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Ser Quentyn "Fireball" Ball

From a roll of bone, rose a raucous roar, followed by a drunken curse. A short ride from Summerhall, the castle town’s inns hosted a great number of expectant knights and tourney attendees, packing the taverns full to bursting. Ale flowed free, and gambling ran hot as men tested their fortunes on games of dice and tiles. Here, amidst the rough folk, far afield from the suffocating mask of the castle grounds, famed hero Ser Quentyn Ball, oft named Fireball bounced a half-dressed tavern maid on his knee. Wielding a rapidly draining tankard of best brown ale in his four fingered left hand, he tossed carven bone di in his other, all drunken mirth and wild as a youthful buck. A distant picture of the chivalrous knight ladies dreamed of from the fables, Fireball demonstrated himself more than willing to fraternize with these men, and banter with the best of them. Surrounded by over a score of hedge knights and squires he played a competitive game, finding many to be far more a match than those he faced in the Targaryen court. Losing a particularly costly round he tossed away his unlucky bones reaching for his tankard and downing the half pint in one go, letting the alcohol carry away the worries of lost silver lining the pockets of more skilled players. The comfortable atmosphere helped him relax, relieving the dark thoughts that had plagued his mind these past years. The scent of roasted pork, the cheery repartee of good company, and the gentle warmth of a beautiful woman occupying his lap. All worked to loosen his tongue and share tales of his youth, not that it took much loosening.

“Where was I? Oh aye. There I was, in the midst of that Dornish ambush near abouts Kingsgrave, a few leagues south of the marches. Naught but a broken lance in hand and a dirk in my belt. A boy of ten and four, and lost in the moment of it all. Never seen anything quite like it. There were near two hundred Dornish riders, all dressed up in orange and green and purple, fast as deer and fierce as lions. Part of Lord Yronwood’s vanguard. They snuck around our outriders and fell on our flanks, scattering the footmen reserves to the winds, leaving none but the three Kingsguard and ten knights to defend the King. His honor guard, and all that was left to see him through that fateful hour. What a day for the songs it was. Every man there fought like the Warrior himself, all while the greater battle raged below the ridge. I remember Ser Grell wielding his mace in a bloody dance. Ser Swann, whose axe alone claimed three Dornishmen, and whose horse slew a fourth. I was squiring for Ser Farman of the Kingsguard, and no greater man could a boy hope to squire for. He was a blur of blade and cloak, soon more red than white. The seven hells were packed in the evening hours, and many met the Stranger with the name Farman on their lips. He slew six Dornishmen and his lance had shattered on the last. He rode to me and demanded another, and he rode out again. Not hesitating or fearing death for a moment.” Fireball’s eyes were distant, lost in the memory of a battle long passed. He drew again from his drink, watching as his opponent rolled dice, once and again. Knowing he was keeping the eager spectators in suspense he continued his tale, his voice growing ever more somber. Fireball could weave an excellent yarn, and his deep baritone wielded an inviting tone that drew the listener in. The men about him were hushed, enamored by this retelling. Leaning forward they hung onto every word as if it were gospel from the High Septon himself. “He met his fate with the seventh man he faced… Baleysh the Vast they called him, descended of giants they said and I would believe it. Dornishmen should not grow that tall and strong, but he did. And he felled brave Ser Farman in a single blow, cleaving the white helm in twain. I cried out as my knight perished, whether of fear or anger I remember not. The good knight must have been dead before he struck the ground so deep set was the giant’s axe. When Ser Farman died the line was broken not but for a second, closed again by the whirling melee, yet it was enough for the giant to slip through and advance upon the King himself. Aegon, fearless noble Aegon would not be intimidated, but even a dragon proved little match for such a foe. He was knocked from his horse and disarmed. Baleysh was on him in a heartbeat, to capture or kill I cannot say. Perhaps he fancied himself a king slayer, mayhap all he desired was the glory of forcing the King to yield. Whatever his intentions, it was not his day for such a prize.”

