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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

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Posted (edited)

“An’ I says to ‘im, I says ‘What you mean I got a small cock? S’bigger than any prick your mum’s taken!’”  Uproarious laughter filled the tavern as the dismissed platoon filled it almost completely.  Other than the soldiers, the only patrons of the sports bar were older couples enjoying a drink out who were now chatting with some of the soldiers.  Some of the older men were themselves veterans of the Alvernian Army and reveled in the stories they told to anyone who listened.  The bartender, a fervent Alvernian patriot, welcomed soldiers from the nearby military base often and with open arms - besides the business, he was supporting the military, a profession he would have pursued if his poor eyesight didn’t stop him. 

The door suddenly opened, bringing warm air into the air-conditioned bar.  A brief moment of silence interrupted the revelry as the pair walked in and appeared to be native Marenai.  They were common enough, here in the northwest, but not as plentiful as they were in the northeast.  The noise quickly returned as the soldiers lost interest in the pair, a young couple.  The platoon commander, sitting with his platoon warrant in the corner of the bar, took notice of the young couple and invited them over to the two empty seats that sat next to them: one next to the commander and the other across from it next to the warrant.  The couple walked over while politely nodding and smiling to the troops, who did so likewise.  The amount of drinks the soldiers had had would probably turn even the most nationalist Alvernian into the friendliest of friends to a dreaded asino.

The couple made their way to the officers, who patted the empty seats.  They sat down as the commander waved over the bartender, ordered them beers, and sent him off.  As the man took out his wallet, the commander waved him off, “The pleasure is all mine, Mister…?”  the native man finished for him, “John.  John Avalo, sir, and this is my fiancee Kiana.”  He gestured towards the woman who sat across from him; both of the men smiled at the woman and nodded politely.  “Please, John, feel free to call me Ross.  But what brings you here, Mr. Avalo?  Just a night of drinking?”  John began to relax a bit at the officer’s relaxed tone, “Yes, sir.  Just having a lovely evening with the lady.”  The woman smiled and the group made a bit of chit-chat before the woman excused herself to the bathroom.  John rolled his eyes as she walked past, “Native woman, man, I swear they piss twice as much as a Salvian.”  The commander and the warrant laughed at the quip, and laughed harder when Kiana turned around to slap the back of John’s head with a purse.  The men continued to chatter and the conversation continued uninterrupted when the woman returned. 

Another hour and a half had passed before the man looked at his phone to check the time: 11:30.  He looked up at the woman across from him and nodded - the woman nodded back.  He downed the rest of his drink before addressing the commander.  “Mr. Ross, sir, it was a great pleasure, but alas the babysitter awaits us at home.  I’m afraid we must be going.”  The pair stood up and shook the hands of the officers before exiting the building, waving the soldiers goodbye as they left.  The couple got into their car, backed out of the parking lot, and began to drive away from the pub.  With it being late at night and the pub being at least two miles away from the nearest town, there was no traffic as the car sped down the road.  The woman reached into her purse and pulled out a black rectangular device with a lever attached to the side as the man continued to drive.  Once they were about a quarter of a mile away from the pub, she held down the lever and flicked a switch.  The woman looked at the radio clock and waited a few moments.  Right as it hit 11:37, they both muttered, “For a free Alvernia,” and the woman pressed the red button on the device.  A moment passed before night became day - an explosion rocked the ground.  Looking in his rearview mirror, John saw nothing but shadowy rubble dimly illuminated by the fires that were now burning it.

 

*                    *                    *

 

...the blast comes as protests continue throughout northern Alvernia, many of which quickly turned violent between the police and demonstrators…

Marzeni simply leaned against the front of his desk, the TV tuned to the news hung in the corner behind his desk.  The numerous aides and ministers he had called in simply sat or stood in front of Marzeni, his back to the TV, their eyes on the screen.  The Lunex reached for the remote which sat next to him and turned the television off, then set the remote down and folded his arms.  The fact that Marzeni was silent terrified them all.  They all tensed up when he stood up, but the Lunex simply walked to the back of his desk, pulled open a drawer, and opened a snuff box.  He offered it to the nearest aide before placing some of the snuff in between his lip and gum, then closed it and returned it to its place.  Holding himself up with his arms, Marzeni hung his head over his desk, then met eyes with each person in the room before talking slowly.

