7b151 No.90879[Last 50 Posts]
Can you believe we've reached thread #12?
To summarize, this thread is a continuation of a CYOA game that has long been hosted on pregchan. King Edward of Ruhemania is the protagonist. Over the course of the story, which dates all the way back to December 2015, King Edward has arisen from unlanded nobility to a full-fledged King. He's faced many challenges along the way, and will face many more. He is a foreign King in a distant land, but he has many assets on his side. Most significant…
His ability to charm women, seduce them, and impregnate them.
If you're a new reader, previous threads will no doubt look daunting in their length, but I promise there is (what I hope) a worthwhile story to be found that both excites and intrigues, with plenty of sex. Everyone, old readers and new, are invited to vote in the latest poll for the choice they'd more like to see happen. I will then write the results until a new choice is available. You aren't merely voting in a game: you are writing the story with me. I hope it's enjoyable.
The only rule is that everyone has one vote. Please only vote once in each poll. Posting your reasons and persuasive arguments for why you made a choice and why it is the best choice is encouraged. It helps me understand more about reader expectations and what the audience wants to read. However, please do not post side-discussions or emotional reactions in the thread. For those, please use the latest chat thread, located here: https://pregchan.com/c/res/10693.html
This will help keep down on the posts that count toward the post limit (and when I will have to make a new thread). It will also keep the atmosphere of the thread genial. I want every reader to be comfortable voting however they like.
For clarity, please write your vote: "Option 1/2/3" or "Write in:". Please make this the first line, and then write whatever commentary you would like. This is for my sake and makes it much easier to tabulate and calculate which option has won. Of course, I will still count every vote regardless, but it makes it a little easier for me.
Please also write out your full vote. Do not reply to another vote and say "I agree with this reply and vote for what they voted for." Please don't do this because there have been issues where a person will hate made a mistake in which reply they meant to click. Please be unambiguous with your vote.
For the record, write-ins are encouraged. If they are impossible because of a conflict of some character motivation or established facts about the world, I will note this and explain why it's impossible to the best of my ability and give the reader a chance to select a new option.
One last thing to note is no non-consensual sex scenes will be depicted in the story. It was decided to exclude these to maintain a positive tone throughout the story and will not be violated. For the matter, every character depicted in a sex scene is "of age." This means over 18.
Previous threads can be read on the web archive:
Thread #1: https://web.archive.org/web/20170619163636/http://pregchan.com/d/res/12251.html
Thread #2: https://web.archive.org/web/20170619123902/http://pregchan.com/d/res/14131.html
Thread #3: https://web.archive.org/web/20170619104842/http://pregchan.com/d/res/15553.html
Thread #4: (warning, it was on bbw-chan and the link has a defunct connection to some pop-up ad. Just refresh and it should go away.) http://web.archive.org/web/20160412094726/http://bbw-chan.net/elite/res/536.html
Thread #5: https://web.archive.org/web/20170619134833/http://pregchan.com/d/res/16909.html
Thread #6: https://web.archive.org/web/20180307043453/https://pregchan.com/d/res/24119.html
Thread #7: https://web.archive.org/web/20180930122947/https://pregchan.com/d/res/33943.html
Thread #8: http://web.archive.org/web/20190601012420/https://pregchan.com/d/res/48104.html
Thread #9: https://web.archive.org/web/20201013192858/https://pregchan.com/d/res/57807.html
Thread #10: https://web.archive.org/web/20210303103506/https://pregchan.com/d/res/79111.html
Thread #11: https://web.archive.org/web/20210517073757/https://pregchan.com/d/res/86445.html
until it 404s)
You consider which Chrisania sibling you'd most like to see.
You just got done with Robin, after all.
…You hate to turn down the women, but it may actually be in your best interest to search out Corrin.
You made him your Chancellor. That's not a ceremonial position. It has real authority. That's going to be important to how you relate to neighboring countries. Elbania is probably the most relevant.
Elbania also has diplomats at the castle as you speak.
–You decide you'll at least look for Cordelia first.
She may be at the stables. The day is winding down. You'll make a quick visit.
Indeed, there's activity in the stables.
Horses are being seen to, and…
You see Cordelia, and Malon.
You brace yourself for some confrontation between the two.
But you find they're actually interacting… amicably?
They're talking about Eclipse and the other horses.
Melon exclaims on seeing you, and moves to curtsy. Curtsy like a peasant, at least.
Cordelia follows, much more refined.
You bow, then… exchange a few words.
Cordelia was examining Eclipse. And talking with Malon about possibilities for breeding.
"She's very much impressed me, Your Majesty."
Malon gives you some details about mares and you pretend to know what she's talking about.
Inwardly you're thinking about what Beatrice told you about Cordelia and Malon's relationship and how Cordelia hated her.
Though… that seems to not be the case. You don't think there was any falsity in them talking genially a moment ago.
Was Beatrice wrong?
–No, you think making Cordelia have control of the stables must have completely altered their dynamic. Her opinion has changed.
Malon isn't a pesky servant getting in the way of what she wants to do, she's a valued expert answering her questions and considering her needs.
This is a very pleasant surprise, though perhaps it isn't a shock.
…You really want to know if Malon thinks she's pregnant or is showing, but you can't think of a way to enter the conversation without being obvious.
Besides, there's other stable-hands bringing horses in.
You make smalltalk instead about the joust. Malon tells you all horses fared well. None suffered overwork or were injured in the contest.
You wish you could say the same thing about the humans who participated.
Eclipse especially is fit and ready to ride whenever you choose.
You thank her, and Cordelia as well. If she'd like to make any extreme changes… your ears are open.
You leave them both in good spirits and with a relieved mind.
At least you can consider this issue resolved.
You step toward the wing of the castle that is housing the aristocrats for your Faire.
You look around for a maid to stop and ask for direction, but you can't find one.
You do encounter an older guard who you ask to direct you to any of the Chrisania siblings.
He replies he has no idea who those are, so you must describe them.
It's when you realize you're describing Camilla in an almost obscene way that you say instead you should be looking for her brother, Corrin, who has a delicate look about him.
He directs you to one hallway. It gives you a few doors to knock on.
The first one you try produces…
You exchange some light pleasantries. You ask if he's well and subtly ask if he's seen his oldest sister. He replies they share the same room. She's not there with him, but she should currently be with her new husband.
Yes, of course.
"Should I pass on any message, Your Majesty?"
You decide talking in the hallway about her when Corrin just announced she's married is too scandalous. You pass.
Damnation. You should have gone to handle Ricardo.
At any rate…
You tell Corrin that you have diplomats from Elbania in the castle. They'll be at the gathering you have before the Faire is brought to an end.
You want good relations with them.
He tells you that of course he understands, and if you want to discuss any sensitive matters, to please have him summoned at any time. Good.
…You can't think of anything more to instruct him off-hand, especially not to speak about in an open hallway, so you decide you'll end your talk there.
You wish him and his siblings well, then depart.
Sunset's growing closer…
If Camilla's really with Ricardo, it'd be pushing your luck to interrupt.
They may not even be in the treasury.
You decide to call it a night and return to Tharja.
You share a salute with the guard placed at the entrance of Tharja's wing. It's one of your Loyalists. You ask him briefly if he's aware of his new general.
He is. He knows about you passing your sword to her. He expects great things from her if you went so far as to do that.
His answer is exactly what you want to hear. That was a perfect show of pomp from you. You thank him for being candid.
He adds something before you go: a tiny whisper:
"It was getting obvious they were trying to drive her away. Fast."
… You nod. You tell him not to say another word.
You hope you'll still be confident you made the right decision in a few days.
You greet Tharja in her bedroom.
After the long day, it's a relief to see her.
She massages your aching muscles that are still recovering from the joust.
She tells you, voice confident, that she's ready.
"Beatrice has helped me realize the Church can't harm me anymore, my husband."
You nod. It can't.
–It can harm you, but you don't need to say that.
You tell her about the Faire and what happened to Noi.
"…You did the right thing, Edward," she tells you.
Of course, you don't doubt for a second that leaving Noi to absorb calls of 'demon' would've been awful. Possibly would've caused her to quit the army and leave the castle.
You're just grateful you got through to the crowd. That your popularity is high enough after the jousting tournament.
Tharja kissed your neck.
"Husband, you underestimate something… it wasn't just that you're popular, it's also that it was the right thing to do."
…Yeah. Tharja's right. You need to trust more that Just actions will be appreciated. Even if it required shaming the crowd.
–You're also nervous about the troupe and Princess Alena. Tharja does her best to soothe your worries.
"They're entertainers. I'm sure they'll be back tomorrow with more."
…Tharja is starting to 'massage' your back with her beasts.
You can't help but groan and tell her you like that.
You can practically hear Tharja grin, even though she's behind you.
"Maybe you'd like this, too?"
She climbs on top of you, putting her front flesh with your back.
You can feel a cascade of dark waves of her hair fall around your skin from her hair as she rubs her face between your shoulder blades and kisses your muscles.
You let her have fun, knowing she'll enjoy your body. Hands touch your hard rump, your thick leg muscles, your masculine arms.
"You're so strong, Edward…"
You decide turnabout is fair play.
You roll over until Tharja is on top of you, your hands on your hips.
You confess, you were having a great problem lying on your back. Perhaps she can figure out why…?
You shift your hips and rub your hard manhood against her thighs.
"Oh… I'd never want that, Edward. I see there's a muscle I forgot to message…"
You spare only a moment to find the lotion Beatrice gave you before you spend time indulging in passionate, frantic love-making. You fill Tharja's pussy with your virile cum. She shudders and milks you for all you're worth, letting out soft moans that are music to your ears.
…Ah. That's what has been strange about this day.
This is the first time you've had sex all day. That's a rarity. But it explains why you're eager to be especially intense with her.
In the end you pull her close and finish by kissing, deeply. Her nipples rubbing against your bare chest like hard erect nubs.
The only downer from your visit is Tharja is yet to have a bump, still. Hopefully soon.
You depart Tharja's wing, telling her you'll see her at breakfast.
You return to your own room to sleep. The guard reports no irregularities. Good.
You climb and sleep soundly, a bit drowsy from the attention Tharja gave your body and how satisfied you were from your sex.
You awaken the next day.
You go down from your tower, intent on making yourself presentable before the service. Shaved and washed.
You'll have the morning to do one thing, but that's it.
Before you can get too far, you find a maid waiting for you.
She's been sent on behalf of the maid in charge of the servant hierarchy.
The preparations for the aristocrat gathering are complete.
You can either have it scheduled for tomorrow, or allow a 'free day' after the service being held today.
After the gathering, the Faire will wind down. More people will leave. Certainly there will be no reason for the aristocrats to stay, and the merchants will recognize that. Peasants will return to work.
It may be wise to have one more day to do something, or you could consider it to end with no regrets.
>Tell the maid to schedule one last 'free day' between the service and the aristocrats' gathering. Tomorrow will be open for more activity.
>Tell the maid the aristocrats' gathering will occur the day after the service today. Another day of free activity won't be needed.
End the Faire with a bang.
Option one. One last chance to see girls who arrived with the faire before we get back to normalcy, I think.
Option 1. Let's stretch this out as much as we fairly can.
I think there is still one loose end or another to tie up. For one, we should talk to Dimitrie (probably with Robin) about procuring ash wood for more crossbows. And we probably want to talk to his mother. It will at least be necessary to convince Dimitrie that his mother no longer owns him if we have a little staring contest with her.
And by the way… can I make a request, aristo? When an opportunity presents itself, can we have a sex scene with Elizabeth? I feel like we've neglected our sex-slave (and the only one of our women with a noticeable bump) a bit.
Option one. If nothing else to get a chance to apologize to Alena.
I will try to work in another scene with Elizabeth soon.
>6 votes for option one, insert another free day between today and the aristocrats' gathering.
One more day before the aristocrats' gathering.
You tell the maid that the day after the service should be a time to pause and reflect.
There can be one more day in between.
She nods and tells you the appropriate preparations will be done.
That's that, you suppose.
You go on to have your morning meal.
You have a solemn talk with Tharja and Beatrice about paying respects to the Church and God and all that.
Your food has been reduced in portion size.
After your midday meal, you'll proceed immediately to the service. The service is currently being conducted in the peasant settlement
Hm. That may make it easier for you to go out into the Faire by yourself today.
You make a vague excuse to ask for Beatrice's hand for a moment after the meal.
You take Beatrice aside and ask for more coin. You explain you're going to use it in the Faire and also to throw at the Church.
She gives it to you without reservation. Your lotion supply is also replenished, but you had an almost full container anyway.
You spend some time washing up and making yourself look as neat and tidy as possible. You want to impress. You're the King after all.
You have enough time for one real activity. It took you some time to wait for the water and finish taking care of your hygiene.
Where do you go from here…?
You rule out the Chrisania siblings. They're likely preparing for the service. Dimitrie as well.
Choice time:>You want to check on Alena. Perhaps you can salvage your relationship after what happened.>You want to check on Mania. Somehow you doubt she'll be at the Church service.>You should find that poetess. You can decide if she'll be entertaining your gathering or entertaining 'you'.>You want to see if Robin's made any overnight changes to the army. Go to the armory.
Option 2. Unless I'm being forgetful we haven't proposed to her to stay around the castle yet.
Come to think of it, you're right. Changing to option 2.