“What happened next?” A squire asked, utterly enraptured by the narrative. No doubt he already knew, this one was a popular story for young lordlings eager to imagine themselves on a distant battlefield, the last line of defense for the King himself. Such were the childhood fantasies of young men, whose minds were all of battle and blood. To hear it from Fireball himself though who lived those very acts of valor, that was worthy of its own story and Fireball was more than happy to oblige them, eventually.

“I intervened.” He said with a grin. Ignoring the impatient groans of his audience he tapped a copper coin on the table calling for another drink. “Storytelling is thirsty work.” He protested as a few of the rowdier patrons jostled him to continue.

“Best save your coin.” One of his dice opponents chuckled as he rolled well once again. “You’ll owe it all to me soon enough.”

Waving their protests and jabs away Fireball tortured them for a minute more until his tankard was filled and the maid was paid. “Alright, alright let’s see… I recall it well, the lance Ser Farman handed me had shattered in such a way that it left a jagged point. Even as the king fell from his steed, I forgot all reason of self-preservation and ran the giant’s horse through. Straight into its hearts. I was strong, even as a boy and the wood bit deep. What a powerful destrier it must have been, a shame it had to die. It launched the giant up into the air, away, away with its death throes and he fell. I swear upon the Father it caused the earth itself to tremble when he crashed upon the dirt. Up he came with a roar like a lion, barely a heartbeat after he fell as if it hadn’t happened at all. He rose in a fury unmatched and raised his axe to do me in. I tell you true, I had no desire to die. I drew my dirk and made as if to parry his blow, and what a fool I was to think I could. The power that man possessed… Like the strike of a bear, it cut through the steel of my knife’s guard and took my finger, near enough my entire sword hand.” Fireball lifted his left hand to show all present, where a terrible scar remained. Unseemly white skin pulled taunt over where his left pointer once resided. The wound cast a spell over the audience, as all present gapped at it, trying to imagine the terrible scene in their mind’s eye. The desperation and ferocity of the mismatched fight, as a boy made his final stand against a terrifying foe. The evidence made it all seem more real. Fireball wasn’t done, not here and not in the story. His pitch grew louder, more intense and triumphant as the tale drew towards its glorious conclusion.

“I collapsed; my own blade driven into my helmet by the force of it. My knees simply could not hold me upright under enduring his wrath. He must have thought he had done me the same as Ser Farman, because he stepped right over me. Not a second glance towards the boy who had killed his mount. A word of advice lads, this is why you always ensure the man you face is dead or done. Underestimate no foe, no matter how small for death resides in carelessness. I freed my knife and cut straight through his breeches as he passed. A cock the size of my arm fell from him, and a spray of blood blinded me, and oh you should have heard him scream. You see, the thing about Dornishmen is, they love their fighting as much as they love their fucking. And when they aren’t fighting their fucking, and I had just made a great many women down in Sunspear very sad. For the giant was now a eunuch and bleeding like a stuck pig. Not that it slowed him down, or weakened him. A wound that would cut the fight from most men just made him angrier. He picked me up by the throat as if I weighed no more than a feather, intending to snap my neck with a twist of his hand. The Mother smiled on me that day, for after six buckets of blood drained from his sliced groin the strength faded from his arms, and I thrust my dirk beneath his helmet, straight unto his dark eyes. He died then, at long last and the day was won. The Dornishmen routed by a charge of Vale knights and the giant lay slain at my feet.” His tale concluded Fireball grabbed the girl upon his lap and kissed her and the men cheered raising their tankards in salute they drank deeply.

“To dead Dornishmen and soiled Dornishwomen!” One knight called to a roar of approval.

Watch your tongues, lest the Prince cut them out.” Cautioned another who had witnessed Maekar's justice.

“Wait… I heard you used Blackfyre to slay the giant.” A squire protested when the ruckus died down and Fireball broke away from his woman. “You took up the King’s sword and defended him, lopping off the monster’s head in a single blow.” A few murmurs rose up as men considered their own favorite retellings of that day.

“I lopped off a head of his with a single blow,” Fireball jested into his drink, foam clinging to his red beard as he rumbled a laugh at the lad’s disappointed face. The boy’s version did sound more worthy of the songs, but rarely did Fireball exaggerate. He never needed to; others would do that for him. “Just not that one, and not with the King’s sword. Nay, I castrated Baleysh and he bled out. Near crushed me when he collapsed, but King Aegon pulled me out from under the corpse. Gave me a knighthood that very day before all the army, but I didn’t feel much the knight.”