“The problem with Alvernia is that the asino has been allowed to live freely.  If our ancestors had been proud Salvians as we are, they’d have shipped them all to that wh*re-house @Gallambria, where the asinos are respected - nay, worshipped.”  He said the last word with utter contempt.  Marzeni stared at de Wohine as he added on, “I’ll authorize the use of the military in putting down these ‘people’.  You all are dismissed.”

 

*                    *                    *

 

“Vice-President, sir.”  The aide handed the man sitting behind the desk a single sheet of paper.  As the man was skimming it, the aide saw his face progressively shift from bothered to concerned.  Deeply concerned.

“Get me the President, immediately.”

 

____________________________

 

OFFICIAL TRANSCRIPT

TS//SUMBRA CLEARANCE

FOR SUMBRA INDIVIDUALS ONLY

BEGIN MESSAGE

 

Mr. Bergio de Wohine

Minister of the Alvernian Poka’i Administrative Force

Soncinia, Alvernia

 

Dearest friends,

I write this frantically in a time of need.  You have no doubt heard of the Marenai protests spreading throughout our country; I also trust you have heard of Marzeni’s ambitions: he has echoed calls for Salvian unification since he began his campaign sixteen years ago.  He has promised to keep Alvernia “pure” - ethnically, culturally, racially.  With attacks on his own military and more violent protests occurring every day, I am deeply troubled that the man, already a complete loose cannon (his drug and alcohol habits rival even the most wild Variot), will try something drastic.

He has already suggested forced relocation, violent suppressions, and further oppression of the native people.  The Marenai, having already been forcibly expelled by Salvians two thousand years ago, might yet again witness another tragedy befall their people.

I have been an accomplice to Marzeni’s anti-democratic, radical nationalist policies for too long.  I seek the Sanctum Imperium Catholicum’s support in counteracting this radical terrorist in order to restore Salvian unity in a way that does not result in the loss of hundreds of thousands of innocent native Marenai.  I hope that, through further correspondences, something more tangible than words are pledged to bring down Marzeni.

May God bless you and the Salvian people.

 

/END

____________________________

 

President Saulius sat back in his chair, hand supporting his head.  He simply muttered, “Well, f*ck.”

Edited by Salvia
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“This Marzeni guy, he’s popular, no?”

“Among the people, yea.  And the military with all the checks he’s giving out.”

“But…?”

“Well, as you know, I’m not his biggest supporter.  And I don’t really have anything concrete to base this on, but… there are definitely some… higher-ups that think he is delusional.”

The questioner took a drag of a cigarette before shaking off the ashes into an ashtray sitting next to him.  The other man continued. “And to be frank, he’s a bit more than delusional.  Psychotic, perhaps.”

Another drag, another shake.  Truth be told, the man already knew the answer to his first question.

“His ego is something we’ve picked up on.  Something we could use.”  The cigarette already to its end, the man snuffed it out before shaking the hand of the man opposite him.  “Thank you for your time.  Your plane leaves tomorrow.  You can bring Mr. Bianchi in.”

De Wohine nodded before standing up and exiting.  A moment later, another suited individual walked in, closed the door behind him and leaned against it. “What’d you learn?”  The smoker stood and walked over to the window overlooking the city of St. Paul’s.  “Nothing new.  Marzeni, it seems, has a strong cult of personality but as we suspected there are cracks at the top.”  He turned back to the man leaning against the door with a slight grimace on his face.  “We got nothing new for tomorrow.”

Bianchi shrugged his shoulders. “Do we need anything new for tomorrow?  Cracks at the top of the dam will flood the village just as well as the cracks at the bottom.”

 

*               *               *

 

“Tamar!  Stay close!”  Her voice could barely be heard over the din of the protest.  Chants being shouted by thousands swirled with the sounds of chaos as the police force attempted to maintain order.  Several times the protesters charged the riot shield wall of the Poka’i - an act of futility for sure, but one that got the message across as Salvian and international cameras kept rolling.  Smoke billowed as fires burned stores and cars and tear gas arced through the air, wafting the irritating gas throughout the streets.  Rocks, water bottles, and other objects were thrown back at the Poka’i in larger numbers as police cars were flipped and burned.  Stores and neighboring buildings were also set ablaze, looted and demolished; the pair fought through it all, cutting across the street.  They had been separated from their group and after furious texting back and forth, they had figured out where each other were.  Now it was just the matter of getting back to each other, which proved to be easier than expected: they had ran away from the police line to a point where the protesters were less dense - numerable, for sure, but not as dense.  

