Second Rhaetian Republic
The City of Krullal, the principal sea port of Rhaetia, basked in the late afternoon sun. A hundred ships swarmed across the placid blue waters of the harbour; the wares of every nation in Mycoria could be found along the wharves and in the great market square currently ablaze with colour. The streets throbbed and pulsed with life as faces of every race hurried to and fro; copper, silver, and gold, changed hands as a thousand deals were made and folk became rich.
Massive stone walls encircled the city, embracing even the harbour itself; two massive lighthouses rising from the headlands to flank the harbour mouth. They soared over a 1000 feet into the sky and black smoke poured from one now as tarred ropes, refuse from the ships below, was burned to provide a landmark even in the middle of the day. On either side, muscled arms reaching high above naked torsos, great legs braced as if pushing, were intricately carved colossus that appeared to brace the lighthouses themselves.
"I always thought they'd have bigger cocks." Captain Sonnu Zen mused aloud, staring up at the huge figures as his ship slid slowly toward the harbour mouth, banks of oars rising and falling in unison.
"I find that about many men," Senator Sessi Dren replied with a smirk. "At least the sculptors of these giants were accurate."
"Heh, fair enough." Zen chuckled. "Fair enough."
He turned to look down the length of his ship. It was the latest in Rhaetian design, slim, sleek, and fast. It would be no match for a warship - that was not its purpose - but it could outrun a more heavily armed foe. Like many other things in Rhaetia, it had been built to be practical and efficient. There was nothing luxurious about the stepped back masts, sharply angled sails, or purple, silver banded, hull; but all of it suggested speed.
"Oars in!" Zen shouted. "Loose all sail!"
Oars clattered against the hull as they were stored and sailors chanted in unison as the towering mainsail rose up the mainmast. The wind caught it at once, causing the vessel to heel over sharply so that Dren had to grab onto the rail before she tumbled into the sea. The Captain shot her an apologetic look.
"Should have warned you, sorry."
"No need to apologize. I do not sail often." She felt her stomach heave as the ships bow met the incoming sea, rising above a wave before plunging down the far side, sending up a great curtain of spray as the vessel gathered speed. "Excuse me." She lurched miserably for the side and vomited, the wind whipping it astern in an instant.
* * * * *
"Oh thank the gods..." Dren raised her eyes skyward as she felt the firm stone beneath her feet at last. She would have got down on her knees and kissed the quay in gratitude, but even in her condition she knew that was a poor first impression to make on the Arkronians. Instead, her stomach growling with hunger, she smiled at the three grey skinned Arkronians who awaited her.
"Alan Arkronis. Welcome, Senator." The lead Arkronian said with a small bow. The two of them were eye level, a gift from her Orcish ancestors, and she returned the bow.
"Alan Arkronis. Thank you, Captain." She offered a smile. "It's been a long time since I was here."
The captain smiled in response and pulled a scroll from his sleeve, holding it up in front of him. "I am afraid the formalities must be observed." He said, eyeing the dozen purple clad soldiers who waited behind her, still on the ships deck. "Is this all of you?"
"Yes, nothing fancy I am afraid."
"We expected such a simple, yet elegant, party from your people." Another smile as he did a brief headcount, recorded the thirteen of them, and then, with another apologetic grimace, he began to read the laws of the city.
“Welcome to Akronia, capital of the realm. Residence of the King of the Arkronian nation and supreme overlord of the realm. Before entering the city I must first inform you of the most common laws. The carrying of weapons within the city walls that are longer than 16 inches is prohibited. Violating this law will result in disarmament and arrest by Arkronian police. All weapons that are prohibited must be left at the gate. These will be administered and stored upon leaving the city walls, these belongings can be repatriated by request in compliance with Akronian weapon laws as stated in the book of weapon laws, chapter 8, section 17, appendix A.”
The captain paused a bit before he continued. “The drawing and usage of weapons is considered a violation of the law until proven otherwise in front of an Arkronian court. Weapons should remain sheeted in public at all times. Being caught with unsheeted weapons by Arkronian police will result in disarmament and imprisonment. In accordance with the laws as written down in the book of weapon laws, chapter 12, section 4. The carrying of weapons within the walls of the royal palace is only allowed in the guest quarters assigned to the diplomatic mission.”
The guard continued to state a long list of laws. With ever increasing patience, and amusement, Dren listened at to laws that governed every aspect of day to day Arkronian law. If it existed, the Arkronians would have a law for it. Rhaetia itself was not so different, though there were even more laws for the freedom of all, and rule of the majority. At least they didn't insist on reading it to everyone who visited; though ignorance of the law was no excuse.
It took nearly 20 minutes of reciting laws, and stacking of weapons, before the Arkronians began to lead their Rhaetian guests into the city. Massive walls fronted the port and they had to pass through one of the massive gates, the smell of bubbling oil drifting down from above and faces stared down from murder holes. Rhaetians were common enough in Arkronia that their passage drew few glances from the general public.
Dren would have to have been made of stone not to notice how empty the streets were. They were largely deserted and only a few scattered folk came out to gawk at the purple clad guardsmen. The streets were still neat and orderly, almost as much as those in Rhungora. The few Arkronians stood well apart from each other without trying to make it to obvious.
"Things seem quiet, captain." Dren muttered quietly to the Arkronian who walked beside her. She had turned down the offer of a carriage for a chance to see everything for herself.
The male looked at her out of the corner of his eye as thought gauging how to answer the question. Then he shrugged slightly before glancing around the street.
"Rhaetia has long been a loyal friend to the Crown. You will the find truth soon enough. Our people are dying. Not all, mostly the young and old at the moment, but that is enough." He sounded deeply sad, and Dren could not blame him. Deep down she was concerned that the plague could easily spread to her people. They were of the same family blood after all.
The captain escorted his guests through marble streets and towards the centre of the city. The strict order and fortifications were a stark reminder of the sheer power wielded by Arkronia. They walked in silence now; each lost in thought of their own people, and what the plague might mean for them all. Dren found herself imagining the streets of Rhungora as empty as those around her, the great market barren of merchants, the forum devoid of life, the river free of boats.
Their winding path, almost unnoticed now by a populace cowering from an enemy they could not see, brought them to Arkronian Royal Palace. It was a massive walled complex that encompassed hundreds of smaller buildings and the main palace itself, a titanic white structure that dwarfed anything in Rhaetia. The white walls reflected the sun so that it was almost painful to look upon the structure and the wide moat, alive with ducks and turtles, that lay before the walls.
"It is an impressive sight." Dren said, breaking the silence at last.
"Yes, though I have heard Rhaetia has impressive sights of its own."
"Nothing quite like this. Perhaps you should come and visit Rhaetia some time, judge for yourself." The Arkronian delegation in Rhungora had its own small contingent of soldiers that was well liked by the locals.
"Maybe." The word was hollow. None of them could predict what would happen in Mycoria. Only fools could not see another war on the horizon. It was not a matter of if, but when.
Their path led them across the outer bridge and into the first ring of defences. The diplomatic villas were located here, it was not Drens first time spending a night in one. The Rhaetians usual villa was among the smallest, built among a cherry blossom trees and neatly kept. A small party of servants and a handful of guardsmen, permanently stationed in the capital, awaited the senator.
"This is you, Senator." The captain said with a nod. He made as if to turn away and then paused, glancing at her.
"I hope our people can look forward to many years of peace and prosperity between our nations. We may need allies more than we need vassals soon enough." He bowed. "Until then, senator."
"Goodbye, and thank you." The senator watched him go, his words echoing in her head. She hoped he was wrong, but in her heart of hearts, she knew.