“No? You had saved the King. Such an act is worthy of knighthood most would say.” Came the inquiry.

“Aye, that I did.” Fireball’s dice opponent was waiting expectantly. He shook the cubes, raising his clenched fist for the woman in his lap to blow upon them. The roll was followed by the expectant moan as Fireball’s terrible luck continued. He mused for a moment, listening to the crackling of the fire and the excitable conversation all around. The truth of it was rarely as pretty as the singers claimed. Luck more than skill had brought him alive through that day, fortune he should never have possessed. After all the retellings, with the events of the battle still burned into his memory and dreams, he could not fathom how he managed to survive. He could still recall the terrible strength, as the fingers closed tight around him throat. Blinded by the giant’s blood he kicked and fought to no avail. The desperate slashing of his knife scraping uselessly off the steel helm as he squirmed helpless like a mouse caught in a lion’s jaws. The wash of relief when his blade sank home, and the power in those arms suddenly receded like the tide as they fell in a heap of blood and metal. He shook the memory away like dog drying itself from a swim, a wry grin on his lips. “The truth of it is, while the King charged me to be brave in the name of the Warrior, I still stank of mine own piss.”

The unexpected line brought a peal of drunken laughter as the men and boys rolled about on the dirt floor, unable to contain themselves at the thought of the legendary figure pissing himself out of terror. That would be a story to share with their grandchildren. It was no loss to him, and one day they might find encouragement in the knowledge that even heroes felt fear in those crucial moments. Fireball joined in on the banter as a few other experienced warriors shared the stories of their first battle. None of course could top slaying the giant of Dorne and saving the king, but that is what separated the wheat from the chaff. The ability to seize opportunity when it came, and Fireball did not waste a moment. Cheering for victories of all the men around him, no matter how small. Raising spirits and building rapport and memorizing names, he had always been good at that. He never forgot a face and the name attached. When the hours grew long, and Fireball deep into his cups felt his purse grow worryingly light he called off his game conceding defeat to the better players. “Away with you robbers, or I shall have no coin left for the lists. I exhausted all my luck years ago clearly.” He threw away the dice and took one last draw of his empty tankard, catching a few stray drops on his tongue.

One man, a younger and cocksure fellow counted out his winnings, smug in his victory he bantered boldly with the elder warrior. “Say, my Lord Fireball, should I bet these on you in the joust? I assume your lance is better than your di.”

“I am no lord, merely a knight such as yourself. However, on that final point you can be certain pup. My lance never misses its mark.” Fireball stood and stretched; his muscular arms crossed behind his head until the old joints popped to his satisfaction. He had lost track of the hour, and his family would be arriving soon at the height of the afternoon sun. Summerhall was a good half hour ride away and he wouldn’t want to miss them. “Save your coin for another, lad, I intend to allow some other champion a chance at victory this time. I cannot win every tourney, or else the bets grow stale don’t you know? No, these next few days I intend to relax and spend some time with my kinfolk, whom I rarely see these days. I’ve swung enough swords and lances in my day to sate my lust for such activity. Though I wish you all good fortune, and the Warrior’s courage and Father’s strength.” There were other reasons he would not be participating, namely he did not have the time. There were a great many conversations to be had, lords to meet, hedge knights to rally, but that he left unsaid. He leaned close, his voice lowering so that he only spoke to those present, the dozen or so still listening. His words lost their slur, and though his breath stank of alcohol his voice held a certainty you would not hear from a drunk. He turned his emerald gaze on each in turn, making them feel known and respected. “Lads, if you do want someone upon which to risk everything, I would wager every last copper on Blackfyre. You can take that, as the word of Fireball.”

Straightening he adjusted his sword and kissed the maid one last time before swaggering from the tavern, steady and straight as an arrow, as if he hadn’t drank a single drop.

Finally got around to finishing it, might be a few edits for grammar mistakes but otherwise complete.

