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.
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.
"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."
By Tagmatium Rules
* Most Secret, for the eyes of King Aidan I only*
To: His Majesty, King Aidan I of @Seylos, Eire, Pleinmont, and Sark
From: the Agios Basilikon Kounsistorion of the Megas Agios Basileia ton Arhomaion
Your Royal Highness,
It is felt by the Agios Basilikon Kounsistorion that our nations have demonstrated a good ability to work together, as shown by the Aluxian Civil War and the recent crisis in the Makhaira Thalassa (the Dolch See). The Kingdom of Seylos is a stabilising influence in eastern Argis, and one that Ahromaneia is keen to support. Your nation has stood as a bastion against the influence of your north eastern neighbour, which, despite its recent silence, will likely remain a threat to civilised nations for years to come.
In light of this threat, and that eastern Argis seems to be, by steps, becoming ever more fractious, the Megas Agios Basileia comes to your government with a proposal.
Some years ago, the Agios Basilikon Kounsistorion purchased a pair of aircraft carriers from the Greater Queendom of @Suverina. The circumstances surrounding this purchase was that Arhomaneia and Suverina had had a deterioration of relations, after starting the development of these carriers as a joint project. It resulted in my nation being forced out of this project, with no reimbursement of costs incurred. Later on, relations between our nations improved and the Megas Agios Basileia was invited to purchase two carriers at a reduced cost. At the time, it was considered to be an offer too good to pass up. The Prince Michail II carriers were classed as the Despotes class when purchased by Arhomaneia.
However, they have proved to be surplus to requirements. With the Grand Federated Imperium of @Adaptus, Arhomaneia had co-developed the Protathlites tou Christou class aircraft carrier and the Despotes class never became part of the Basilikoploimon. The two vessels have therefore remained mothballed since then, although every effort is taken so that it would take little to make them operational once again.
In light of our good relations and the sterling effort Seylos makes in keeping eastern Argis from descending into anarchy, I have been charged by his Imperial Majesty, Kommodos III, by the Grace of Christ the God, Agios Basileos kai Autokrator ton Arhomaion, to offer the Despotes class to the Kingdom of Seylos.
If you are willing to consider this, I am to invite your majesty to dispatch a delegation to inspect the Despotes class ships, in order to see if one or the both of them are to your nation's liking. Then our governments can discuss a price that is fair and equitable to both.
May Seylos continue to be a beacon of light in a dark wurld.
Logothesion ton Stratiotikou
Megas Agios Basileia ton Arhomaion