January 1st, 1900
With the new appointment of the diplomats, a luxury yacht, emblazoned with the markings of the Kaiserreich, was sailing into the Port of London. It was arriving with the diplomat, reappointed to his post for the tenth time in a row. A decade of diplomatic convention had made the Alai invaluable, for his contacts and knowledge of the country were unmatched.
He had taken a brief foray back to Antenland to be reappointed by the Council of Lords, but now he was back in London. Or, at the very least, he was on a ship nearly back to London. The ship steamed in, docking at one of the larger docks. The ship was by no means small -- it was a projection of Antenland's glory, and very well had to be large.
With a flurry of movement, the gangway dropped down, and a crane on the edge of the yacht began to pick something up to place on the dock. A flurry of concierges came off the ship, each carrying luggage of the diplomatic envoy. The crane picked something up on the deck, and began to move to lower it onto the dock.
When it could finally be seen, it was a brand new Paerzwagen automobile. It was on a pallet, with a cloth wrap protecting the seats and dash from the weather. It was open-topped, with a back piece that could be extended forwards by hand to cover the driver in bad weather, acting as an impromptu top. It was unblemished by scratches or dents, clearly taken well care of.
Then, as it was being lowered onto the dock, the diplomat himself stepped down off the gangway, dressed in fine clothing. He had a pair of bifocals resting on his head. It was a familiar, and perhaps even welcome for some, sight. He was known simply as Amhold.
A horse-drawn carriage sat not too far from where the diplomat had landed. A clerk, giving the strange automobile a suspicious look, greeted the diplomat with a smile and invited him towards the carriage.
'The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs is waiting on your arrival, Sir, at Worthington House. He will be extremely pleased to see you and has prepared a dinner of the highest standard for your honourable self,' the clerk - one Samuel Thomas, whom Amhold had met on many occasions - said.
"Thank you, Samuel," responded Amhold, continuing, "I shan't keep him waiting. I assume my luggage will be in good hands, as always?" The diplomat moved to the carriage, speaking to Samuel again. "I simply will have to show you how my new Paerzwagen works. Much faster than a carriage, it's a marvelous creation. Perhaps that can be arranged after the meeting at Worthington House?" Samuel looked book at the 'Paerzwagen' and nodded slightly.
'I am certain that, if his Lordship the Secretary permits, it should be possible to arrange.' The clerk smiled as he closed the carriage door behind the diplomat and quickly circled round to enter from the other side. As soon as he was in, the carriage set off through London's streets towards Worthington House. It was by no means far away - purposefully so - but it was not good manners to make a foreign diplomat walk. Even if it was, unfortunately, a xeno. Samuel knew very well that Amhold was not ignorant of the Sacred Kingdom's generally dim view of all non-human xenos, but the man - if one could venture so far as to call the Alai that - generally appeared to put up a blissfully unaware front. He was a gifted diplomat, there was no denying.
'I pray that your journey here was easy, Mr. Sazenov?' Samuel questioned.
"As easy as crossing the channel can be. I never was one for sailing, much unlike the rest of my country. I'm glad to be back on dry land. I pray that all remained well in my few weeks out of country to be reappointed?" Samuel nodded at his question.
'Yes, all has been very well. The general public have been alive with excitement ever since Christmas day - the new century promises to be very exciting indeed. His Sacred Majesty has promised that this will be "Our Glorious Century". These are certainly interesting times, do you not think?'
"Indeed. The new century brings with it many promises and jubilations. The world is at peace -- though I have heard of trouble brewing in Cantor -- and every day it seems someone has a new invention or contraption. It is my hope that we may all continue to work together in harmony to produce a better, and more beautiful world," responded Amhold. Samuel smiled respectfully and nodded.
'Yes, one can only hope that that will be the case.' And with those words, the carriage at last came to a halt. Samuel excused himself, opening the carriage door and moving quickly around once more to open the door for Amhold, 'please Mr. Sazenov, right this way.'
Before them, the great white marble bricks of Worthington House, and its famed staircase, was visible. The porters at the great oak doors stood stiffly and opened the door as Samuel ascended the stairs with the honoured guest of state.
'I will hand you over to Mr. Stevens,' Samuel said to Amhold as the butler greeted them, 'he will lead you to your quarters and ensure that a bath and all your needs are catered for. Once you feel ready to see his Lordship, notify Mr. Stevens and I will be right with you.' Samuel smiled and bowed ever so slightly, before Mr. Stevens gestured respectfully for Amhold to follow him, and he took him to the large quarters Amhold was used to dwelling in while he stayed in London. After such a journey, it was was only good manners to ensure that their state gift had every opportunity to make himself comfortable and clean himself. But Amhold was used to Ulgyrikinan etiquette and protocols by now.
He made his way to his quarters, bidding the butler a hearty farewell so that he could take a quick bath. But only quick, however, for he did not want to keep the Lordship waiting. He took his bath and redressed himself, placing his signature bifocals back on his face. He did some minor grooming and fretting of his clothes, before stepping back out in the hallway to go to the dinner, smiling at the butler as he exited the room.