I'd be partial to Robert's Rebellion myself.

Skirmish off the Neketalan Peninsula, Between Conquerdian and Neketalani Vessels.

Warning from the lookout it seemed, would be unnecessary for it would appear that the Neketalans possessed a few tricks of their own. Augmented eyes the humans aboard the Komet could never understand spotted them from many miles away, and an eerie disembodied voice hailed them from outside the natural range dousing any hope of slipping past unnoticed. A hush had fallen over the crew, every man had heard the words and it was a demand taken well into account. Two enemy vessels, both of which outsized and outgunned the Komet, who was still many leagues from a friendly port. A single lucky hit from one of the hostile guns could rupture the steel hull, and the frothing ocean would do the rest. For Captain Geoff Numernorf it was the realization of a foolhardy command decision, and one that might just cost him his life, but never his honor. He would rather see the Komet sink below the merciless waves then turn her impressive technology over to the Neketalan demonspawn. He paced the bridge, his mind working furiously, silently counting down the precious few seconds he had as the twin threat bore down upon them.

The Irket class vessels were formidable works of engineering themselves, but how quickly could the Komet outpace them? Assuming their size and speed were similar again to Conquerdian heavy cruiser. Geoff worked some quick mental math, comparing them against his own ship’s predetermined and assumed performance calculations. The main factor would be the turning and angle adjustment of those light guns, the heavy ones he could outpace he was certain. It would be close, presumedly they would have to get lucky in the range of three to four times. But if his timing was right… Five seconds left, he stopped his movements wild blue eyes locking on his First Officer. “Number one, give orders to prepare to raise the colors, if we must die, we do so under the Royal banner. Have the crew remain at stations and have all non-essential personnel below deck. I shall have the helm slow us to one quarter speed, and have white flares fired. That should confuse the enemy sufficiently, I doubt they know our protocols and they might assume it is a signal for surrender. But I have no intention of surrendering my ship. Furthermore, we will not allow the Neketalans to fire first, on my command target the bridge of the secondary vessel and then bring the ship to flank speed. We’ll see how skillful those scum are at tracking a moving target.” Letting his voice carry Geoff addressed the general crew assembled on deck through his open command window. His low tones heard even over the intemperate seas. “Hold your fire and nerve lads, until you can see them in the eyes. Let them draw closer, and we will be upon them like a cornered dog, and away before they know what has happened. The Neketalans send their women to do a man’s work. Let us show them the error of their ways.”

Like twin shooting stars the pale flares of a Conquerdian naval vessel illuminated the overcast sky. She slowed her approach until she was at less than a quarter of her initial momentum, as if inviting her captors to draw near and board. Less than a kilometer separated them now, and the twin Irket class cruiser broke formation, skillfully maneuvering to surround their quarry and cut off any hope for escape. Except, that was the moment Captain Geoff Numernorf was awaiting. Knowing the enemy would be fully prepared to attack on a moment’s notice timing would be of the essence. He snapped the order to fire. Four blasts echoed across the waves sending shockwaves off the water, rocketing four 152mm shells towards the Avuetis. Numernorf counted the seconds not even waiting to see if any hits were scored, his hand raised at the ready even as the defiant orange and blue of the Dual Monarchy was hoisted from the mizzenmast. One second, for the shocked Neketalans to realize they were under attack by a surrendered enemy. Two seconds for them to reach for the firing mechanisms to send twelve two hundred and three millimeters of armor piercing death flying his way. Three for the three thousand, two hundred feet the shells needed to traverse to hit him. “NOW engines to full! Give me that push!”