The two wove their way through the crowd and were about halfway there when the unmistakable sound of gunfire rang out.  The rioters, once courageously bearing attacks from pepper spray, tear gas, rubber bullets, and batons, now broke and stampeded away.  Tamar and the girl turned and didn’t look back, their hearts pounding.
 

 

Some hundred miles away, the Lunex watched his television attentively in his office.  Seeing the fleeing rioters, he covered his hand with his hand and sighed.  While his thoughts on the Marenai were well-documented to be… less than favorable, he still thought them as at the very least sentient creatures.  He struggled to find the word in his head… they were something like a pet, if you will, to him.  To be disciplined, to instill within them the knowledge that they are inferior, yet to treat them with care and kindness.  But what if they are just like us--

He struck the thought out of his mind.  Impossible.  Marzeni stretched within the back of his memory, recalling some Derthaler novel he had read as a pre-teen.  The Salvians, they were like, what was the word, Ubermensch.  “Over-men,” he said the word out loud, almost in affirmation to himself that the concept was real.

 

*               *               *

A day later

 

Saulius scratched his chin while looking absent-mindedly at his desk, “It’s risky, Gio.  I don’t know…”  Saulius downed the rest of his cup, the whiskey stones clinking.  He rubbed his temples with his forefinger and thumb as Bianchi tried to convince him.

“Sir, this is our best plan going forward.  What else can we do?”  

Saulius snorted before retorting, “A lot of things.”  He poured another cup of spirits and took a sip before continuing, “For one, we could negotiate something, literally anything, to avoid going in and killing half of the government.” 

Bianchi shook his head, “Could we, really?  Marzeni’s convinced the Salvians of Alvernia that the Marenai are at the root of their inferiority to Salvia.  He’s reduced unemployment to artificially low levels, gotten the economy back on track, maintained law and order - the people love that guy.  And he knows this.  He’ll use the entire state of Alvernia as a bargaining chip, it’ll be all or nothing with him.”  Bianchi leaned forwards and talked in a hushed tone, “This is our only option.  Either we get rid of Marzeni, or we let him live and f*ck up the situation more.”

Saulius looked away from Bianchi, who sat back in his seat and stared at Saulius, arms crossed.  “Your move, Saulius.  You know we can take him down.”  Saulius, stroking his chin, looked back at Bianchi and nodded before signing the piece of paper before him and handing it to Bianchi, “We’ll have a briefing at 9 in the morning tomorrow.  Have your presentation ready by then.”

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June 6 | 1643 Hours

Hilocani, Northeast Alvernia

 

The most powerful man in Alvernia stood with his hands in his pockets in the middle of an intersection, eyes squinting as the sun beat down on the city.  A cool breeze swept through, bringing a number of different objects and litter with it.  Looking around in a circle, the Lunex observed looted stores with broken windows boarded up with rough planks, cars overturned, charred or burning, with concrete and transportable barriers acting as remnants of the violent riots.  It brought tears to his eyes.

Shameful.

He could almost hear his father’s voice and instinctively flinched, but nothing followed.  His wife came over from behind him and put a hand on his shoulder and squeezed it.  “Relax your jaw, dear.”  Marzeni became conscious of his clenching and relaxed it, a dull ache on his teeth setting in.  The man sighed wearily before leaning into the woman’s embrace, silently sobbing as he continued to look over the wreckage.  A shameful display of authority indeed, leading to disaster like this.

 

*              *              *

 

Sneaking up behind the house, the man knocked on the small window that was near the ground seven times in an asymmetric, odd rhythm.  Knock knock. Knock. Knock. Knock knock knock. Looking through the window pane, the couple saw a man sitting in a plastic chair pull a cord above him, turning on a single dim bulb, a rifle in his other hand.  He simply nodded at the couple in front of him and turned the lights back off, returning the basement to darkness before opening the window.  The couple slipped themselves through, falling some 10 feet before landing on a mattress.

Pitch black, they navigated their way with ease, having done this uncountable times before.  Although curfew was just instated last week, they had been meeting in secret anyways.  After all, the same few dozen people entering the same house several times a week and sometimes exiting with duffel bags and satchels would mark the house and anyone who enters it as incredibly suspicious.  Especially if said people were also Marenai in a Salvian neighborhood.