'Oh, Mr. Sazenov,' the butler said, 'just a moment if you will. Your bow-tie is just slightly...' he reached out and righted the diplomat's bow-tie ever so slightly before smiling, 'that's it.' Amhold responded with a, "Thank you. I do want to look my best for the meeting."
Soon enough, Samuel met with Amhold once more and both of them walked to Lord Robert Cecil's office. It was not, of of course, his permanent office, but it was the one the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs generally hosted foreign dignitaries in. The exception being for human dignitaries, who were hosted deeper in the city at Lodingly Place, rather close to Buckingham Palace.
Once they arrived at the door, the porter bowed deeply and opened it slightly. He waited for a signal from the porter on the other side before opening it completely, and Samuel bowed and gestured for Amhold to enter. Being a mere clerk, he would wait outside until the meeting was over. He did, however, hear the porter on the other side announce Amhold's arrival, before announcing Lord Cecil.
'The Most Honourable Lord Robert Gascoyne-Cecil, 3rd Marquis of Salisbury. His Sacred Majesty's Principal Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs.'
The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs: Lord Robert Gascoyne-Cecil, 3rd Marquis of Salisbury
The balding, bearded man, who had been seated behind his desk, arose at the diplomat's entrance and circled round to greet him with a firm handshake and a curt smile, though his eyes remained stern and censurious.
'It is good to see you again, Mr. Sazenov. I am most pleased that the Kaiserreich saw fit to reappoint you to your position. Please, be seated.'
Amhold nodded kindly and took his seat, before responding. "As am I. I do quite enjoy London and the surrounding countryside," he paused, before continuing, "it is to my understanding that in my few weeks out of country, some business has piled up that we must attend to?" Lord Robert nodded as he returned to his seat.
'That,' he said as he sat down, 'would appear to be the case. News has come to us of some rather...distasteful happenings in Cantor.'
Amhold nodded, "As I'm sure you've heard, the South Cantor Company has discovered some rather.. Distressing shipments. Hidden in cotton, they located repeater rifles. My first order of business would be a request for an investigation and sanctions against the relevant colonial authority that allowed such shipments to leave their ports. After all, we did track the shipments to originate in your Cantor holdings."
'I assure you that it is not the Sacred Kingdom's policy to ship weapons to any non-state parties. If it so happened that unsavoury individuals took it upon themselves to do such things, then we will ensure they are punished. But I assure you of the integrity of all our colonial governors - these shipments, if they did indeed leave our ports as you say, most likely escaped detection. As you know, with domains so large, it is impossible to crack down on every potential smuggler - but we pride ourselves on having done a good job of it thus far, and will endevour to ensure that such activities are quashed completely in future.'
"Thank you, your Lordship. I will not request an independent investigation from the Kaiserreich -- especially as agreeing to such would be tantamount to giving up sovereignity -- but I do request that we see results soon from your own investigations. The South Cantor Company is getting quite rowdy in their, I would say, rightful indignation. An indignation fully shared by me. I presume that you are expecting progress in your own investigations?" Amhold responded.
'His Sacred Majesty has, as of yet, not ordained any investigation into the matter. He has taken it upon himself to read fully into the various reports of the incident before committing the time and resources necessary to carry out a full inveinvestigation. It would be truly unfortunate were we to commit to such only to find that it is nothing but petty smugglers. I am certain you remember all too well the similar 1894 incident which, after much investigating, transpired to be nothing but the work of over-enthusiastic zealots seeking to help their human brethren. As soon as his Sacred Majesty decides on the matter, I will instruct my clerk to immediately notify you via telegram. But just to reassure you, I will advise the Lord Grand Admiral to commit another squadron to patrolling the seas around the Horn of Cantor so as to ensure that no Ulgyrikinan vessels steer off course for any reason in future. With that said, I must express my great disappointment that the conditions leading to such activities have not been looked into by the Kaiserreich. We have expressed our hopes in the past that the treatment of humans under your rule should be softened - if this is done, none would feel so strongly as to attempt to smuggle weapons. These activities are a symptom of a wider issue, Mr Sazenov. They are not the cause.' Having said all he wished to say, Lord Roberts looked to the diplomat.
Amhold sighed and took off his bifocals, taking a hanky to clean them with. He spoke as he cleaned them, "I am fully aware of the 1894 incident. I also remember that said investigation was pushed into action by my urging. I will not push you very hard to investigate in remembrance of that fact, but if the Company continues to locate more weapons shipments I am afraid I will have simply no choice. I do, however, greatly appreciate your promise to advise the Lord Grand Admiral. I can only hope that he acts on such advisories. As for the cause, I am fully aware. I would very much prefer to nip it at the bud, but as of now Kaiser Wilim has not authorized such actions. I am forced to work with what is available to me, as I assume you understand, your Lordship. As you full well know, I have been a major component for the demanding of fairer treatment for the Kaiserreich's subjects. It is out of my control, no matter my desire to fix it. I will continue to press the Kaiser to consider your line of thought, but I am afraid I cannot promise progress any time soon. He can be quite the stubborn man when he deems it necessary." Lord Roberts nodded in understanding.