Three things happened simultaneously as the Komet was tested to the breaking limit of its hull’s capability. First, full fuel rods of manarite were fed into the engine core, sending a surge of power throughout the gear works that shook the vessel and knocked anyone not strapped down off their feet. The prow rose up from the water, in a near comical display as hundreds of tons of water were suddenly thrust away by the drive wheels. Secondly a great microburst opened up from the heavens showering a thick torrent of rain, and six thousand feet per second winds directly upon the Komet in a rush of downdraft. Like an enormous invisible hand, the gale caught the raised prow and nearly lifted the ship clear of the ocean’s grasp. So powerful were the winds that ropes snapped, and the Dual Monarchy banner was ripped away along with the caps of all the deck crew. Several cries of anguish could be heard, and the unlucky lookout was thrown from the mast by a snapped line, dead before he struck the merciless black waters. The priest behind Numernorff strained, as the enormous magical surge sapped at his strength until he passed out from the pressure. But he had achieved his task. He had allowed Numernorf to dodge a bullet, twelve bullets in fact, and with a ship no less. The Captain crowed as he struggled to his feet, bleeding from the nose and mouth from where he struck his face during the excessive forward thrust that had pushed the light cruiser forward like a racing boat. But the blood and pain could not fade his mocking laughter at the dumbfound looks that would surely be painted across the Neketalans faces.

His jubilation was cut short by a mighty explosion that rocked the speeding ship to its starboard side. “Impact! Hit on the aft and portside our secondary battery is destroyed!” The First Officer reported. A lucky Neketalani gunner had no doubt been delayed, or held off firing with the initial volley and was able to score a deadly hit on the aft battery sending its magazine up in flames. Whoever had made the shot, her precision was something to be admired, but Numernorf was not going to wait about to see if she could pull it off again. A quick glance at the pulverized remains of the gun crew, and the twisted metal of the battery itself was more than enough indication of what would happen if they outstayed their welcome. Trailing black smoke from a barely controlled fire the Komet sailed at top speed towards the northern horizon, slipping past the circling hunters before they could come about, desperate to escape the heavy cruisers’ max range before they could reload and bring their guns to bear.

@Lady Lascivious

East of the Neketalan Peninsula, roughly One Hundred miles from the Coast.

These were no seas for inexperienced sailors nor captains faint of heart. The heaving waves smashed against the new age steamer’s steel-clad hull testing her riveted frame to its limit. Manarite driven engines churned the great gear wheels working the propellers that drove the vessel forward at unnatural speeds faster than even the most maneuverable coal powered frigate. Like a great seabird, soaring across open skies she raced upon the water, leaving a foamy grey-black trail in her wake. The cruiser Komet presented an impressive sight of new technology and she cut across the violent waters of the off the southern peninsula of the hated Neketalan colony in an open defiance of territorial waters. The Royal Captains of the Conquerdia navy were growing bolder by the day, and Lord Captain Geoff Numernorf was no exception. With the mighty Komet under his experienced hand he had once again dared the mighty Neketalan navy, sweeping into disputed waters and nearly collied with a ponderous cargo hauler. An impact that would have greatly favored the steel hulled warship had the victim not tacked hard to port, nearly capsizing and losing a great deal of her valuables overboard into the depths. A few Neketalans might have gone over as well, and Numernorf smirked in sadistic pleasure at the thought of them being dragged beneath the surface by their waterlogged tails, never to be seen again.

The human officer allowed himself and quick glance over his shoulder, his eyes catching no sign of pursuit through the water drenched panes. Not that it would have done the abominations any good he thought. The sun might be their ally, but the winds were at his back, and his god would never abandon him. A terrible wave rose ahead, catching the cruiser roughly midships, knocking her off course. Numernorf barked an order and the helmsman was quick to adjust the wheel, bringing the Komet back on course, North, by Northeast towards Conquerdian controlled seas. Although unofficially sanctioned by the Duel Monarchy a lone ship on a raid through rival waters could expect little aid south of the river Laun. Caught out here in open waters after aggressive action would mean certain death or worse, most likely sacrificed to the sun. A fate Numernorf and the two hundred sailors under his command did not wish to experience.

“Ship away, northwest, ten miles and closing!” The lookout’s warning came, barely audible over the ocean’s rage. A fresh energy came across the crew, they did not know how, but a ship had appeared ahead of them, traveling perpendicular to their course as if to cut them off. Whether by design or pure luck they had been caught red handed. A moment of panic swelled within Numernorf, but he shoved it away as foolish cowardice, the battle-song swelled in his heart. “No sign of a standard," the lookout continued his report, "but she looks to be a heavy cruiser, with cannon aplenty.”

