paused for a moment to allow the applause from the studio audience to die down before continuing.
      "Thank you so much for having me! I've been a huge fan ever since you were just starting out, so being here is absolutely unreal!" Gushed Aliyah, unable to hide the excitement in her voice.
      "Likewise, I've been a fan since your first single, Galahindan Goddess. There's nobody out there that's creating music like yours." Replied Marie, a similar tone of excitement creeping into her otherwise professional cadence, "What inspired you to cultivate such a strong personality within your music?"
      "Well Marie," began Aliyah, "I grew up in an Ecumenical family, and I felt very stifled by the rules and the messages they taught, so after I moved out and felt true freedom, I felt like I should really begin to express how much, for me, religion is less serious and should be critiqued." 
      "So, are you a religious person?" asked Marie.
      "Not traditionally, no. I'm actually a member of the Society of Saint Lucia." Responded Aliyah
      "And for our international listeners who may not be familiar with the society, what do you believe in?" 
      "Our beliefs are rooted in the idea that at the end of the day, we're all going to die, we can't control that. What we can control is the amount of experience we gain over that short lifespan. We're focused on sensation and what it means to truly be alive."
      "Do you feel that those values are reflected in your latest song?" Queried Marie, shifting forward in her seat.
      "Yes, I do, especially in the imagery and lyrics that we use for our music video, releasing later today."
      "I see, do you think we could see a clip from the video?" asked Marie.
      "Of course! I brought one along just for you." Fired back Aliyah, turning to watch along with Marie and the audience. 
      On the large LCD screen behind the two, the clip began to play. Chairman Yiu Amistacia appeared on the screen, much to the audience's enjoyment. The chairman was wearing an extremely tight black latex suit blazer with matching assless chaps. Within the chairman's hand was a rhinestoned chain attached to what appeared to be Tagmatium's leader, Kommodos III. The man was wearing little more than a black loincloth, leather harness and was bound at the wrists and feet by the same chain held in Yiu's hand. Around the man's neck was a black latex collar with the MYNE logo emblazoned in gold. The video's audio began playing from the studio's speakers, with a heavy beat accentuated by a harsh snare every fourth beat. The chairman's voice could be heard over the top, stating, "If there was a god, I would make him eat my pussy." The lyric was accompanied by another crash, as Yiu yanked the chain attached to the man's neck, forcing him onto his knees, roughly at crotch height. "What that mouth do kanga go make it gushy." continued the chairman before the scene switched. 
      Immediately following a scene of the camera panning into what appeared to be a Tagmatine church was Aliyah wearing an extremely low cut ceremonial robe. The robe was covered in rhinestones and had holes cut, exposing her cleavage. The artist began rapping, draping herself over a ceremonial altar, words building in intensity. "She's got that Apocryphal pussy, Personally condemned by Kommodos Pussy. She's got that Ignus Dei Sexcommunicatorum Pussy. What you waitin for kanga go make it gushy." Following the lyrics, Aliyah tore off the robe, leaving her in nothing but a set of nipple pasties and a pair of panties reading "Eat It!" before the clip ended and the studio's lights returned.
      "Wow, I love everything I've just seen, and I cannot wait to watch the whole thing later today." Began Marie, beaming, "Now, I spy with my keen eye, a couple of familiar faces, am I correct in saying that was the Chairman and Kommodos III?"
      "You're partially correct, that is actually Chairman Amistacia. However, Kommodos III is actually an excellent look-alike, with some digital trickery to enhance the effect." Said Aliyah, waving her hand to indicate the pair currently on screen.
      "I would never have guessed. The recreation is almost spot on! How was it working with the chairman?" 
      "The chairman was lovely to work with, they're fantastic on camera and took great direction."
      Nodding, Marie asked, "Now, I'm no fashion or cultural expert, but am I correct in assuming that the outfit you wear during this scene is not traditionally Galahindan?" 
      "You are correct, although it was made here in Galahinda by Yiu, it's actually a take on the traditional ceremonial clothing worn by Tagmatine priests," answered Aliyah.
      "It's very edgy which I love. Given the video's content, how did you manage to get permission to go into a Tagmatine church to film this?"
      "Oh, they didn't give us permission actually," replied Aliyah, laughing nervously, "we went in under the guise of being there for a documentary, and filmed what we needed without me, left, and inserted me in post."
      "I can't imagine that'll make them too happy!" Englesen chucked to herself before continuing, "Now, anything else you'd like to tell us before we wrap up?"
      "I would like to thank all of my listeners for helping get to this seat, and for everyone involved in the production of the song and video for making something so cool!" responded Aliyah, turning directly to the camera.
      "Thanks again for being here, Aliyah, and make sure to watch out for the release of the Eat It! music video later today." Said Marie, turning to the camera before continuing. "Coming up next, we'll be looking at the perfect colors to paint your living rooms for the upcoming fall party season. We'll be right back after the break."

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