I promise I'm not trying to keep us away from Mania. I fully intend to go visit her during our final free faire day tomorrow. But during the peasants' service is probably our best chance to make amends with Alena and potentially still get with her. Even if she's not at the service herself, I can't imagine she'd risk performing opposite the priest. Tomorrow she'll be busy performing, so now's really a prime opportunity to go chat with her.
Option 2. We can go visit Alena on the final day, and hopefully provide both an apology and a repayment for any… lost value, from the show we accidentally interrupted.
>2 votes for option one, check on Alena.
>6 votes for option two, visit Mania.
Visit Mania, tell her about the change in the law and ask her to stay.
Poll closed. Update soon.
This may be your best chance to see Mania without anyone seeing you.
You don't know when she may choose to leave, either.
You decide to go to your Faire and brave the pathway to Mania's cart.
As you anticipated, it's much less crowded. And Mania's cart even less so. You don't even hear her yell out about milk for sale.
…It's quiet. Too quiet.
It's when you peek under the shade of her canopy and see her standing there that you jump.
"Hehehe… sir has returned."
There's still cups of milk set out.
"Did you realize it, sir? That you asked for five cups, but in the end did not take even one."
… You took from her something worth more than cups, you say.
Would she like it if you joined her behind her counter again?
"Hehehe… of course, sir."
Her grin never bends, and you can feel your legs hustling excitedly as you rush around the length of the cart.
You enter through the back, embracing Mania's darkness once more.
Mania has stepped out, she stares you right in the face, tilting her head back.
She really does have you dead to rights.
Yet she doesn't push you away.
Her hands move to the hem of her dress, her body straining and she lets out a groan as she bends, before she raises herself back up to standing, taking her dress with her until she shows off her impressive bump.
…You're weak and immediately embrace it. You gently wrap both of your hands around the sides of her belly and stroke her taut skin.
You go down on one knee and rub the side of your clean-shaven face against the hard skin.
There's no doubt you're not rubbing her sexually, not as someone would touch a pregnant woman's belly in curiosity or congratulations for their upcoming babe.
Mania meanwhile strokes your head, gently. She caresses your head and strokes your hair, encouraging you to relax and feel her up as much as you need.
"There, there… enjoy my body… hehehe…"
You curve your hands under her bump and take in the shape of where her belly juts out.
You roll your fingers up from the perfect bump until you find her beautifully big popped belly button and play a bit with the skin.
She truly is amazing.This bewitching little witch who gives you what you want so freely…
…Would she lie in your lap, this time?
"Hehehe… if this hag is not too much of a burden for the sir."
You shake your head. Of course not.
You've sat down on one of her buckets while she shakes herself out of her dress.
All in all, her body could use a bath, but it's simply how she lives.
And you can't deny your penis doesn't care.
Your leggings trap your confined cock again, which wants nothing more than to be free.
But fiddling with it would mean missing out on the sight of her body shaking out of her clothes. Of her waddling over toward you.
She stops in front of you, her eyes surely must have seen the bulge in the middle of your crotch.
"Hehehe… sir has let himself become trapped."
Her hands reach out to free you from your leggings. You arch your back and moan as your cock is exposed to the air.
"Poor sir… this hag will help you."
Her hand reaches down to touch your crotch.
At the same time, her belly touches the top of your thighs.
To make matters worse, you stare down and can see only her cleavage from her huge breasts, swollen with milk.
…It's too much.
Before she even touches your member, it bursts forth with a strong stream of cum. Twitching, aching.
Your seed jumps up and covers Mania's belly and ample and enormous tits.
She actually blinks in surprise, touching it with her fingers.
You start to apologize. You can't remember ever cumming right as a woman was about to touch you. Especially not on them instead of inside them."
"…This is so very thick…"
Is she keeping track of your seed?
It's a cute notion. Cute, and true, apparently, as she moves to the side.
"This is worth more than mere planting… this will become a very good omen…"
…All you can do is groan.
It's to be expected, you muse. You almost ended up abstaining from sex, yesterday. And this was your first orgasm today.
Stimulation like Mania's pregnant belly when you've been in a pregnancy-free desert… you couldn't keep yourself from coming.
You can't tell, but it looks like Mania is fiddling with her tools. Is she putting it on wood she intends to carve?
Well, she can have her… 'superstition' as the Church put it.
"Hehehe… sir has given this witch much, for very little."
On the contrary, you say. Mania has… satisfied you in a way no woman has in quite a while.
You wait for her to finish and then hold your arms out for her.
She climbs into your lap and you hold her.
Her hands aroun dyour neck, there's nothing stopping you from feeling up her body to your heart's content.
Big breasts, big bump, big ass, big thighs… it's all yours to caress and fondle.
Finally you feel the babe stir and kick under your hand, making both you and Mania shudder.
You've almost forgotten.
You turn your head up and press a kiss soft to her lips.
Mania, you say…
You've changed the law.
She turns her head, as if you've said incomprehensible gibberish.
…Villages will no longer shun her, or turn her away.
A witch or a 'hag' like her… she'll be treated as any other traveler. Not as an outsider that must be shunned if they think she 'might' be doing harm.
She'll be judged entirely by what she does, not suspected just for being a witch. Though she'll still have to stay apart from them.
This was something you could do, as King.
She turns and stares at you, her eyes scrutinizing yours.
Her usual creepy grin is gone.
… You can't help but remember Beatrice's observation that there's 'something going on' with Mania. Is she looking at you and seeing something else? Or is this the 'real' Mania that lies underneath all the dedication to witchcraft and destiny?
At any rate, you wait.
"Sir… says something interesting. Sir says the people merely regard this hag one way or the other, because of the law?"
–Well, it's not that simple. But, yes. King Vlad's will was law.
Mania settles back into her usual grin.
"The Goddess has no law… the King can make any law and the Goddess will give and take as she does. What for do you make this law, King?"
…Her sake, you reply.
And the sake of the child in her belly.
You want her to stay. In your castle. And you want her to be safe and not persecuted or feared.
"Hm… but it is natural for a hag to be feared. This hag never felt even one grudge against those who scorned her."
She pauses for the moment.
"Staying… may… allow this witch to give many more blessings. Hehehe. Those women you sent… this hag was willing to bless them. But it was refused."
You decide to say nothing about Tharja or Beatrice. You don't want the conversation to take an unproductive direction.
Instead you just say… meeting her has been a blessing. And not just because you're a maiesiophile.
"Mm… one may say this hag is corrupting the King, if he alters law and other things in his Domain to appease her."
–Does she feel like that's the case? That you've altered the law because of her will?
She shakes her head.
"I made no such request. It must therefore be the King's own will. Ah… but is it destiny…?"
She rolls her head against your shoulder.
"I… will… stay."
You let out a long breath you'd been holding in.
"Moreover, I will help you. This castle needs many blessings. I will bring them to you. …As much as I am able. Will you help me, sir?"
"The Goddess is everywhere. The Goddess gives freely. But, the spirits… need much to be appeased."
In other words, as King, you can do things Mania can't.
…She doesn't mean teaching your peasants about the Goddess, does she?
Mania laughs and shakes her head.
"The Goddess's good nature does not need to be taught. It simply exists. This witch cannot teach it, even if asked. Neither would I want to."
Ah. In that case it might be all right.
You can't help but remember Nara's prediction. That a spiritual figure would appear in your life, and you would accept their religious teachings. Is that Mania?
It doesn't seem to be if she's saying knowing the Goddess's will is purely for her and not for anyone else.
At any rate, you'll keep an open mind to her requests.
What did she have in mind, you ask? Her… 'blessings,' that you can help enable.
"…Hehehe. What always weighs on this hag's mind."
The state of the poor.
The common peasants.
"This hag hasn't gotten close to them… but she's smelled them."
She's used her cups to bless many of them, but she can only do so much.
She wants your help. As King.
Thinking of it that way, it almost makes it feel like you're hiring Mania as an advisor.
–An advisor who lives near the peasants and can see what they're doing.
Something no aristocrat would care about. And something Beatrice has told you she won't do. And Mania seems purehearted enough to take this seriously, and not abuse your trust.
This could be worthwhile.
…You decide to open up a vulnerability to Mania.
As King, you've had to consider many issues.
Politics, the Church, your army, the treasury…
Mania is the first person who looked you in the eye and asked 'Do you help the poor?'
You… liked that. It's necessary to remember.
She laughs, but it's a bit more strained.
"This hag is not surprised by sir's words. If this hag's own words help remind sir of the part of him that is a Good King, that is… good. Yes. I will stay. Sir will have a hag living in a cart in his castle."
You nod. That settles that. Mania will stay at your castle. Hopefully her presence will remain tolerated.
You'll use her to better understand the wants and needs of your peasants, through the medium of her 'Goddess' and 'spirits' talk. It seems to be all she really cares about, and it's probably the best window into their lives you would ever get, as King.
–Does she have any suggestions, you ask? That would appease the spirits.
Beyond giving alms and other things anyone can do.
Mania puts a finger to her cheek, enough to leave an indent, thinking.
There is a looming presence that displeases the Goddess and the spirits. It makes them not want to do magic. To not bring their blessings.
It is as if a ward was cast around the castle that means to keep the people dreary and afraid.
Moreover, not just the peasants, but every visitor, that is those people at your Faire, right now, has been affected.
"This hag speaks of… those stakes."
You don't need to hear anymore.
A person died on each one. It was practically common knowledge to everyone except you when you first arrived.
You have to admit. They don't exactly promote a festive mood.
Her describing the field as akin to a 'ward' that makes people afraid isn't wrong. Especially when it came to King Vlad.
"Will sir help remove the ward?" she asks.
It… might be a bit of a project to handle right now.
Mania shakes her head.
"Need not happen right now… but someday. If removed, then the spirits will begin to gather in Castle Valachia more."
It's actually a bigger decision than it sounds, you think.
Removing the stakes… it's basically saying you'll never raise another one.
Not that you'll never execute another person for their crimes, but that the stark punishment for disobeying the King's will is gone.
It might embolden people to disobey you by extension.
Besides that, if you remember correctly, there's a small military advantage to having them? Something like if cavalry were to charge around the castle, they would be impeded ever so slightly.
On the other hand, she's completely right.
The stakes are gruesome. Unambiguously a sign of oppression.
Moreover, they're a definite tie to King Vlad's legacy.
But, should you remove them?
>Promise Mania the stakes will be removed, at some future time.
>You won't commit to removing the stakes.
Option one. We can commit to this for no cost at all since Mania said this doesn’t need to be resolved immediately. When Robin fully takes control and we have no more loose ends, then we can remove the stakes.
Option one. They really needed to come down before the faire, but better late than never. Changes from the old ways are coming faster now anyway.
Tentatively Option 1, but a bit of clarification requested. Are these vertical stakes, or diagonal ones? If they're vertical I would definitely endorse Option 1.
These were planted vertically. Time may have caused some to warp or shift in position. Daniella's description to Edward in the climax of thread #3 would be the most stark description of how they were used. (Not through their back with the stake sticking out of their torso, as media sometimes indicates.)
Please continue to vote.
Option 1. >>91003
seems sound to me.
>5 votes for option one, commit to remove the stakes, and never raise another.
Commit to removing the field of stakes around the castle.
Poll closed. Update soon.
It is something only you can do. And you don't doubt Mania is wrong about the effects on the peasantry. Or anyone else.
You tell her she's right.
You'll remove the stakes, very soon. Another one will never take their place.
Inwardly, you think it will probably have to come when the work on Beatrice's tower is completed, but it won't be as if you have no laborers around to do the effort.
Mania smiles, curled up in your arms.
"Hehehehe… when that day comes, the spirits will surely smile. And the people in kind."
You nod, rubbing and caressing her fat thighs. You shudder as you coax more pleasure from Mania's body. More kicking from her full-term belly.
Your cock slowly gets erect again, and Mania idly spreads her legs and envelopes your cock with her thighs, letting you hump against her with her belly in between you and her.
You don't even need Beatrice's lotion as her skin gets so slick with your precum that she's easily taking you. Her hands hold your body as you thrust in simulated sex and spurt out more copious fluid, which jumps up and paints her belly again.
"Hehehe… sir seems like he would inseminate me all day if he had the choice," she says, gathering your seed in her hands.
You'd put her body on a pedestal and worship it.
If propriety allowed it you'd take Mania to your room and stay there with her until she popped.
You babble out what you're thinking without thinking it might scare her. But, even those strong words do not get a strong reaction from Mania.
"I see… hehehe. This truly was destiny. But to think sir would be moved to such extremes…"
She trails off.
Does what you say offend? Does she value her 'freedom' to travel?
You wondered if maybe Mania chose her life as a witch purely because she wants to be a nomad, without settling down.
Mania shakes her head.
"Some of this hag's happiest times were when surrounded by people."
She explains that she fashions crude shelters for herself in the rain. Or otherwise may just sleep on the forest floor.
But the winter is harsh.
–The winter would be harsh. You've heard Ruhemanian winters are incredibly harsh.
How does she survive you ask?
"Hehehe… in times like those, no one has cast this hag out to die."
Meaning, even if a village has bartered with her to the fullest extent where she has no more to offer and gotten tired of her 'blessings,' they still have the charity to open their doors and let her sleep indoors with a hearth during the winter.
She has her own food supply saved up by then, so they're doing no more than letting her sleep in a corner.