'Of course, of course. I wish to express, on behalf of His Sacred Majesty, the Sacred Kingdom's appreciation for your continuing efforts in this regard. Cooperation with our neighbours has always been our foremost desire, and it is individuals like you who make that possible. Your efforts in opening up trade between our nations, for instance, has gone a long way towards normalising relations between us - despite past hostilities and crushing wars. With more people like you, this wil be - as His Sacred Majesty declared - a "Glorious Century" for all. Why, Samuel tells me that you have once more taken a stride forward in this regard, bringing with you a so-called "Paerzwagen automobile" from the Kaiserreich.'
"Indeed," responded Amhold, "it is my hope that we may enter an agreement that allows for the sale of these new automobiles in your country. It is, however, to my understanding that your roads may prove a little.. Bumpy. If it is required, I can arrange for the shipment of blueprints and perhaps even some road crews to assist in the creation of roads designed to support these new automobiles. We have quite the experienced road crew staff as of current due to the fact we have had to retrofit our own roads. I feel that with our cooperation, your country may soon be able to travel the island in a matter of days rather than weeks -- at least when your people are not taking the train. I believe this is a worthy goal to commit ourselves to." Lord Robert nodded slightly.
'It will have to be something I propose to His Sacred Majesty. He is a very active proponent of improving our train network, you see, so I am not altogether certain he would consider these automobiles for some time. If we begin to see rising income from our colonies in the coming years, I will be certain to push very strongly for these automobiles. If you are unable to use your automobile due to our bumpy roads, however, would it be at all possible for some of my engineers to have a look over the machine? I am certain they will find it fascinating.'
Amhold put his bifocals back on. "I am afraid the automobile design is a patented and protected design. I have no qualms with your engineers examining my vehicle -- as long as it is returned to me in the condition it was handed over, they are not cheap after all -- but the Antenland General Motors Corporation, the Council of Lords, and the patent office would take offense. I may very well be removed from my post if I allowed your country to breach the patent."
'In that case, I find myself very strongly averse to having my engineers anywhere near the vehicle. Your presence here is far more important to us than any machine. I very much hope that the automobile is kept very well protected - its loss may well cause an international incident, if what you say is anything to go by. If you do not have the sufficient number of men, I will have a squad stationed to guard it at all times.'
"Thank you for your kind offer, my Lordship. You prove ever hospitable. I am confident in my concierge's ability, but if you wish to be safe I will not oppose extra guards. I do wish to avoid any incidents. I will ensure that the Kaiserreich is informed of your dedication to ensuring the safety of our patents. It will look most favorable in my telegram home," said Amhold, smiling kindly to the Lord. Nodding, Lord Roberts shuffled through a few pieces of paper on the table before speaking once more.
'Is there anything else you would like to broach with me, while we are here, Mr. Sazenov?'
"Other than the recently discovered weapons shipments, all is well, actually. I am glad that there seems to be so few bumps in our respective country's relationships," he reached into his pockets, shuffling around a bit before taking out a tin of mints, "but before I go, I would like to present you with a small gift. I purchased these mints before I left Antenland. They are my favorite brand. Made with only the finest of ingredients, many of which are imported from exotic locations, I hear. It is my hope that you will find them enjoyable." Smiling slightly, the Marquis accepted the tin and inspected it for a few moments before opening it and extending the tin to the diplomat.
'Please, you would honour me by having one with me.'
"The honor is mine. Thank you," Amhold responded as he gingerly took a single mint, saying, "To the continued prosperity of our two nations." Lord Robert took one also and closed the tin before popping the sweet into his mouth. Amhold followed suite, popping his mint into his mouth as well.
'And now, just before we head to dinner. I was wondering whether you had the opportunity, during your stay at home, to speak with the Kaiser regarding the Firish issue. You did not bring it up during our discussion, so I anticipate you could not...'
Indeed, before his departure, Lord Robert had pressed Amhold to speak with the Kaiser on the issue of Occupied Southern Firland. The territory had been seized by the Kaiserreich in the brief war of 1871 and had since lain under occupation - a thorn in the Sacred Kingdom's side and a mark of shame. It was the late King's - and the present King's - desire that it should be in some way returned to the Sacred Kingdom. Lord Robert though that, perhaps, Amhold could be the key to its return.
"I am afraid that I have made no progress on that front. As it turns out, my return home coincided with the Kaiser's end-of-year vacation. By the time I returned home, he was out at sea already, and I could not contact him. He remained out at sea for the entirety of my reappointment. The Council of Lords and the Ministers proved most ignorant of my pleas to listen. It is something the Kaiser himself will have to decide on. I will continue to press his aide de camps to grant me an audience with him at some point, however." Amhold said. With a small smile, Lord Robert nodded and rose to his feet.
'That is very well. I did not expect progress so soon in any case. I am certain you will inform me of any progress once it is made. For now, let us put these weighty matters aside and go have dinner. I have ordered the very finest dishes in your honour - duck and deer, and a late Christmas turkey, for I know how much you wished to try that.' And with that, the Marquis and his guest headed out of the room and to the dining room.