Making their way to the back room of the basement, the pair took great care in avoiding the numerous arms and explosives lining the hallway.  Even though they were well packaged, homemade explosives were still homemade explosives - not to be trusted on that much.  Opening a door at the end of the hallway, they entered a room in the very back of the basement, its windows blocked and another dim lightbulb on the ceiling the sole point of illumination.  All it lit was a metal table, several chairs pushed aside to make room for the people - about six - working at it in an assembly line, crafting some sort of bomb.  The pair greeted the workers before pulling up seats to the table, unpacking their bags filled with supplies.  An older Marenai, possibly in his fifties or sixties, sat on the opposite side of them and spoke up.

“Tamar, Aria.” 

The two looked up, still unpacking their bags without looking.  “Yes?”

“You missed this since we were separated, but Marco was arrested.”  The man continued to focus on whatever he was tinkering with as he told the pair the news.  “He got too close to them, man.  We were telling him to-” he was cut off by the man guarding the window entering, shotgun in hand.  Holding his pointer finger to his lips, he whispered, “THEY’RE OUTSIDE.”  The group quickly and silently packed everything on the table and hid it in cardboard boxes scattered throughout the room.  Grabbing guns, they all spread out, hiding, the pair positioning themselves to another window, this one closest to the forest behind the home. 

A moment passed.  Several more then, before loud thuds and thundering footsteps announced the breaching of the house.  Clutching the weapon tighter, Tamar gently pushed Aria away from him towards the wall.  Risking a peep, he heard the footsteps come down the basement and ducked back down.  A couple of people had made it out of the room and were somewhere else in the basement but most of the group was stuck in the room they were in.  The group heard a muffled, “Freeze!” before a series of gunshots and screams echoed throughout the basement, then silence.  Tamar squeezed his eyes before opening them and dragging Aria towards the window.

Someone whispered, “Tamar what the f*ck are you doing?”  

“Getting the hell out of here, what do you think?”

“What? There’s no way they don’t have the neighborhood surrounded!”

“I’ll take my f*cking chances while I can.”

Footsteps thudded louder as Tamar rotated the handle that slowly opened the window.  Two more series of gunshots, then total silence.  He counted 6 of them in this room, meaning the other three had slipped out.  And were now dead.  Shaking his head and squatting slightly, he cupped his hands, motioning the others towards him.  “Well? Let’s go!”  When they crept over, taking careful care not to hit anything on the ground, he whispered to them, “When you get out, run for the woods.”  Tamar had boosted four of them out before he turned to the last man, who simply sat at a chair facing the door, a pistol on the table in front of him.  He began to load it with a single bullet as Tamar just observed silently.  “You coming?”  The man at the table sat motionless, then replied, “No.”  Cocking the pistol, he pointed it at one of the cardboard boxes to his left.  “You need to go.  Keep the mission, Tamar.”   Tamar tried to protest, but all he could do was open his mouth and close it again.  He nodded, tears rolling down his cheek, “I won’t let you down, tama*.”  With that, Tamar hoisted himself up and out of the house.  Aria was crouched by the window and reached to Tamar for help, who took it.

“Is he-?”

“Just go.”

 

The two began to run as silently as they could and upon happening by a foxhole Tamar slid in it, grabbing Aria and bringing her down.  He stared at the house and listened intently.  The sounds could still be heard at the distance, some 250 feet away.  The door banging open and the officer’s yell were faint, but the gunshot was unmistakable.  As was the deafening explosion that followed.  Tamar, on his stomach, pressed his head against the hard dirt before carefully standing and pulling Aria with him, away from the fire and sirens that now filled the air, tears streaming down his face.

 

*Tama: Salvian-Marenai word for father

 

*              *              *

 

June 6th | 2133 Hours

Deopolis, Salvia

 

Bianchi slapped the paper down on the desk and jammed his forefinger on the paper.  “Bingo.  The proof you need.”  Saulius slid his reading glasses on and picked up the paper, a conversion between the President of Alvernia and de Wohine, the latter being the person who had recorded the conversation and sent it to the Salvian intelligence agency.  Bianchi had highlighted the most pertinent section:

Quote

“... a Salvian state is what we want and it’s what we’ll get.  The suppression of these protests is needed to send the signal to the Salvian people that we’re stable and able to lead over Saulius.  This is all I want from my presidency, I want to ensure this is done.”

Saulius returned his gaze to Bianchi, arms crossed for a moment before he threw them up in a shrug.  “I don’t know, Pat, seems to me like Marzeni plans on uniting the Salvians; more importantly, he wants to unite the Salvians at the expense of us.”  Saulius took a breath in and pointed at Bianchi.  “Alright, first off, don’t call me Pat.  Second,” Saulius began motioning with his hand towards the paper in his hand, “this, this doesn’t tell us anything, alright?”