…So she's used to sleeping with people all around her?
It doesn't bother her to share a room with a stranger, or many strangers, even if it means sleeping on the floor?
…It sounds like Mania would've appreciated it more if you changed the law to let her freely enter and live in the peasant settlement.
Well, it's for the best. You can't be sure how well she would have integrated. No matter how kind she is, the talk about the Goddess does distract.
Not to mention woodcarving seems to be her only talent.
How are her breasts, you ask?
"…Hehehe. Would sir like a taste?"
You latch on to Mania's nipple with your head on her belly again. Her milk fills your mouth and slides down your throat. It seems less salty, but that might be the fact that you experienced the full flavor when you first met.
After cumming twice, you're drowsy. So much so you feel like you could sleep.
The fact Mania starts singing a lullaby to you doesn't help. Her voice is soft and the song has a sweet melody and slow rhythm that relaxes you. It would relax anyone.
This woman… she'll be a good mother.
You'll visit her and gift her with her second child after she's had her first.
The thought makes you happy.
…Unfortunately, it's when she's whispering tender musings about mama protecting her little chick in its cradle that you realize you very sure shouldn't fall asleep.
"Sir?" she asks, surprised.
You unlatch yourself from her breast and sit up, rubbing away the moisture from your eyes. You hurriedly go back to rearranging your clothes to make yourself presentable.
You apologize, but… you can't stay forever. You have to go back to being King.
She sounds disappointed, but you can't help that.
…You tell her you'll do your best to return to see her. Either before the Faire is done, or after.
"Mm… please come back, sir."
… You give her one last hug, then depart before you're tempted to change your mind.
Damn. Damn. Damn.
You hold your sides tightly and pinch yourself with your hands hidden under your clothes. An old technique you used in your childhood to snap yourself to seriousness when you felt too much emotion.
Unfortunately, leaving Mania like that didn't help you escape the turbulent mood you put yourself in.
You grit your teeth and hold back the pressure in your eyes as you walk in a straight line back to the castle.
The lullaby was simply too beautiful. You hated that you knew you had to end it before you fell asleep. The sweet song about a sweet mother triggered a nerve and now you're paying the price.
It's… fine. You're fine.
You try to concentrate on the positives.
Mania will stay. She'll be safe. Even in the winter, she'll be safe. A third witch inside your castle walls.
Your distress turns to resentment as you recall Beatrice's words about Mania preferring to stay powerless forever. –Whatever.
She was your window into the well-being of your peasants now. Even from a purely selfish view, a peasant revolt would be terrible for your castle and your Kingdom.
You take a deep breath and make your way back to the castle itself, feeling a bit more stabilized.
Unfortunately you have a similar experience to the last time you enjoyed Mania's milk. You're so full you barely have time for the food.
You force yourself to consume a few mouthfuls at least.
"Husband? Are you all right?"
You nod and say you're fine. The anticipation of the service is simply affecting your appetite.
That ends that discussion.
The time comes.
You, Tharja, and Beatrice, along with all the other nobles who've gathered in your Faire, head to the room where the service will be held. Ostensibly the chapel.
It's full, but it usually is. The difference is the servants have mostly been forced out to make room for the aristocrats.
They're too busy doing other things, most likely.
You do a quick head-count as people come in…
…There's Ricardo, but he stands near Camilla now. You envy the old bastard.
There's Corrin, Cordelia…
…You don't see Robin.
Furthermore, you don't see Dimitrie.
Robin you may have expected to be absent since you just made her general, but what about Dimitrie? A side effect is you have no idea which woman may be his mother, or if his mother is even here.
…You scan around for any final oddities.
Ah, you spot one.
They're all members of the Old Guard.
None of them are your young Loyalists. Is that by design?
…No, you understand. This would be a break from guard duty and other work, so the soldiers are using their seniority.
In fact, you see the senior guard come in behind them. He must have washed his hands of his responsibilities by now.
Well, that's fine.
You sit next to Tharja as the priest comes in.
Tharja and Beatrice make no moves other than the usual solemn movements and responses everyone makes as the service goes on. So far so good.
This was much better than asking Beatrice to impersonate Tharja.
There's a moment you're not expecting when the priest mentions you by name.
"…And we must thank our Monarch King Edward. In his wisdom, he has seen to it that witchcraft will be treated as the mere superstition that it is… no unfair hunting of confused women! Simple tolerance of live-and-let-live, with witches having the same freedom as any traveler…"
You listen, and it seems that line is generating some murmurs.
But, it actually sounds… positive?
You hear a lot of affirmative calls of 'reasonable,' and 'very kind.'
That's a pleasant surprise. People are reacting well to your new law. Your more considerate, lenient law. You feel embarrassed that you must actually feel relieved.
Though, those in the audience are all aristocrats. Learned people. It makes sense they would agree with the priest's assertion that witchcraft was mere 'superstition'.
The peasants may have reacted differently.
Ah, yes. Who could forget this part of the sermon?
"…and let us all thank God for the hierarchy of nobility, at which God placed the King at the top…"
There are assorted, very muted, very solemn, calls of 'Long Live King Vlad.' It stands in vast contrast to the heated, fevered praises you heard while he was alive.
A side effect of your Loyalists being forced out. If the room had the soldiers that favored you in it, you don't doubt you would have heard enthusiastic shouts of 'Long Live King Edward!'
It may be for the best. There's no particular lingering on intoning King Vlad's name. If anything, you think a few aristocrats may have passed on uttering it altogether.
–Especially Beatrice, who you couldn't help but notice stood very stone-faced during that part.
Time comes for donations.
You, as King, are dead first in making an offering.
–At least you came prepared with Beatrice's gold.
But how much to throw in?
Too much might set too high a bar for other aristocrats to match. Too low might make you look cheap.
You could just hedge your bets and throw a middling amount, but if you do that, you don't doubt no one will throw more than what you put in. The priest may not appreciate it.
You only have another second to decide before you are in front of the offering box.
>Throw all of Beatrice's gold into the offering box.
>Hedge bets. Throw a middling amount.
>Offer a small, token amount.
>You're feeling vindictive. Make a show of taking out all the money you have in your pocket, hold it in one hand clearly visible as you use your other to pick out one or two small coins. Then put that tiny amount in the offering box, and pocket the rest of your gold. Someone's sure to be impressed.
A public display of support for the church in the form of handing large donations will forge psychological approval from those who also believes in the Church’s power/influence or are a part of it. It would also make them less likely to oppose Edward’s reforms directly as he’s shown himself to be a crucial financial sponsor of the religious organization in the eyes of the people. As the saying goes, ‘don’t bite the hand me that feed.’
Option 3b / write-in: A small amount now with some words about Edward thinks that he will show his appreciation for the church in some other way later.
We absolutely cannot publicly spend Beatrice's magic gold while our treasurer and his new apprentice are looking!! Edward took "a handful of coins" from the treasury when the faire began and has been seen with some purchase or another since then. Ricardo will have counted how much exactly Ed took and will know that something's fishy when we pull out a Beatrice's gold. And depending if Camilla's training has already begun, she will know as well. We cannot risk that!
By changing the subject slightly, I think we can get out of this situation and make progress on other fronts. The peasant settlement has its own small church, right? I bet it needs repairs. Maybe the roof is leaking, maybe the windows need fixing.
Edward will promise to have it repaired. After the construction of the tower is completed. If we spin it the right way, this shows that we care about the church not only in some abstract way because we have to, but that we actively encourage worship. And: We do something good for the peasants more directly than ever before. And thirdly: If we're lucky, we can use some left-over construction material and the workers who are already on site because of the tower. This would certainly please our accountant(s).
But, for the love of god, do not spend Beatrice's magic gold directly in front of Ricardo and Camilla.
I have forgotten to take Camilla and Ricardo’s presence into account. You are right.
In that case, I will be supporting this write in instead.
I hate to say this directly. But I will: do not put too much effort into tracking this. At least not at this moment. I've put no hint in the narrative that Edward should be tracking this and if it were an issue, I definitely would have Edward sweating and thinking "Will Ricardo notice?" since it's a fear he may have in his mind. I do sometimes have 'traps' but this isn't one of them.
Ricardo is spinning many plates keeping track of merchants and how much they should be paying, and how much to pay for Edward's purchases he promises and anything else going on. He didn't know exactly how much Edward took when Edward wrote a vague "I'm taking money for me," order.
Edward just won the tournament and outright had merchants and other people trying to give him things. That he could've gotten coin from someone at the Faire is not impossible. Or made coin in another way. (Gambling, bribes, borrowing, whatever.)
Edward should also be carrying the debased coins he confiscated from the stablehand that the Emerald Knight gave him. For all Ricardo knows he's outright giving the Church those debased coins.
That said, unless Edward wants to promise something exceptionally generous, like constructing a new monastery (very expensive and will give the Church more influence, not to be made lightly), this write-in of a promise is not a very good idea. The peasants should be maintaining their own chapel unless there's some real catastrophe, or at least the priest would bring it up to Edward.
I'm sorry I really must reject these write-ins because they try to deal with a problem I simply wasn't trying to pose to the audience. I understand wanting to be cautious, but I will freely say upfront "do not worry."
Now, if this was back when Edward was a Prince or only just-made King, and there was absolutely zero activity going on in the castle, then yes, Ricardo would be wondering where Edward was getting this money. As of now, he isn't. He sort of has 'bigger fish to fry'. Furthermore I'd be violating the principle of "If Edward spends money personally, without an intermediary like Ricardo, he can get away with it," policy to try to set a trap here.
To you both, please revote, if you can.
To the rest, please continue to vote.
I was curious on if this might be a bit of subterfuge after I had asked about gold last thread. Glad to see it isn't. With that concern put to rest, let's splash some gold. Maxi's original point stands, I think. Edward may not be personally super fond of the Church, but making that known publicly isn't wise. Further, we're the King. Of course we should be showing off some wealth here. Can't let our aristocrats think the Crown is destitute.
Thanks for clarifying that Aristo. In that case, we don’t have to worry of that possibility of being found out. So I shall retract back to original plan to go with option one.
Thank you for the clarification. In that case, I change my vote to option one as well.
Option 1. Let us show our support for the Church, even if we sometimes have our disagreements.
>5 votes for option one, throw all of Beatrice's gold into the offering box.
Make a large donation.
Poll closed. Update soon.
The very safe option is to throw a large amount.
You take out your coin purse, empty it into your hand, then drop the entire contents into the box.
The sound of the coins rattles inside and definitely garners attention.
Tharja has no coin. That's all right. You're donating on her behalf.
Beatrice throws a token amount.
The Chrisania siblings throw a fair amount each.
Ricardo throws a token amount.
The Old Guard throws nothing. You suppose they wouldn't have any gold.
The rest of the aristocrats throw middling to token amounts. No one throws as much coin as you did.
Well, you sort of came off as a show off, but you are King. It's expected. The Church probably appreciated it.
The service continues.
Though the priest did say Tharja could leave, she stays throughout its entirety.
She squirms a bit, but ultimately does nothing.
None of the other people in the room leave. This simply must be too important to be seen leaving.
It's time for confession.
You enter the box first. You simply must confess something.
You step into the side-room with the priest.
He welcomes you and bids you to tell him what sins you have committed, so that you may receive penance.
He's outright told you not to confess to lust anymore, if you honestly don't intend to resist and stop your behavior.
But, what makes the most sense?
>Confess your guilt at not giving alms to the poor after you had your jousting tournament.
>Confess to pride at enjoying the spectacle of winning the tournament.
>Confess to inadvertently humiliating Noi.
>Just confess that you worry you're not a good enough King.
>Actually, you've committed no sins. Tell the priest so.
Option 1. If we are to confess upon things we wish to improve about ourselves, this is a good one. And this is one of the people who could help us.
Write in: Confess all of Option 1-3. When I was a kid and went to confession the priest would tell me to do like 5 sets of Hail Mary and shit like that depending on the things I said, but I was never limited to just one thing.
If a write-in combo like LUcifer's is permissible, I'd say options 1 and 3. If that's not okay, then option 1.
Supporting the 1-3 write in option as well.
Normally my policy is "Please don't create a write-in that amounts to 'do option 1 and 2'," but in this case, it's completely appropriate and acceptable. Thank you for asking.
Since it seems to be gaining traction and I don't think anyone is going to vote for 4 or especially 5, I'll just end the vote here.
>1 vote for option one, confess to guilt at not giving alms to the poor.>3 votes for options 1, 2, and 3, confess to multiples sins.
Confess to multiple specific sins Edward feels guilty of.
Poll closed. Update soon.
Normally you'd just give a list of sins and call it a day.
But you feel you especially need guidance. The last few days have felt like months.
You thank the Father and start talking.
You confess that after the tournament, you went out among the people. You weren't trying to start a scene, but one happened. Many of your subjects clamored around you, trying to shower you with gifts.
Of course you denied all of them.
But you also saw the faces of the downtrodden. The humble peasants. They looked at you in admiration.
…Though you had coin in your pocket, ultimately you did not give alms. The duty of every follower who is able.
Your mind instead saw the problems. That you may cause a stampede of bodies. That you may make them the target of thieves. That simply giving them coin would not truly help their position.
But… you can't deny the guilt.
The priest listens, and finally says if you did not give out of desire to keep your wealth, that would be greed. A grave sin.