“General quarters, ready at the guns!” Numernorf ordered, not that the six-inch double barreled turrets would do them much good. They had no chance of scoring an accurate broadside in these conditions. At least, the low decked cruiser would prove an even tougher target for the enemy gunnery crews. For the moment the Conquerdian ship would be unidentifiable, flying no standard or markings that would betray their “unofficial” trespass, but it would not be difficult for the Neketalans (if that was who sailed the approaching ship) to summarize what was happening. After all, similar events had been occurring all throughout the summer as tensions continued to ramp up along the border. “Ahoy lookout, have they spotted us yet?” One of the tremendous advantages of his modernized manarite driven pistons was its lack of smokestacks. Without the clouds of billowing black smoke, the ship proved exceedingly difficult to detect. An expensive, yet effective solution to avoiding pursuit. Conquerdia had three now, and a fourth nearing completion and Numernorf was sure as hell not going to be the first captain to lose one of the new prides of his nation, especially not to a Neketalan.

“Uncertain sir, she’ll be cutting across our bow left to right and she isn’t adjusting course.”

Numernorf could detect an edge of fear in the young lookout’s voice, echoing his own concerns. For all their bluster and her enormous price tag the Komet and her sister ships were not battle tested. The captain stroked his beard in thought as he considered their options. They could cut southeast, flee for friendly ports in the Gukou colony, or maybe even Bessaruga. Or they could test the full potential of their manarite engines and make a mad dash. Engaging in a uncertain naval battle against a larger ship was a step too far, even for the aggressive border policy of Conquerdia. Whatever occurred it wouldn’t be long until they were spotted, and he needed to make his decision fast. The captain grinned, a fire burned within, and he had always been a cocky son of a bitch. Besides, why were they paying for these fancy engines if they never got to really use them? He spun on his heel, issuing orders left and right with gusto. “Send my regards to engineering, and have them prepare to feed the cores to full capacity, and open up the drive shafts. On my order give her everything she’s got. Lookout, inform me as soon as we’re spotted and the enemy brings her guns to bear or adjusts course. Helm, keep us steady on and away, ride between the waves and give us as much time as possible before we’re seen.”

“Aye my lord!” Came the chorus as the men scattered to fulfill their orders.

Turning Numernorf faced the oddest man present on the bridge. It was a hooded figure, dressed in drab grey with a bright red cross upon his chest. It was a strange and archaic garb compared to the blue and bright orange uniforms of Conquerdian sailors. The man sat cross legged upon the bridge’s deck, his hands folded into a strange symbol. His garments fluttered and shifted, as if a rouge breeze was playfully tugging at the fabric.

“Priest, your services are needed. Will the gods grant me favor?”

The priest’s eyes fell shut and he whispered, the playful ghostly tugging at his clothing growing more intense as he communed with beings of magic. At last he opened his eyes, an almost childish grin alighting his face. “The wind is playful and daring, and admires your boldness. What favor can he gift you?”

“I need a push.” Numernorf laughed, “A big one at just the right moment…”

In the City of New Landinburg, Within the Halls of the Landinstag...

The final autumn session of the Landinstag was in order at last! The heads of houses, nobles and elected officials from all across the twin realms of the Dual Monarchy were assembled in New Landinburg, officiating the final matters of state before the Fall recess. An unusually humid morning, paired with the regional warmth had forced the assemblage to leave the windows open. Calls of the seabirds and the bustle of midday business filtered through as dozens of servants wove between the highborn officials, carrying platters of chilled beverages. Lounging upon his padded throne the High King of Conquerdia, Franz Hansvaul idly sipped his drink, only half listening as the hundred odd members of the Landinstag heard the concluding arguments and cast their final votes. Two weeks of proposals and debates, and finally his quarterly suffering was at an end. The Landinstag would present the Kings and Duchess with the committee’s decisions, charging them to carry out the peoples’ will. Franz lost interest in the Mayor of the House and let his gaze travel down, to where is counterparts sat, just slightly beneath his own throne. On his left, was Marietta Hansvaul, of Parlov. The Duchess sat ramrod straight, papers and notes littering the table in front of her as she took notes, listening intently to the final speeches of the lords. Marietta was nearly twenty years his senior grey haired and wrinkle lined, and yet as capable of a woman as ever, whom all respected. Not just on religious principle either considering she was the head of the Dual Monarchy’s official faith. She was disciplined, attentive, and engaged, the polar opposite to the monarch that sat on Franz’s right. There, reclining on the wooden Vinlac throne resided Franz’s great-nephew Aleksy Hansvaul, the crown prince of Vinlac, and a boy of eight, who was busy picking his nose and looking bored out of his mind.