“Oh cut the shit, it does too.”

“Look, the point is that I’m still not convinced.  And neither is my cabinet.  We aren’t gonna budge until we’ve exhausted everything else.”  Bianchi rolled his eyes and began to protest before being shushed by Saulius.  “Gio, what the hell do you think is gonna happen if they’re able to link the deaths to us?  McCoy was right, we’re in no position to pull this off.”  The president sighed.  “We’ll… keep this as a last resort.  I don’t want to escalate anything - Marzeni’s done nothing in relation to us publicly.”  Bianchi slightly shook his head, “That’ll change soon, I can guarantee it.”  Saulius shrugged.  “You’re dismissed, Gio.  Get some sleep tonight.”

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    • 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 Exkousiokrateia 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 Corsimenia
      I've almost worked up enough a backstory for my nation to the point that I feel I can actually start joining some of the roleplay, but as this is my first roleplay in Europa I don't want to make any sort of egregious errors. What would be the best way to bring my nation into contact the rest of the region? For example:
      Begin with the election of a president who is in favor of knocking down the isolationist barriers which his predecessors have set up, sending out diplomatic feelers to other nations. Decide to enter a war or other conflict which is already going on. Have some kind of crisis in my country which results in foreign intervention or at least interest. Randomly declare war on somebody. Invade more territory. That kind of thing. Can I just pick one of these ideas and roll with it, or is there one particular way in which I should endeavor to cure my n00bishness? (Not to RPing in general, but to Europa.)
    • By Tagmatium Rules
      To: Trade Minister Leo J. Conway of the @Sancti Imperii Catholico
      From: the Agios Basilikon Kounsistorion of the Megas Agios Basileia ton Arhomaion
      To his Eminence Archbishop Salius, through Leo J. Conway, Trade Minister of the Sanctum Imperium Catholicum
      Your Eminence,
      Salvia and Ahromaneia come from the same stock, although we have drifted apart over the intervening years. Perhaps too far apart, as both the Salvian and Arhomaiki people still share much with each other.
      Both of our great nations hold Christ's teachings above all and, although perhaps it could be considered that there may be some variations in how these are espoused by our nations, it is the love of God that shines through. Not only do we share faith in Christ, but our two nations also have a common heritage – it was, after all, Arhomaneia where Liosous set sail from in order to spread the word of God to foreign shores. And truly he did, as Salvia has stood strong ever since.
      In an ideal world, these ties alone would be strong enough in the face of adversity. However, the current mood of Eurth appears to be a darkening one. Nations that tread the path of righteousness such as ours need to cooperate, in order to strengthen the ties between Christian nations, as well as to make sure that our ancient civilisation can weather any storm that does wash against us.
      A first step would be to consider our nations' economic ties. Easing trade between our nations will undoubtedly work towards strengthening both of our nations, as well as helping our citizens understand each other better. Even at the moment, our nations do undertake a considerable amount of trade with each other, but this could undoubtedly be improved, to the benefit of both of our people.
      For example, passion fruit from Salvia are regularly found on the shelves in supermarkets in the Megas Agios Basileia, and mobile phones manufactured in your nation are commonly used by Arhomaioi. Wine is often bought and drunk by the people in Deopolis or Minotia and textiles from Arhomaneia are sold in Salvia. The Agios Basilikon Kounsistorion feels that our nations ought to consider easing the tariffs that are regularly levelled against the imports from foreign countries, as well as viewing any trade restrictions that might be put against the produce of our respective nations.
      It may also be considered by the Logothesion ton Kommerkiarionikou, the Ministry for Trade, that to show that the Megas Agios Basileia is willing to open our arms to our friends in Salvia that the fees charged on Salvian-flagged ships passing through the canal between the Raga Sea and the Krankes Thalassa, the Ranke Seas, will be reduced, in order to facilitate trade between our nations. This, however, be subject to the agreements that we are able to make, and what might be reciprocated by the Sanctum Imperium Catholicum.
      We will have much to discuss in any talks between myself, my government and representatives from your nation. Similarly, at a future date, it may be for the worth of our nations to look at visa restrictions between our nations.
      May God's light shine upon your nation and your people,
      Takitos Khalkeos,
      Megas Logothetes
      of the
      Logothesion ton Kommerkiarionikou
      of the
      Megas Agios Basileia ton Arhomaion
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