As it is, your motives are compassionate and your soul pure.
"However, you may consider this, Your Majesty…"
He points out that in such a situation, with many people around to witness you, there may have been another effect.
The King is expected to be the country. To be the example of what is Ruhemania.
If in such a situation, other people were to see the King give alms to the lowest beggars, it would likely motivate those among the crowd with the means to do the same.
In other words… you had a chance to inspire generosity among your subjects toward the peasants.
It makes sense.
Inwardly, you also reflect that those peasants may have turned right around and spent their new 'wealth,' as it were. You could have spurned business at the Faire. As King, you'd get a portion of what was sold, if you remember Ricardo's words right.
"…Still, not wanting to cause excitement of greed in others is admirable."
In the end he tells you no specific penance is needed because your motives were pure. There was fair judgment for both actions.
You thank him, then move on…
You back-up in time and tell him when you won the jousting tournament, it was one of the greatest feelings in the world.
Being surrounded by so many people, cheering… it created an energy you never before experienced.
Such adulation felt addicting, in a way. You confess it may be pride.
The priest listens then tells you that what you experienced is only natural, but there may be pride and you're right to confess it.
He gives you penance to say after you leave and you thank him.
You tell him you went to take in some festivities in your Faire. A troupe of performers putting together a story of a Princess Alena who was the strongest woman in the world.
Unfortunately, you were standing with some of your guards. Hecklers began shouting that Alena should 'fight' one of them.
You thought it would make for interesting entertainment, so you send your soldier up there.
Not to humiliate or humble them. You expected them to be able to 'play along' so to speak.
It turned into a disaster. Your soldier was mocked. The play was ruined as the actors were forced to break character.
You personally had to rush the stage to defend your soldier's honor.
The priest listens as you pour details on.
"Well, this seems to be a lack of judgment… and perhaps pride that you thought yourself worthy of creating entertainment better than the entertainers themselves were capable of."
Your act of personally defending Noi on stage and inciting shame on the crowd was definitely an act of kindness on your part, at risk to yourself.
The priest notes you could have been attacked, either physically or in pride at losing the support of the crowd.
In the end he gives you an act of penance to show in regret toward your sin of pride. For thinking yourself above the entertainers.
You may have also indulged the envy of the hecklers, who were surely jealous of the attention of the actors, and possibly of the raw strength of your guard.
It makes sense. In the end you thank him.
You tell him you have nothing else to confess.
He gives you a long pause, and you think he must now realize you're serious about maintaining your lust. In the end he says nothing.
"Go with God."
You step out of the side-room, then go before the altar, drop to your knees, and make a show of saying your penance.
… It gives you no catharsis. It just feels like words.
Even knowing 'witchcraft' is apparently just regarded by the Church as superstition, it doesn't help the detachment you feel from the Church in embracing Tharja and Beatrice's witchcraft which defies all of God.
You'd rather be praying to Mania's Goddess.
You slowly stand up.
A small glance back shows Tharja has already gone in. Beatrice is waiting behind her. As are all the other nobles and anyone else who attended.
It's going to be a long wait.
Tharja's confession isn't overly long or short. Though she comes out looking a bit flushed. She sits beside you and says penance.
Beatrice's confession is incredibly short. She also sits to do penance.
Ricardo's confession is just a bit longer than Beatrice's. He sits, but likely does so because of his age.
The Chrisania siblings all three individually spend a moderate time confessing. They make a show of kneeling. You do your best to not admire Camilla's hips.
It's when the Old Guard start filing out after the other aristocrats that you decide you've had enough. You take Tharja and leave.
Your departure inspires others to begin departing.
All in all, it wasn't terrible.
The priest offered you insight. You were able to see your new law regarding witches will be accepted by at least some measure of Ruhemania.
Tharja didn't make a scene. If anything, Beatrice may have stood out more. Though Beatrice is much less important a figure as your 'mistress'.
It was a somber affair and a good chance to show yourself as a loyal follower of the Church.
It'll also likely be the last service that priest ever gives. Father Tomas will come soon. With his two nuns. Not just one, two.
The idea puts a spring in your step.
You pass one of your Loyalists on your way to Tharja's wing. He tells you there's been no one by. Good.
You thought perhaps you'd find Elizabeth to join you, but you didn't see her. It's likely too sacrilegious for a threesome on the same night as the service anyway.
The sun is setting as you hurry with Tharja to her room.
Once you're inside your wing in the privacy of her corridor together, she reaches around and pinches your butt.
"I'm anxious to deal with the stress, Edward," she whispers.
As are you.
You both go to her room and immediately start to take off your clothes. You stare hungrily at each other and kiss.
You don't bother with words. You're both needing this.
You'll confess your anxieties later.
You reach up and rub Tharja's breasts in your hands, caressing her skin and making her moan.
She arches her neck and shows you her beautiful pale flesh.
It's mid-kiss you realize something's wrong.
You can hear footsteps, coming right down the corridor.
It's enough to make you both separate.
You both stare at the door.
You shrug. You have no idea, you whisper.
You weren't both discussing magic, or anything sensitive.
You're simply a husband and wife spending time siring your next of kin. There's absolutely nothing wrong with what you're doing by any standard.
It's not long before you hear knocking on the door. A flurry of sharp knocks.
You're not sure if you should let Tharja answer or answer yourself, but you decide to take the initiative.
Who's there, you ask?
It occurs to you only after you speak that you're no longer carrying your weapon. Was this an assassin?
…No, the guard would not allow it.
"Your Majesty. We must speak."
–Oh. It's Robin's voice.
You let out a very long sigh, shaking your head.
Tharja meanwhile perks up. She must be thinking Robin has come by to join you both.
You'd be surprised if that's the case, but you'll at least humor her assumption.
Go ahead, unlock the door, you say.
Tharja's completely naked, you move to put on your leggings at least. You don't doubt you'll need to deal with some official business.
You hear Tharja exchange a seductive greeting with Robin. Robin lets out a surprised little squeak and tells you she's sorry, but she must speak with you, the King.
You're half dressed. In that state, you go over to the doorway.
Hello, General, you say.
Robin immediately salutes. Crisply. You notice she's wearing her traveling jacket over her uniform. She carries your royal sword at her side.
You return the salute.
As she can see, you're in a bit of a shared moment with your wife.
Is what she has to say important, you ask?
She holds intense eye contact with you and nods.
Very well, you say.
What is it?
Robin inclines her head toward Tharja. You get the idea.
You turn to Tharja and bid her to please just plug her ears and wait on the bed for a moment. She pouts, but agrees.
She turns and goes deeper into the bedroom and you sigh again.
All right, you tell Robin.
You'll hear it.
What does Robin have to tell you? Or ask you? Or anything else?
Robin lowers her voice, and steps closer.
She opens her jacket, revealing she's carrying… something in her pocket? Something thick. Papers? A lot of them, at least.
"Corruption," she whispers. "Corruption, at the highest levels!"
It gets your attention.
>No choice yet. Further update coming soon.
You put on the rest of your clothes and tell Tharja to wait. You may be a while.
You go with Robin and let her lead you into the library. she takes you to a table and lays out what she was carrying in her jacket.
What she has to show you is… interesting.
"I'd like to start with this chart."
She shows you a paper that details the guard schedule the senior guard has set since the time of King Vlad.
The young guards which became your loyalists are increasingly given the worst assignments. The castle walls. The drawbridge. The guard towers. The Old Guard as it's called is consistently given the comfortable positions. King Vlad's staircase, the treasury, or just at the armory.
That's not too bad, is it? That's hardly corruption. A little favoritism.
"It can even be justified. That the older veterans must be around to teach the younger soldiers. That's not why I show this. I show it so you can see this is the 'baseline' of the guard schedule."
She then flips to a guard schedule that has been used in the Faire. The marks are much more recent.
It's much the same. The guards scheduled to your tower since you became King are now consistently younger. As is the guard in front of Tharja's wing. The positions at the treasury as well as in the wing with the rooms with the aristocrats are staffed by the Old Guard. The lesser uncomfortable positions of your drawbridge, guard towers, etc. are still the young loyalists.
So what, you ask?
She draws your eyes to another schedule.
"Here's another time scheduled during the Faire. Can you see the problem?"
You glance at the schedule and see it's much the same.
No. No you cannot, you say.
Robin points at the spots around the wing where the aristocrats are being housed.
"The guards here do not rotate."
In other words, it's the same guards at the same time each day. There's no change from day to day. Your tower, as well as Tharja's wing, are changed, as are other positions.
She then tells you she's hypothesized that this was done in part so that you wouldn't notice. You sleep in your tower each night. You see your wife each night. You would likely not notice the guards in the aristocrat wing.
Again, so what? Doesn't it seem reasonable the Old Guard would give themselves a schedule that'd be easier to follow, without having to rearrange themselves each day?
Robin is silent, she pinches her lips together before speaking again.
Robin brings out another guard schedule. This was for today.
The Loyalists were to be given time to attend the service. The Old Guard was split between normal guard duty and being present at the armory.
"I switched this to the exact opposite. I put your loyalists in the schedule, and let the Old Guard attend the service, so none of them would be in the armory."
That's interesting. The senior guard wanted to let your loyalists attend the service.
That's… nice of him? You don't understand the meaning.
Well, you personally understand a possible result. If your Loyalists had been there, you don't doubt shouts of 'Long Live King Edward!' would have dominated.
…Wait, that's bad.
Everyone would've freaked out. The aristocrats would've been aghast. There would have been a disruption, surely.
Um… does Robin know about that 'tradition' in the service, you ask?
She turns her head.
"What? No. I point this out because it gave me time to do something else."
Since the Old Guard were told to go to the service, none of them were in the armory. Since the loyalists were on guard duty to compensate and otherwise training on the grounds, the barracks were empty.
As such, Robin conducted a 'surprise inspection.' This involved rifling through all of their things.
That sounds almost out of line. Robin went through the Old Guard's personal belongings??
"It was a surprise inspection. And not just them."
Before you can protest further she goes on to tell you she discovered something tangible. More evidence.
She takes out another parchment and reads. It's a list she wrote, this very same day. During the service, in fact.
New boots, of a quality better than the army offers.
Warm socks, better quality than the army offers.
A dagger of shape the armory does not have and with a quality better than metal found in Castle Valachia's swords.
A waterskin filled with wine.
A flask with ale not present as rations given to the Castle Valachia guards.
"One of which I saved."
She takes out a gold coin and reports she took it from a hidden pouch sewn into the lining of a leather helmet. The stitches of which were new.
…You flip it over in your hands.
You're not Ricardo, but it doesn't seem to be debased. It looks genuine.
"It had friends, but I chanced at taking this one. It's more than a soldier should have. And they're all only held by the Old Guard. Not one younger guard has anything like these."
Is Robin suggesting… bribery?
…You take in a long sigh.
It's not ideal, by any means. But if one were to be generous, there's many ways a soldier could make more coin.
They could be carried from years ago and only spent now. They could be made through gambling. Or… a soldier could even have made some by threatening some merchant, or even a nomad. Bribery could also be a source, but for what, exactly?
Why does Robin think bribery and no other explanation? And to what end?
Robin's breathing is stark, she slides two more parchments toward you. One very small, one very large.
"One of these, I procured from the boot pocket of a member of the Old Guard. The other… was provided to me by my veteran comrade when I asked for all material related to the guard schedules."
The small parchment is… a tiny square. It would fit in the palm of a hand. On it is a complex but unambiguous symbol.
On the other parchment is…
It looks like nonsense scribblings. Like a child would make. Like the senior guard perhaps sneezed while starting to write.
How is this evidence of anything, you ask?
Robin points at one line, and reads a soldier's name.
Robin then points at another line, and reads an amount paid in coin.
Robin then points at another line, and…
You see a symbol. It's the small symbol that matches the smaller parchment.
"This is a very common military code. He likely thought I couldn't read it. But don't take my word for it, Your Majesty."
She leaves you to examine the parchment and stands up. You turn your head to follow where she's going. She's… going to one of the library shelves?
She pokes her finger around, taps one book, then plucks it from the shelf.
She comes back, puts it on the table, and flips it open.
It's one of Robin's military books. You recognize it from all the writing in the margins.
She turns the pages until she reaches a certain chapter, then stops. She draws your eyes to read.
Okay, there's a few paragraphs about the necessity of keeping information out of the enemy's hand. 'Personal codes are ideal, but these are…'
You reach the next page and see it. It's a listing of a code with how to decode and read it.
You feel a chill race up your spine as you start to transfer your eyes from Robin's book to the senior guard's parchment.
…They match to what she's said.
The scribblings are a record of money to be paid to which guard, who is stationed in each position.
Moreover, the symbols are linked on the parchment to correspond to a specific action.
'Keep track of all movement.'
'Do not pay attention to who comes and goes.'
'Halt anyone coming or going.'
'Do not bother anyone.'
Robin has found something terrible.
All the earlier circumstantial evidence you could try to explain away. But not this.
This… is evidence that the senior guard has been collecting, and paying out, bribes.
Moreover, he's orchestrating them doing specific actions, by specific guards, in specific parts of the castle.
All corresponding to the aristocrat wing, where all the lesser nobles are staying!!
For what purpose, you whisper to Robin?
"I don't know. Someone is organizing something. But I can't find any specific link to what, specifically."
The commands are only how to act. Not to pass on specific messages.