Franz could hardly blame the child, these were the last days of warmth, and perfect swimming and romping conditions before the dramatic seasonal shift that sent the mild tropical climate of the northern isles into a short yet bitter winter. A child should not be attending the Landinstag at all, but circumstances demanded. King Varanski of Vinlac had been declared unfit to travel, his sickness forcing him to remain in Virlanca. Tradition demanded the Landinstag have a monarch for which to entrust the will of the people, and thus Varanski’s son. It had been thought that little Alesky might learn something about matters of state from the assemblage, but all it seemed to be teaching him was how to dig out his own brains in front of some of the most important persons in the Dual Kingdoms.

Reaching across Franz subtly thumped the young prince on the ear, jolting the boy from his meandering thoughts. “Sit straight, and listen well.” He murmured beneath the general chatter. “The Lord Mayor Callhanmark presents the proposal for the renegotiation of the Eurokin treaty. Which concerns your Kingdom greatly.” Deciding to heed his own advice Franz rolled back his shoulders, refocusing his attention upon the Mayor of the House, Lord Callhanmark, who was addressing the Landinstag.

“-Left our diplomates without a question in their minds. The savages have insinuated that more is required to the goal of shoring up and preserving our mutually beneficial relationship. It has been contended that the Eurokin remaining loyal is of high priority. This can only be accomplished by an increase in annual tribute from the Vinlac crown. The amount has been determined at five thousand additional bushels, and seven hundred heads of cattle. Alongside twenty thousand golden marks.” There was quite a bit of grumbling at this, especially from the Vinlac lords who knew they would be shouldering the majority of this burden. Even so, they were aware it was a small price to pay to keep the savages up in their snowy mountains, and away from the fields and mines that served as the lifeblood of Vinlac. “The funding and presentation of the increased tribute shall fall upon the Vinlac Crown. Unless there is anything additional to be added or said, we shall finalize the decision. All in favor?”

Before a chorus of ayes could be sounded, a grey-haired lord of Vinlac jumped to his feet, an apprehensive air about him. “I would speak my lord.”

“You have the floor sir.” Callhanmark seceded taking his seat.

The lord glanced once down at a collection of complex numerical figures upon his notes before speaking, his voice resolute and unwavering despite his grim words. “I have reviewed the finances of the Crown of Vinlac, my aides arrived in the early hours of this morning bearing the official reports of the royal census. The good King, Varanski himself, along with many subjects have suffered from a foul plague which has swept across Vinlac leaving many of the peasantry and lords alike stricken and or dead. The crops have been poor, and numerous floods and fires have wasted golden marks by the hundreds of thousands, in lives and structural costs. Furthermore, this noble assemblage has determined that Vinlac reinforce and update critical border infrastructure and fortifications, and gather an additional thirty thousand active troops to the royal army.” The lord stalled, taking a deep breath before continuing. “If my reviews are accurate, and they are, the Vinlac treasury is already empty, and the Crown is enormously indebted. Should this additional weight be added, the Crown may be forced to default.”

A hush fell over the assembly, it seemed impossible. Within the islands the Dual Monarchy had a reputation of financial excellence, a worthy investment for prospecting capitalists hoping to establish manarite mines in the resource rich mountains. It was no secret that the Vinlac economy had been lagging behind its counterparts, but it had always managed to fumble along well enough receive continued investment.