But if these actions are worth literal gold…
…no one would pay that much for nothing.
Something is being organized, and the Old Guard is being paid to make it easier. To look the other way, or prevent others from interfering.
"Moreover, Your Majesty… the schedule for the service today was not the only thing strange."
The upcoming aristocrats' gathering had been decided by the senior guard and was part of the notes she acquired.
It was to be staffed by soldiers entirely of the Old Guard.
Not one of your Loyalists would be present. Not one.
She's yet to change it, but she will.
"Something is going to happen there. It's the only thing that makes sense."
Your eyes go to one last thing.
You pick up one of the senior guard's schedules from long ago. You take note of the writing. The parchment and charcoal used to make notes is aged. There's no doubt it's months old.
You then look at the schedule Robin just showed you of the Faire that stood out to her as 'strange'. The handwriting is the exact same, but the markings are recent.
You look at Robin's book. You see the notes she's written in the margins.
Her handwriting is nothing like the senior guard's. It's neat and compact. His style is blocky.
You can't fathom in any possibility that Robin could've forged this evidence.
How… how likely is it that the Old Guard will know what Robin found out?
She bites her lip.
"I did have to steal one coin, but it may be overlooked as that it fell out at some point. That I suddenly changed the schedule may also prompt some suspicion. The other guard will hopefully accept the lost symbol as the result of some accident… but I can't say for sure." She makes a little sound. "I did try to throw them off the trail by cancelling all of the reforms, for now. That mollified them."
Okay. What about her coming to see you, right now? That could be suspicious.
At that, Robin relaxes.
"Oh, I told the guard outside I was meeting you to have sex."
… Honestly, you can accept that as a viable excuse that will pass scrutiny.
But your mirth at how your lustful activities are providing a good smoke screen is short lived.
All this time… you thought the senior guard respected you, at least. Perhaps you'd won him over. And the Old Guard would eventually follow.
You were wrong. The Old Guard is corrupt to the core. And undermining you in a way you have no idea how.
Wholesale slaughter at your gathering? Is it possible?
You have no idea. You invited literally everyone. The clergy, the burgmeister, the diplomats… Ricardo.
No, you can't believe the Old Guard would simply murder everyone. At least, this record only seems to denote bribes regarding the schedule.
"That's not all, Your Majesty… you're being undermined in more subtle ways."
She's asked questions, quietly, of your Loyalists who have been at the armory the past few days. As in, when you won the tournament.
There was a rush of people who came, wanting to enlist in your army. Male and female.
"Some were surely sent away as unfit for training, but…"
She's heard all of them, simply all of them, stated their reason as that they wanted to join the army of their noble King, and dedicate their loyalty to Him.
"In other words… new soldiers who would be loyal to you were tossed out."
Noi and Robin have been the only real recruits.
Robin was an aristocrat. Moreover, she forced your hand at joining.
Noi, meanwhile… she was a sellsword. Furthermore, she was huge.
Did the senior guard anticipate the person who hired her skills would find out she was now serving in the army? Did he anticipate he would be able to kick her out with that pretense? Did he think as a mercenary, she wouldn't really be dedicated to serving you as King?
Or was it a simple matter of 'I can't turn away someone so obviously fit and muscular and built for warfare and get away with it?'
Robin closes her book.
"Your Majesty… one last thing. This will pain you to hear, but I've followed up on it."
It's no secret that Robin was being actively discouraged and crushingly worked from when she showed up.
When it became clear Robin was going to play some sort of leadership role, that behavior increased terribly.
They noted the upstart and were trying to force her out as quickly as possible.
That's her own analysis.
You do remember hearing one of your guards tell you the same thing. You can't argue. Even if it was such a short period of time.
The senior guard went to you and convinced you to disregard the notion of 'shock troops'. As Robin explained, this was less to give actual training, and more to prioritize armor and weapons for Noi.
"She's simply too big for anything in the armory! If we actually did need to go to war or do any fighting, we wouldn't be able to use her. Not without some emergency blacksmith work, and… Your Majesty, it's a common principle that you must go to war with the army you have. Not the army you wish you had."
In other words, by the time war broke out, it'd be very difficult if not impossible to make Noi an actual soldier who would fight.
"Your Majesty… I'm sorry."
Robin investigated personally.
Sully suffered a head injury during the jousting tournament. She hypothesized it was a problem of the size of the helmet.
However, now that she's your general, she can freely go into the armory.
"The armored equipment for the tournament isn't in the stables. It's in the armory."
There were helmets available that would have fit Sully's head.
Say that again, you ask her.
"I… I took a basic measurement with a bandage that was changed from her head… I went into the armory with it and lined it to some of the smaller helmets, and… she should have had a helmet that fit her. They were available. In other words… someone intentionally gave her a helmet that was too big. In hopes she'd suffer an injury."
You shudder in rage as angry feelings overwhelm you.
That should not be…
You sent Beatrice in to make sure the equipment was sound!
–But it was sound.
It was all sound.
Beatrice just didn't recognize it wouldn't fit the riders.
Sully was handed a perfectly normal helmet that was just too big for her head.
You calm yourself.
You remember what Dimitrie told you.
Dimitrie didn't want to cheat. He wanted to win on his own merit.
It was only because of his mother's influence that he cheated. And he cheated by going to the stablehand with a simple bribe.
The armor was in the armory, not the stables. There was no way he could bribe a stablehand to bring forth the wrong armor.
…Even if there was, it didn't make sense.
Dimitrie was forced to give a bribe that would grant him the slightest edge in the competition. He did not try to convince the stablehand to sabotage any specific rider. He was confident he'd win. The stablehand only reported that was his only attempt at bribery.
If he was to sabotage a rider, what sense did it make that he'd sabotage a 'runt' like Sully?? Someone he wouldn't regard as any sort of threat to his win??
…The much simpler, much likelier guilty party you can see is the senior guard. Or some other member of the Old Guard who set up the equipment to be used in the tournament.
You see it now.
The women in your army were under attack. They were being undermined, because they were all loyal to you.
Sully, Noi, and Robin, three.
Including any other recruits turned away.
Just to keep the members of the Old Guard greater in number so they could maintain their hegemony of power.
Your blood boils hot at the thought that Sully would be deliberately targeted and harmed. A woman you've gifted with your seed. It's despicable.
This is a nightmare.
You're only thankful you did something. You should've realized there was absolutely no oversight.
You had it all wrong.
It wasn't 'wait until the end of the Faire to make changes,' it was 'realize the Faire is when I'm most vulnerable.'
You tell Robin you're sorry.
You should've made her general right away.
She shakes her head.
"No, don't think that. If you had let me have my way, I wouldn't have experienced all the torment I did and become suspicious. I wouldn't have examined the guard schedule. I would've just jumped into reforming the army right away."
There's a short awkward pause before she adds 'Sorry.' You wave it off. Forgiven, under the circumstances, you say.
That's twice Robin has exposed a plot against you. This one seems less stupid than the last, even if you're not sure, exactly, what the point is. Yet.
But what can you do?
You ask Robin for ideas.
Robin nods, then steps away from you, pacing a little.
"…I see three possibilities, Your Majesty."
One, you can arrest the senior guard. He's the one there's the most evidence against.
"But I don't think you should do it. The entire Old Guard is involved. You'll just set up a rebellion."
–She has a fair analysis.
You prompt her to go on.
You can arrest the entire Old Guard.
Throw open the dungeon and cast them all inside. You have evidence. You only need men and coordination to prevent a bloodbath.
"I suggest in the night. Organizing your Loyalists, removing the Old Guard from their weapons, and arresting them while they sleep. Or possibly by assigning them isolated guard duty and arresting them one by one.
It seems extreme, but it may be called for.
And third, you ask?
"Third… do nothing, but prepare."
Robin will quietly change the guard schedule so that only your staunch Loyalists are present at the aristocrats' gathering. She'll make sure no one is the wiser until that day, so they have no time to resist. The only problem will be not tipping their hand.
Whatever conspiracy is going on will continue, but you can be prepared for it.
"I'm confident I can pull it off, Your Majesty."
You give a slight nod.
…This is so very much a shock.
You can't ignore Robin's evidence. Especially not the damned timetable, instruction keycode, and bribery list. Combined with the other examples she's provided. Both that the Old Guard suddenly has a lot of coin and other luxuries, and that the schedules have been subtly altered from how they always were made.
If you arrest them all, you stop the bleeding immediately. The Old Guard will no longer be a threat. You can let them waste away in the dungeon, or whatever.
But… you may stir up a bee's nest.
Whoever is organizing this scheme is going to notice you suddenly arrested the people they've been passively bribing.
…You can't cancel the aristocrats' gathering.
You simply have invited too many people. It'd be a huge insult. It's not an option. You can't un-invite anyone you already invited, either.
–Does Robin know anything, even a little bit, about what sort of conspiracy may be going on?
Her family was only trying to get her and her sisters knocked up… correct?
Robin makes a small frown.
"I never heard any sort of plot like this. I swear, I know nothing, Your Majesty."
…Right. You nod. You tell her you trust her.
You're sure Beatrice would've discovered it as well when she investigated the Chrisania siblings. This conspiracy can't have come from Chrisania. –Can it?
… You sigh.
You have a big decision to make.
Destroy the Old Guard, or subtly wait and prepare to deal with the conspiracy they're a part of?
>They've opposed you for too long. Conspiracy and attacking the women you've impregnated is the final straw. Arrest the entirety of the Old Guard, including the senior guard.
>You have one day to prepare before the aristocrats' gathering. Tell Robin to allow it to be guarded only by your Loyalists. See where this conspiracy is going.
I almost had a heart attack thinking Sully almost died from a concussion. But man, this was a great scene written by Aristo today.
This is going to be risky…but I'd say it's better than rushing in headlong if we start handing out the arrests now. We have absolutely no information on just how strong the root of rebellion lies in the military with the Old Guard. For all we know, they might have already came up with a plan should we find out about this. This needs to be handled with utmost sensitivity and care, and hopefully we have more help once we've gathered all the pieces of information we need to come up with the offensive.
Option one. Have them spread out via guard assignments, arrest them hopefully one by one before they catch on. Divide and conquer.
I chose the direct confrontation not so much because this is "the last straw", it's because one day is simply not enough time to prepare for something like this. Beatrice cannot investigate half of our guards and their mysterious benefactors in a single day. Ricardo cannot reasonably check to certainty whether the bribed guards took something (or let someone else take something) from the treasury within just a day. There simply isn't enough time for evidence gathering.
But we can gather our forces.
We have to talk to Tharja, she needs to be safe when this goes down. We need to talk to Beatrice, she needs to be close by in case we need emergency healing. Robin will have to talk to all loyal soldiers quickly and quietly. She will have to improvise a battle plan. All that will take some time.
Option 3. We have a free day, and can use it to put some pieces of our own into place. Beatrice, for example, can work her magic on more subtle sabotage. We can get our loyalists into position, and hopefully warned to be on ther guard.
And we can be sure that those who truly matter are properly safeguarded.
*Sigh.* Right after we promised "no more stakes," too. It's a grim way to make a point, but sometimes the only way people listen is if you can show them the corpse of the last fool who got too big for their breeches.
Option 3? There is no option 3.
It's risky, it's a disruption, and there's a damn good chance it tips our hand to whoever is planning whatever this is. But if it's an attempt at a coup, simply shuffling them off of the aristocrat meeting won't help. They're just as likely to abandon their other assignments and move to be the coup's muscle anyway, and then we'd have a bloody fight on our hands. We need to protect what we've built- and who's important to us. The last thing we need is for either Tharja or ourselves to have to go into seclusion because we 'died' in this. Well, second to last. Last thing would be either of us actually dying. If we knew more about what the actual conspiracy was, I'd be tempted to go with option two, but absent more evidence I have to assume the worst- that this is an attempt to get us off the throne and possibly rob us of our heirs.
Option 1. Best response to a coup is actively struggling against it.
We have a day to prepare and we will ultimately be able to find out who triggered the plot.
It'll also allow us the opportunity to build a significant case against the Old Guard when the time comes. As this will likely portend in exile or executions, we're going to need to justify to the public at large why it is necessary and we are not simply being cruel.
While both options have their merit, I think Option 2 is the way to go
It looks like we've reached the first serious threat to Edward's actual reign as King. For what they've put Sully and Robin through, this definitely has become personal. However this does require some delicate maneuvers.
As much as the Old Guard deserves their ass kicking, Option 2 is the better course of action. Edward can't show his hand just yet, but some small wrenches in the works might buy a little time to come up with a plan.
Option 2, wait and see. We can always toss 'em in the clink a day from now.
Just to be sure, this is a vote for option 2, not just thinking option 2 is better? I will count it as if it is a vote.
The current vote is:>3 votes for option one, arrest the entire Old Guard.>5 votes for option two, prepare to oppose the conspiracy and subtly sabotage their role at the last moment.>1 vote for an option three that doesn't exist and that I can't tell if it is more for 1 or 2.
I will give it a little more time because it's so close and I want to give >>91119
a chance to clarify.
That was an actual vote for Option 2. I was just giving my reasons why to take that course of action over something more immediate
Sorry. Option 2. Obviously my brain wasn't functioning when I voted.
Or someone's gaslighting me, but I'll rule that out for now.
>3 votes for option one, arrest the entire Old Guard.
>6 votes for option two, prepare to oppose the conspiracy and subtly sabotage their role at the last moment.
So as not to alert the conspirators, allow the Old Guard to continue as they are. Sabotage their effort at the last moment.
Poll closed. Update soon.
Is Robin sure she can sabotage the Old Guard on the day of the aristocrats' gathering?
You don't want a room full of Old Guard soldiers who show up no matter what guard schedule she sets.
Robin pauses for a moment, then nods.
"I will create a situation where I provide a guard schedule for your Loyalists first. They will know they are expected to be there and the Old Guard is not. Then the same day, I will change the schedule of the Old Guard and make sure their schedules do not allow them time to leave without abandoning their post. If they dare do that, I will have full justification in removing them for insubordination."
At the same time, she'll have your tower and Tharja's wing guarded.
"I will personally attend the gathering with you, Your Majesty."
Hm… is that wise?
"Well, whether it's wise or not, it's preferable to me."
She does not think a full out armed attack is coming. Especially not directly at the gathering.
However, completely removing guards who respect the authority you gave her may leave her vulnerable if she stays in the barracks. She can't fight back herself. She's honestly afraid of being stabbed in the back, or front.
Therefore, she will be there, with your Loyalists, and not one Old Guard. Especially not the senior guard.
You nod. You understand her concern. –If she can, you ask her to please requisition you a shortsword, even if she keeps your personal sword.
"One last thing, Your Majesty…"
You have one secret weapon:
Noi's presence is going to deter anyone from any aggressive action. Her size and presence evokes a raw visceral response.
"She's a bit of a paper tiger without actual armor, but her intimidation factor can't be denied."
–Sorry, paper tiger, you ask?
"It means she appears threatening, but her actual utility is less than she appears. –Her size makes her a big target. Her lack of comprehensive armor means she'll be vulnerable to someone adequately armed. She's best used, as is, for intimidation and situations her strength and reach can destroy a poorly-armed or equal opponent."
Hm. So she could win any sparring match, or fist-fight, but anyone who attacks her with a knife is going to have a lot of her to stab if they manage to get close enough.
It makes sense. You think anyone who dares get close to Noi and risks being strangled or squeezed to death would be beyond brave into outright foolhardy, though.
Robin adds on that prioritizing Noi for armor and weapons and adjusting her training will remove those weaknesses.
…But is there anything you can do for the next few days?
Robin scratches her chin.
"Yes, if we take apart some whole suits of armor, leather or perhaps mail, stitch it together, and outright wrap it around her, that should be enough to be a stop-gap measure… for a very brief period. And maybe only one or two strikes before it's stripped off."
…You shouldn't think too much of a whole fight breaking out. You should think of where her intimidation factor would be best introduced.
"I can assign her to the gathering, or place her in front of your tower. …That is, if you're convinced of her loyalty."
You are convinced, you say.
If you had any such doubt after the time you were first intimate, your actions during the Faire while she was with you removed it. You both resolved her issue with the merchant who hired her, and protected her honor.
Noi won't betray you. You're sure of it.
So, it's a question of if you want her at the gathering or somewhere else.
>Noi's intimidation factor will be to your advantage. Have her present at the gathering.
>Her size may distract the mood you need to maintain your subterfuge at the gathering. Schedule her to guard your tower instead. You won't have an assassin lying in wait.
>Not at the gathering, but you need her to protect your beloved wife. Schedule her to guard Tharja's wing.
Option 3. If this is a coup, Tharja could become a bargaining chip, assuming she doesn't want to reveal her witch powers. And once we're done, we should probably head directly to her anyways, so that means that the tower can be lesser guarded.
Before I vote, quick question. Will Beatrice be at the aristocrats' gathering?
She is an aristocrat in her mortal persona. She also attended the dinner with the Chrisania siblings, as well as the tournament, and the Church service. She's a public figure who is open-secretly your 'Mistress'. She will be at the gathering.
Option 3, protect Tharja and her wing.
With our loyalists being at the gathering and Beatrice at our side, we should be okay without Noi at the gathering. I agree with Lucifer's reasoning on keeping Tharja safe, and if we keep Beatrice with us upon our return to our tower, she can help protect us against any potential assassins in our room.
Option three. Having Noi guard Tharja will hopefully keep Noi from the worst of the trouble as well. Birds, stone, etc.
Option 3. Pity, since I would've liked Tharja's company at this affair. But this is going to prove messy, so I'd rather she be sheltered and guarded.
This is the third time in recent memory that so much happens while I'm working. :P Ho boy!
Option 3. We keep Tharja safe, Beatrice keeps us safe. We also need to tell Beatrice of this and get her involved. We might even have to trip this trap a little to find out who is at the center of it. A single person? Or a coalition of nobles that preferred Vlad's rule?
I think there's been a miscommunication. Apologies everyone.
Tharja is definitely going to be at the aristocrats' gathering. As is Beatrice. It's literally for every noble so they can properly meet and greet each other. The only people the maids asked Edward to make real decisions about who to invite is whether to bring in Ricardo, the priest, and the burgmeister. (All three were invited.)
The choice her is whether to put Noi in the gathering itself, or whether to have her guard Edward's tower or Tharja's wing so that no one can go in there potentially during the gathering.
Do we have anything sensitive in our tower? I don't think so… In which case, my answer remains the same, with only slightly different reasons.
Even with this knowledge, I'm gonna stick with option 3. Don't really want any of the Old Guard on Tharja's wing, regardless of whether Tharja is there or not.
Even if Tharja is not being guarded directly, she has a lot of secrets that must be guarded as well. I'd rather that anyone be discouraged from targeting her at all.
I hope there was enough clarification that everyone understood what they were voting on. Apologies again for that. At any rate, I think a consensus has been reached.
>1 vote for option one, have Noi present at the gathering.
>7 votes for option three, have Noi protect Tharja's wing while the gathering is going on.
Have Noi's intimidating presence protecting Tharja's wing of the castle while the gathering is going on.
Poll closed. Update soon.
Robin's overlooking something. Noi should be guarding what's most vulnerable.
You want her to guard the entrance to this part of the castle you're currently both standing in. Tharja's wing.
You don't want anyone lying in wait for your wife.
"It'll be done. I'll have Noi assigned to guard duty here while the gathering is going on."
Looks like you're committed to this.
Whatever… 'conspiracy' is happening… you'll have to see what it's about.
"This is for the best, Your Majesty. A mass arrest would be difficult."
Robin explains it wouldn't be as simple as instructing the Loyalists to arrest the Old Guard if you'd chosen to go that route. Far from it.
There's some genuine respect toward the Old Guard held by the Loyalists. Or they hate the Old Guard but have grudgingly accepted they will always 'be around'. She's sure some of the in between-aged Loyalists accept the self-interested favoritism of the Old Guard with the 'understanding' that someday they will be able to do the same.
"Furthermore, they'd have to be put somewhere. There's only so much space to tie them up in the barracks and keep them there effectively. I haven't inspected the dungeon… do you know what it's like? I don't think I could justify suddenly taking a look." she asks.
Robin's right. Not just the Old Guard, but whoever you arrest as part of the conspiracy.
You've seen the inside. It's old. So much so it's in disrepair. The cages and equipment inside are more testament than actual tools. It didn't even have a lock on the door that you saw.
Not to mention the oubliette, which Beatrice sealed for eternity.
If you order the dungeon to be cleared out or made for use, that will definitely raise eyebrows.
…Beatrice would be your only hope.
Beatrice could sneak down there and use her magic to make sure the cages stay intact and there's at least a lock on the door.
You'll have to beg her to do it. Tonight if possible.
You tell Robin not to worry about it. You'll let her know what to do when the time is right. If you pursue the dungeon, house arrest, or something worse.
She looks confused, but doesn't question you.
"Okay… I think we've covered every angle."
Robin gets up and goes to put away her book.
You stare at the collected documents on the table.
Why did it have to be this way?
You're not naive. Or stupid. But these were supposed to be honorable men. Yet they've betrayed their King, for what? A few coins and some new boots?
Ridiculous. Is that how little honor is worth? At least… at least when you had King Vlad killed, it was for the sake of ending his dark reign of persecution. Against an old man who had lived his life and was still maintaining his power through pure fear.
…You'll show them.
You'll show them the King can be righteous. Not a fool. Not a pushover, but Just. In a fair, reasonable way. Not the insane draconian obedience King Vlad demanded.
Their time will come, and it'll be the moment you can slam the book shut on this conspiracy.
You hear Robin clear her throat.
You look over and see that she has her pants down just enough to expose her butt, is bending over one of the desks, and is wiggling that pale little butt at you.
Uh. What is she doing?
"What do you think? I did tell the guard I came to have sex with you."
… After all this talk about conspiracy?
She huffs, and follows up with leaning up on her tiptoes a little, really presenting herself. Enough you can see a tease of the edges of her bare labia between her thighs.
"You told me when we first met in your tower that we'd better actually have sex, to make the guard think we were meeting because you were seducing me, and nothing else, right?" She turns to look at you over her shoulder. "Was that just an excuse for you to take my first time?"
Robin really is too smart.
You tell her she has a point. A very reasonable point.
But wouldn't it be easier to make use of Tharja's bed? You're sure Tharja would enjoy having Robin join you both, as well.
Robin shakes her head.
"I have to leave and plan after this. I can't just lie around languidly."
She bends over more, until her face is against the desk, putting her body at a right angle with her legs.
"Just do me already. Give me your cum."
Well, she has a fair argument. You need to hurry and talk to Beatrice, too. And it's not like it'd be the first time you had this sort of tryst. Not even just in Ruhemania.
It puts you in mind of many times in Virilia. You had seduced women who simply were busy in their jobs. Cooks who couldn't leave their kettles, things like that. Finally they just lifted their skirts and let you go at it so you would stop tempting them to sneak away.
Having a sassy Robin tell you to hurry up and cum inside her so she can get back to work is a tantalizingly nostalgic feeling.
…Tell you to impregnate her, you whisper.
You're slipping out of your leggings as you say it, coming up right behind her.
Robin gives a sound like a cross between a sigh and a whine.
"I want you to knock me up," she says, a bit monotone.
You can't help laughing. So you shall, you say. Your voice turning husky and lustful.
Fortunately you have a secret weapon this time.
You take the lotion from your pocket and sink two fingers into it.
Robin seems to have caught on that you're doing something.
"What are you doing…?"
Something that will help. Something you picked up during the Faire.
…Not technically a lie. Not that you'd hesitate to lie if it involved Beatrice's witchcraft.
You whisper at her to hold still. It'll help.
You rub a little bit up and down her slit.
"Ah… it's cold."
It'll heat up, you assure her.
You coat your erect cock with it as well. The lotion covering your member is indeed cool to the touch on such sensitive skin. It stimulates your muscle more and more. Even just a little bit of her asking you to knock her up has gotten you excited to the point you need to bury your cock inside her and fulfill her request.
You align your hips right up with Robin, settle your hands on her sides, and slip your cock inside her pussy.
She cries out and arches her back at the sudden intrusion. You yourself let out a low groan at the feeling of being encased in wet heat. Robin is still so… tight.
"Mm… move, please…"
Heh. A Robin who isn't a blushing stammering virgin who's nervous about getting pregnant is also very nice.
You whisper that if Robin is going to go far as to say 'please'… then you simply must obey.
But it'll be easier if she spreads her legs, just the tiniest bit.
She hesitates, as if evaluating whether you really need it or are just asking something to ask it, before spreading her feet apart a little more.
You put a hand on the small of her back to help stabilize you, then decide to really test how 'quick' she wants to make this quickie.
"Mm… mn… mm!"
You thrust your hips hard. There's no friction or discomfort thanks to the lotion, but… the sheer size of your cock filling Robin's tight and virginal hole is making her squirm and squeak.
It's making you groan as well. Her sounds invite your own.
You rut against her like she's a bitch in heat. Eventually she stops squeaking and starts hissing. Pleasured breaths through her teeth where she's biting on her lip to keep from making too much noise.
It's punctuated by the occasional moan as you rub just the right spot inside her.
Is she comfortable, you ask?
You're already filling her entire pussy with each thrust, but you need to ask.
You hear Robin make another low moan.
…That's all the encouragement you need.
You embrace the urge to breed, letting your thrusts become truly wild and frantic. Not a slow pace, or even a fast pace. Not a pace at all.
Just the actions of two wild animals going at it with the urge to procreate.
You're moving so violently you can hear your sword smack against the desk.
This is it, you tell yourself… this will be the cum that knocks Robin up.
You conjure up the image of her before you, standing crisp at attention, saluting you perfectly, her belly jutting out at least a foot… in a whole line with yet more female soldiers…
You whisper to Robin that you're almost there. Is she ready to get knocked up?
"Aaah… ready… Your Majesty…"
Her voice is cute and submissive and you can feel your orgasm crest and wash over you like a wave.
You go up on your tiptoes and arch your back as you start to cum, bending and snapping your knees to thrust your length deep inside her… stretch her pussy and make sure every drop is deep inside her fertile valley.
You can hear Robin let out her own subtle orgasm, her body quivering, her orifice clamping, squeezing, and milking you to draw more of your seed out of you… draw it toward her womb and her waiting egg.
You keep yourself there until you're spent. Your body starting to go limp as your muscles relax. You transfer your hands from holding Robin to bracing on the desk so you don't fall on top of her.