“This is an outrage. There should be an inquiry by the Landinstag!” Someone shouted at last. “To determine if the King of Vinlac has mishandled the matters of economics. Royal incompetence!” A roar of ayes and hisses rose from the crowd, even the aides and servers joining in. To Franz’s right Alesky stiffened in his chair, suddenly fully alert, his eyes searching for the man who dared dishonor his father. Franz himself was furious, struggling to keep his temper under control. Generally the affairs of Vinlac were left to the Vinnish king, but to reach the point of default and to have a lord forced to bring it forward was outrageous. An egregious breach of trust, and from his own nephew. Varanski would have much to answer for, but not in this way. Matters of the royal family were his business. Rising to his feet Franz clapped his hands together, his rumbling bass tones bringing the arguments to an abrupt end.

“SILENCE! The High King SPEAKS!” The Landinstag Hall fell into quiet, and Franz Hansvaul waited until not a whisper of dissent nor squeak of chair remained. “There shall be no inquiry by the Landinstag. The royal authority shall see to this internally. All present hear my decree of adjustment. To the matter of Vinlac security, the Kingdom of Conquerdia shall take on the burden of expense, to both the southern border and the Eurokin tribute for this year. Furthermore any additional financial increases for the Kingdom of Vinlac shall be placed upon the Crown of Conquerdia.” A few Conquerdian lords shouted in disapproval, but Franz’s fierce gaze brought them back to silence. “No more shall be said on this, no word of this particular subject shall leave this Hall under penalty of punishment. Lord Mayor Callhanmark, you may continue.”

“Thank you sire.” The Lord Mayor’s tone was frosty, and Franz knew there would be hell to pay for making such a decree. It was in his power to adjust the Landinstag’s decisions, but it was a tentative one, to be used sparingly lest it be taken from him. The Monarchy’s control was fragile, wobbling in an uneasy balance, and if he stepped on too many toes what little executive authority the crown had left would be stripped in a heartbeat and chaos and war would follow. An unfavorable result indeed. Once the general votes and speeches continued Franz leaned over on his throne, speaking out of the side of his mouth to Duchess Marietta.

“Join me tonight, in the Besaih Tower for supper. I require your assistance in drafting a letter to my nephew.”

The Duchess’s face was grim. “Yes, I think you are right. It is fortunate he was not here, or there might have been trouble. The Landinstag would have demanded he answer for this.”

“Fortune, or cowardice?” Franz growled, his eyes flashing. “I suspect the latter.”

“The plague in Vinlac is real enough.” Marietta counseled diplomatically. “I have never known Varanski to be a coward, he has led many a military victory, and demonstrated tremendous valor. Sometimes the matter of economics are outside the control of even the greatest monarchs, Vinlac has suffered greatly in recent years.”

“Possibly, but courage on the battlefield, and courage in the Halls of the Landinstag are distinct.” Franz argued, but the calm words of the Duchess cooled his flaring temper and brought reason to his mind. His letter need not be so harsh perhaps.

“What of the prince? Should we excuse him from the assembly to avoid…” Marietta asked, inclining her head towards the boy, who was still glaring down at the lords and officials.

Franz glanced towards his great-nephew and shook his head. “I doubt he was aware of Vinlac’s current economic state, and I imagine Lord Callhanmark thinks so as well. As long as he keeps his mouth shut until the end of the session there should be no trouble. The Landinstag will have other matters to distract them, rather than interrogating a child. I can take him down to the shore with my children tonight. An evening in the water and sand should rid him of this memory altogether and avoid any uncomfortable exchanges.”

“Wise,” Marietta murmured, her gaze darkened by worry. “The House of Hansvaul needs no further humiliations this day.”
@Dusty I like most of it, but the only question is I was wondering how you envisioned his fleet to function in more of a narrative sense. I don't know if I caught how long most of them would have been around Tal, or where most of his crew comes from -- like if they've been around forever or if they're all new additions.

Howdy, I figure the fleet would be utilized as an extension of how Tal could interact with the other characters and narrative at large. Almost like a very big gun Tal Yamam can wave around, instead of him fighting directly. Most of the vessels and their crews would be manned by droids, holdovers from the Clone Wars, with a few replacements having been scrounged and filtered into the ranks. However, battlefield casualties have left several vital stations sparsely occupied, forcing Tal to rely ever more on conscripts pressed into service, and volunteers from Separatist worlds.

Someone preform CPR quick.
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