You take a moment to pant and catch your breath and realize how much you're sweating from wilding rutting with Robin while you're still clothed.
You're not mating animals any longer, you have to separate and become humans again… sadly.
Before you pull out, you reach up and tenderly stroke Robin's hair, and the nape of her neck. You elicit a soft coo in response from the touch. She seems to like it.
…Even having sex like this with her body planted on the desk, it's easy to appreciate her form.
Robin gets what she asked for again. Your seed to make sure she's truly knocked up.
You look forward to watching her swell. Her belly growing along with her control and command over your army.
You don't have much in the way to clean up, but whatever. It's hardly the first time you've had sex in this library.
You reflect how your sex with Camilla turned out, but banish those thoughts as being rude to Robin when you just plowed her senseless. No need to think about her sister right now. Robin's lovely in her own way.
Robin herself gently pulls up her pants, trying not to squirm from how your seed must be running down her legs.
"…Well, I won't be hiding this, so mission accomplished."
Heh. You can't help but grin at that.
You tell her you're trusting her and you look forward to seeing her the day of the gathering, if not sooner.
She nods, before saluting you one more time.
"Thank you for your trust in me, Your Majesty."
…She's earned it. She's earned it twice.
You may have held the slightest bit of reservation about Robin. Even though showing you her parents' plot against you was in your interests, it was also in her interests. And she betrayed her parents and family to do it.
Now… she did all this for you.
As far as you're concerned, she's earned the advancement in her military career, as it is.
She collects all of her evidence, double checking and rechecking to make sure she didn't leave anything behind, before hiding it away.
After that, she starts to make her exit.
You gallantly open the door and lead her out in the corridor. You watch her go, her gait… more than a little bow-legged.
… You have to go back to Tharja and tell her you'll be busy.
Then, you must find Beatrice.
Tharja's pouting. Of course she heard you having sex with Robin. She wanted to join.
"I could tell there was more going on, so I was good and stayed put, Edward."
You thank her. It simply wasn't something she needed to know. It's better Tharja not know there's some conspiracy around.
You tell her you're sorry. Deeply sorry. You will make it up to her. But you must go find Beatrice now.
You share little lips-to-lips kisses in between your words. She's still naked and even now enticing you.
"Will you bring her here, Edward?"
It probably will look more 'normal' if you take Beatrice into Tharja's wing at night than to the tower.
You will bring Beatrice here, but you'll need to talk to her privately, and there may not be time for sex.
That earns you even more pouting, but Tharja tells you she'll be good.
"Hurry back, all right?"
You nod, and make your exit.
You pass by the guard on your way out. He gives you a slight turn of his head, but says nothing.
Ah, yes. His superior is sleeping with him. You only hope it doesn't inspire resentment, but you needed the smoke screen.
You find Beatrice's room. It's Lorenzo's old room, which was once your old room. It's not near the wing the aristocrats are staying in. That's… likely why Beatrice didn't notice.
It also means there's no prowling guards, so you give her door three sharp knocks.
She was there, of course. You told her you needed to have sex, right away.
You're not sure if she realized it was for appearances or not, but soon you're both stepping fleet-footed down the corridors.
It's getting past twilight. You have no choice but to take a torch.
You take Beatrice to Tharja's library. The guard says nothing as you pass him. Let him think of you as a man with the sexual appetite of a crazed stallion.
"I say, Your Majesty, it looks as if you already had fun here tonight," she says with some humor, still in her aristocrat-persona.
You whisper to her that you really need her to block all sound from the room. What you have to talk about is sadly, business.
She does as you ask.
You tell Beatrice all of what Robin just told you.
She's genuinely surprised. Both that it's going on, and that it was found out by a document the senior guard outright handed to her.
"If he had even a dash of cunning, he'd have tucked that in his pocket."
…You have no idea. Perhaps he thought that hiding it would prompt Robin's suspicion. Or it was truly hubris and he thought his code was unbreakable, even if it was some very basic code. Hell, he may have thought the code was completely unique and didn't know it would be completely laid out in a book. You have no idea where he learned it, but he doesn't seem the more well-read sort.
At any rate, you ask, has Beatrice gotten any hint of this? Especially while investigating the Chrisania siblings?
She's honestly hesitant to answer.
"I confess, I was more focused on learning their interactions and desires. Not as much keeping strict track of their movements, King."
She knows and can say that they did not talk about any plan besides their own. Nor did she see them handling coin.
It lends credence to the idea that they aren't connected to bribing the guards, at least.
You tell Beatrice you need something.
Something she may decide is below her dignity.
No, it definitely is.
But it needs to be done because you want to handle the conspiracy through mortal means.
Will she please use her magic to strengthen the cells, restraints, and other items to make it 'usable'? You anticipate you're going to be locking up a great many people. You're not sure if the doors even work. The door to enter it doesn't even work. You need them working, and you need at least a key.
Beatrice frowns, unhappy, but nods.
"Under the circumstances, I will do as you ask, King."
Beatrice will subtly make the dungeon usable. She won't alter it to make it look like it was cleaned or recently 'fixed', but she can make it look like all of the old 'implements' as they were, are fully working. She'll also create keys.
The exception is the oubliette. The oubliette is to be sealed with Daniella and Simon inside it, forever.
You agree. The oubliette is inhumane anyway.
Other than that…
Please keep her eyes and ears open. You don't know who to tell her to spy on. You can't even tell her to spy on the guards. They've been paid and have their instructions already, wherever they came from.
If worse comes to worst…
…you may need her to perform an assassination. Or many.
Not in the open. You don't anticipate the gathering itself becoming bloody. But if you find the conspirators and can't openly punish them, or perhaps it looks like they may need to suffer a silent death instead of a public execution…
You'll thank her for her support.
She grins at that.
"Oh, things really are getting interesting. Veeeery interesting. Ahihihihi!"
She grins and cackles as you desperately give your warnings. It's all right. You'll grant Beatrice this license.
You add on that Tharja won't be told. She agrees that's probably for the best, and she'll make sure not to mention it.
While she's here…
You ask her for more coin, and to top off your lotion you carry around again.
This time she asks what you intend to use the gold for. You reply you're not sure. You may need to make some bribes of your own. She nods and hands it over.
"Take it with my blessings, King. I merely ask because I felt ambivalent seeing my gold end in that detestable Church's offering box."
It can't be helped. It was purely for appearances.
…What'd she confess to, you ask? You can't help being curious.
She arches her eyebrows and lifts her pipe.
"Isn't that violating the sacrosanct, or whatever? Ahehehehe!"
She claims she confessed she was envious of you giving your attention to women besides her. He reminded her she should at least respect your marriage to Tharja, and hurriedly gave her penance.
–Good enough for a woman who is your 'mistress', you suppose.
…Was it true, you ask?
"Wouldn't you like to know, King?"
Her voice is playful and erotic.
You can't help yourself.
You pull the same line as Robin on Beatrice. You must have sex or the guard will be suspicious.
She turns back into her aristocrat-persona, lets you lift her up, and you fuck her right against the wall.
It's… tiring. Strenuous.
But terribly fun.
Impulsive sex with Beatrice while she's in her aristocrat-persona is such a treat. It's almost a delicacy with how much you have unhurried sex as mortal and witch in your bedroom.
You're both gasping for air as you mutually come together. You press your body hard against Beatrice's as you keep her pinned there, her generous breasts pressing through your clothes. A King with his beautiful golden butterfly of a mistress.
Your knees are feeling very weak as you let her go. You set her down, straighten her dress, and walk her out.
You don't let Beatrice leave alone anymore. You let her go with the torch as she passes the guard.
…Okay, now Tharja can have her turn.
Tharja's in even more of a pout.
Beatrice dropped her spell during your sex as two aristocrats. She heard the sex in the library.
"Even Beatrice couldn't join us??"
Furthermore… you're tired.
You tell her you're willing to give her something neither of those women will get to see: you relaxed, vulnerable, and simply needing to be relaxed and comforted.
That perks her up. "Oh, Edward…"
She beckons you, and you disrobe before joining her on the bed.
You truly are exhausted. You go ahead and relax on Tharja's body. You rest your head on her thighs.
You set a hand on her belly. There's still no bump.
"I'm sorry Edward, I'm disappointed too."
It's all right, you assure her. It will come. It will be beautiful, and well worth the wait.
You can't help but have your mind hearken back to Mania and how she comforted you earlier.
…Does Tharja know any lullabies, you ask?
She blinks, looking down at you.
You nod. Like a mother would sing to their babe.
You just… wonder if there's any Ruhemanian tradition of one.
Tharja has to think for a moment.
She strokes your hair, then starts humming a little tune.
…You honestly can't tell if it matches Mania's or not.
Tharja's rhythm is inconsistent. She offers no words for lyrics. She seems to forget the tune and then just repeats.
It's still soothing, in its own way.
You won't insult her effort.
But it doesn't get you closer to figuring Mania out.
Come to think of it…
Mania was singing a very distinct tune. With perfect timing. Her tones lovely and soft and voice unstrained. As if she were a practiced singer.
… The idea of a lonely witch singing to herself in the forest isn't impossible. Singing in praise to the Goddess or to appease the spirits, you don't doubt.
You wonder where she learned it… you should ask her. Or maybe the poetess about where the song comes from, though it feels a little like robbing Mania of her witchcraft to hear an actual origin.
You'll consider it.
At any rate…
You need to prepare for a 'normal' day tomorrow.
If you do anything out of the ordinary, it'll be known.
You can go to check on Alena, find your poetess, find Mania, and possibly spar. That would be a good way to acquire a new sword.
A trip to your treasury to see how Camilla is doing with her new husband may be in order.
In the end, you don't recover.
You do, however, flip yourself over, spread Tharja's legs, and give her much pleasure with your tongue.
You make sure she's satisfied twice over before she's begging you to stop from overstimulation.
You share a long kiss before you both separate. You have to go to your tower.
You leave by yourself, and you give some words to the guard for his thanks in being such a dedicated soldier. He thanks you.
You sincerely hope he got the unsaid hint that he shouldn't talk about tonight.
At any rate, you use a torch to find your way back to your tower.
It only occurs to you midway through the corridors that you don't have your sword and you could actually be very vulnerable. You pick up your pace until you meet your guard.
He assures you there's been no activity. You thank him.
You ascend your tower and have almost no time between shutting the door to your room and throwing yourself on the bed.
You find out in the morning you at least had the sense to shuck out of your cape and boots.
Your sleep wasn't all that restful, but there's nothing you can do but slap yourself into consciousness and let the sun hit your face.
You change clothes and go to your sitting room.
You sit with Beatrice and Tharja. Elizabeth serves you your food. Margaret tastes it.
Despite the varied assortment and very luxurious quality, Margaret consumes it professionally without looking as if she may actually be enjoying it.
She does not drop dead.
So you begin to eat.
You have free time.
You… are actually nervous. You want to investigate the plot, but you know you shouldn't because then it'll look like you're investigating. You need to act naturally.
Where to start?
>The Faire. Try to find Alena and her troupe of performers. Apologize for the other day.
>Look for your hired poetess. You need to decide if you'll have her at the gathering.
>Mania can at least comfort you, with her belly and voice. Visit your 'third witch'.
>Sparring might be a good diversion. Go to the armory.
>You may not get to have sex with her, but you haven't seen Camilla yet. Go to the treasury.
We need a sword. Just in case this turns ugly. And if we happen to chat with our soldiers about boring guard duties in the aristocrat's wing while we're sparring… that's just a lucky coincidence.
Edward’s getting rusty since he last fought Daniella. Considering the circumstances we might need his fighting capabilities again. It will be like learning to ride the bike again - refresh of motor skills.
I'm pretty sure this is our last chance to interact with any of the Faire women.
Same reasoning as Murble. We've got Mania locked in, but this is probably the last day we'll have a shot with Alena.
Clarification please. Is there only time for one item?
I can't answer this definitively. Edward may get involved in more extensive matters that require more time, or he might find himself only able to spend a few minutes on some activity. He may get two, more, or only one.
He'll be able to do things after midday as well.
Please continue to vote.
As it is said:
"I live by the sword. I take my boys everywhere I go, because I'm paranoid."
Option 4, then, with a note to keep it as brief as possible.
Option 1, while we still can.
>3 votes for option one, go to check out the status of Princess Alena and her troupe.
>4 votes for option four, go to the armory to spar and take a new sword. (With a note to be brief.)
Go to the armory to spar and take a new sword.
Poll closed. Update soon.
Letting out some nervous tension through physical exertion will be for the best. It'll help you keep your muscles sharp as well.
You can also use the opportunity to take a new longsword.
For those reasons, you decide to make your way toward the armory.
You'll try to make your stay brief. You don't want to let on that you know something.
You're at the training grounds near the armory.
You don't see Robin, but that's probably preferable.
You do see some guards training. They're back to training haphazardly, in contrast to how Robin first proposed her reforms.
The senior guard is there, as are some of the Old Guard, but your Loyalists are also there. They all greet you as 'Your Majesty.'
…Rather than directly address anyone, you simply announce you felt yourself in need of practice and need a partner for a spar.
There's some cries of "That's our King!" and there's movement to get you a wooden sword.
You face off against your partner and bow.
Your muscles haven't fully recovered from the tournament, and you exerted your groin and back muscles yesterday, but you give a fine effort.
You actually manage to strike your partner at the same time he strikes you, and you both cry out to yield simultaneously.
You share a rousing laugh at the outcome and tell him it's a fine draw.
The senior guard asks if you require an escort to the Faire.
–You think he may be trying to step outside the bounds of his authority now that Robin is general, but you don't correct him.
At any rate, you turn him down. You have something else in mind.
You go into your armory proper and select a longsword.
Inside is where Robin actually is. You hadn't asked, so her presence is a surprise. She seems to be studying something with her attention on some parchments.
When she raises her head to look at you, you wave. You tell her there's no need for pleasantries, you just want a sword. –A sword that isn't your royal sword.
She doesn't stop you from taking one, of course. Neither does she tell you she has something urgent for you.
You take it as a sign everything must be going according to plan.
You take your longsword and are out the door in less than a minute. Less than perhaps thirty seconds.
You bid farewell to all the soldiers, thanking them for indulging your need to test your strength.
It gets you some hearty paeans. Even the Old Guard gives you some gruff words of appreciation and invites to come back at any time.
That's all you can think as you leave, though you don't let your smile bend.
You have a longsword on your belt, a few sore muscles and a bruised torso, as well as a little more time before midday.
You could've lingered. Perhaps checked on Sully or asked about Noi, who didn't seem to be present, but you got what you accomplished.
>The Faire. Try to find Alena and her troupe of performers. Apologize for the other day.
>Look for your hired poetess. You need to decide if you'll have her at the gathering.
>Mania can at least comfort you, with her belly and voice. Visit your 'third witch'.
>You may not get to have sex with her, but you haven't seen Camilla yet. Go to the treasury.
Now that we are armed again, Option 1. We simply MUST apologize to the troupe.
Option one. The apology's dearly needed (as is a large tip to make up for lost wages?).
>5 votes for option one, go to the Faire to find Alena and her troupe.
Find and apologize to Princess Alena.
Poll closed. Update soon.
You simply must make peace with Princess Alena and her troupe before it's too late.
You were already feeling guilty from having to leave so quickly with Noi. Leave her to deal with the somber mood of the crowd and the duty of trying to cheer everyone back up.
You hope the novelty of wanting to be close to you has died down and make your way to the Faire. It'd be difficult if you were bothered.
You get some cries of "King!" and "Your Majesty!" but everyone is satisfied with a wave and a smile.
However, when you get to the part of the Faire that was claimed by Alena's troupe…
What you find is not encouraging.
You find the structure Princess Alena used to perform her play.
It's been dismantled with only some foundation buried in the ground left.
There's no sign of anyone around.
You try to stop another reveler and ask what happened.
He replies that the troupe shut down.
They couldn't get anyone to watch them anymore. Adults shunned them. Children were disheartened. No one had any no more interest in 'Princess Alena'.
They decided to cut their losses. They dismantled their stage, took the boards they could with them, and left the next morning.
He offers you instead a chance to see him perform somersaults, but you tell him that's all right.
He bids you a pleasant day, Your Majesty, then adds that you shouldn't worry about them. He heard the story. They were terrible for what they did to your guard.
You don't even try to correct him and tell him to blame the hecklers, or yourself.
You feel like a heel. Not just for shutting down their performance and making them leave early, but for ruining the image of 'Princess Alena, the Strongest Woman' in the minds of the children who wouldn't know any better.
There's nothing you can do about it, though.
Looks like your second opportunity to become closer to Princess Alena after turning down marriage with her has evaporated.
… If there's any good, absolutely any good, to come from this, it's that Noi can have her peace.
She needed that moment. She needed the wrongs committed against her in her childhood made right. She needed ordinary people telling her she's accepted and worthy of respect. That she isn't and was never some 'demon'.
Whether that's worth Princess Alena and her troupe packing up, you don't know. You hope they at least made a profit from their tips and left eager to find a venue for their next show.
Since you're in the part of the Faire for festivities, you look for your poetess.
You don't find her, but you do find her partners.
They tell you she broke for lunch early. And they know exactly where.
Of course, it's a food cart that serves ale.
You find her holding a hearty mug that's big enough it might be a challenge for some men. Her other hand grips tight some meat roasted on a stick.
The server gives a start at seeing the King.
You say you have business with the… lush.
You finally get the attention of the poetess.
"Ah! Your Majesty! S'rry, lemme finish this."
Before you can protest that you're the King and you will not be made to wait while she drinks, she pours the whole rest of her mug down her throat. Then, in one chomp, bites the rest of the meat, pulling it and sliding it from the stick into her mouth. –Or perhaps you should call it a 'maw' after that display.
She mumbles out a garbled thanks to the merchant and promises to be back to pay him later.
… Less than ideal, but whatever.
You're tempted to drag her off by the ear, but you settle for taking her hand and leading her someplace out of the way of the traffic so you won't stand out or be easily overheard.
She's somehow managed to get that mouthful of food and drink down her gullet.
She sees the distasteful look on your face and just grins.
"Apologies, Sire! But if thee were but a mere poetess plying word as her trade, thou wouldst also never waste a morsel or drop of vittles."
She's not at the point she's swaying, but her eyes have a glassy look to them.
You can understand the attitude, but you must call in her 'trade'.
Which you have paid her for.
And for which she must now perform her service.
She bows, and with a flourish, takes her lyre from her jacket.
"As thy may wish, Your Majesty! I have a fine… repertoire."
She plucks a string, arching her eyebrows.
–Oh, you think that may be a hint.
'If you're hiring me to perform in bed, that's fine with me.'
You should decide.
She's a lush, but you can't deny she has a charm to her.
You tell her… the job you may have in mind for her could be very prestigious.
Meaning, performing in front of other aristocrats. At a party.
That actually gets her attention. She goes from trying to lowkey seduce you to perking up, quick. Lips turn into genuine shock.
Does she have the repertoire for that, you ask? As well as the self-restraint to inspire the proper… mood? It's hardly a bawdy food cart. No heavy drink allowed.
She gets the hint.
"Aye, Sire. It would indeed be an honor. –You would not regret it."
… You nod.
You do need some entertainment at the gathering. This would do if she could keep it highbrow enough.
A third option seizes you.
Castle Valachia under normal circumstances is… dreary. Very dreary. There's no life in the hallways. Just maids and a few guards.
Having an entertainer at your court would do much to lift the mood. She seems… hungry enough. You could bring up the prospect of her staying at your castle, beyond the Faire.
You can even press a little more gold into her hand to show her you're sincere.
You weigh your options and then decide how you'll use the poetess.
>You want her in your bed, nothing more. Have her visit you tonight.
>You want her to perform, properly, at your gathering.
>You want to hire her on a more permanent basis, if she'll take the offer to stay at your castle as its poet and court bard.
Option 3. Every court needs a fool, and this one shall suffice until we can find someone with actual training.
Option 2, we can always invite her to stay based on how well she performs.
>2 votes for option two, hire her to perform properly at the gathering.
>5 votes for option three, hire her on a more permanent basis to be court bard.
Hire the poetess to be your court bard who will stay in the castle after the Faire ends.
Poll closed. Update soon.
…You might be biased, especially with the desire to see the women you sleep with at this Faire actually expand, rather than merely knowing they will leave the castle a little more pregnant than when they came in.
But this bardess has a sweet tongue, skilled fingers, and a body to match. Having this doe-eyed, plump lipped, big breasted, soft-thighed beauty around your halls would be definitely welcome.
You're sure you can tame her and her love of drink once she realizes she has a steady source of food and a roof over her head.
You tell her you'd like to make her a special offer.
You don't want her for just a night or just an event. You'd like to hire her as a court bard, on a permanent basis.
…That was quick.
Her entire expression has lit up in delight. You've really made her day.
–Very well, you say.
As a token of your sincerity, you'll give her a little more coin to settle her debts.
You won't have a servant who has debts to anyone else.
She's blushing now, one hand on her cheek. You think you just made this girl's wildest dreams come true.
"You… yes, Your Majesty! If you don't mind, I'd like to move in tonight."
That's fine, you suppose.
The maids did prepare more rooms than strictly necessary. You'll have her accommodated until you can decide how to organize your unique servants.
You take out some of Beatrice's coin and hand it over.
She takes only a few pieces. She tells you she'll be using it to pay her outstanding bills, and to give the other poets she performs with as a means of saying thanks for all the experience they've given her.
That's fine and appropriate, you think. You have a good amount of Beatrice's coin left after she takes her share.
"You've made a very wise decision, Sire! I'll prove it with my dulcet tones, huge repertoire, and skill with the lyre!"
You actually have an idea.
Maybe you should have her 'prove' her skills and knowledge.
You can think of several ways. Though in the heat of the moment, you'll focus on just one.
>Ask her what songs and poems she thinks she'll perform at your gathering. You want to be sure you set the appropriate tone.
>Ask her if she recognizes Mania's lullaby.
>Ask her if she can compose an ode to yourself, King Edward. Ideally before the gathering.
Option two because I’m curious.
Option 1. 2 we can do later, and 3 isn't a high priority.
Option 1-get this wind guardian drunk and plant those seeds inside her fertile pot!
A bit self-serving, but curiosity is piqued.
>5 votes for option one, test her on what sorts of songs and poems she'd perform at the gathering.
>1 vote for option two, ask her if she recognizes Mania's lullaby.
>2 votes for option three, request she have an ode to you, King Edward, prepared.
Test her on what she'll perform at the gathering.
Poll closed. Update soon.
You can think of a way for her to prove it right here, right now, you say.
Her expression gets stuck on smiling. She must know she's having her new employment, as it is, tested.
"Aye, Your Majesty! Ask this humble poetess anything."
As you said, you're having a gathering at the castle. The most important people in Ruhemania will be there. Of course that includes you and your wife, the Princess.
She's blinking less and breathing more. You suspect she regrets downing so much ale.
Give a sample song or poem, you prompt.
She pauses, then asks specifically what sort of people will be there. If the gathering will be entirely aristocrats and servants.
…You're impressed by the fairness of the question. You hadn't mentioned how many guests you had, or that it would be entirely aristocrats. She's showing good foresight in asking.
You reply it will be all of the nobles in Ruhemania that were invited and came to the castle, plus the representative of the clergy in one priest, plus one burgmeister from Kervuva, plus several diplomats from Elbania.
Her eyes go wide. She must realize you've placed a tall order in her lap.
"That will be a very merry party indeed, Your Majesty! If I may make some suggestions…"
She tells you the presence of the priest is going to limit how many 'upbeat' poems or songs she can get away with. Not even bawdy ones, but kinds you would hear in taverns or other places of recreation are excluded.
The burgmeister is going to limit the effect of the more subtle poems she knows that rely on rhyme, meter, or other complexities learned people appreciate.
The presence of diplomats is going to limit the effectiveness of poems and songs that appeal to shared commonalities of the people of Ruhemania.
You reply to that last one, asking if that really matters considering… the status of the King?
She immediately shakes her head.
"Not at all, Sire!"
She bites her tongue, thinking, then tells you she can do it.
She'll put together a repertoire of universal poems, songs, and tunes that deal with subjects that appeal to all human interests, promote virtues the Church approves of, and will not be lost on the burgmeister among the nobles. –Without repeating herself.
That's a very impressive promise. If she can truly put that together, she'll have earned a place as your court bardess, you say.
"Aye, Sire! Er, one last thing…"
She whispers to you that if you think the party needs 'perking' up, signal her.
She can perform a song or poem that will appeal to a specific group if they seem particularly in need of entertaining.
A solemn retelling of a Church parable. A tune that is popular in Kervuva. A song she's sure she's heard is known in Elbania. …A fable of a wise King who brings good fortune to an impoverished people.
"But enough of promises, Sire, I simply ask for… thy ears. Thy eyes."
She strokes her lyre, shutting her eyes and giving you a bow. –It provides you a glimpse of her cleavage. Not nearly as much as Beatrice, but noticeable.
She plucks a pleasant little melody.
Oh, even you know this one.
You're actually surprised. There really are universal melodies known everywhere.
She follows it up with a retelling of a fable anyone would know. She somehow is able to keep it interesting by throwing in little details that aren't in the traditional telling. The ending is the same, but you find yourself a bit more moved as your mind is opened to new possible motivations to the characters actions.
Next she begins plucking her lyre, alternating it with recitation of a line of poetry. She speaks with her body as she does it, sweeping with her arms and making broad gestures. The combination of music, word, and body language paints a vivid image of life and love.
… All right, you're convinced.
If she can do all this after so much ale, she can likely be even better stone sober.
You're done testing her, you say. You'll trust her to be prepared.
Come to the castle when she has her affairs in order. A maid will give her a bed, food, and any details she needs. You'll see to it.
"Aye! Thank you again, Your Majesty."
…One last thing.
Her name, you ask?
"Ah… Venti, Your Majesty."
A fine name, you say. You'll be sure to remember it. But for now, you must both go.
You smile and dismiss her, feeling a little more confident.
…Unfortunately that time you spent testing her has brought you to midday.
You must head to the sitting room and have your midday meal.
At least you won't be full from Mania's milk. You don't think you could excuse not being hungry yet again when you shouldn't be consuming anything your taster is not present for.
>No choice yet. Further update coming soon.
You wind your way back to the castle and reach the sitting room.
Tharja and Beatrice are happy to see you. You sit down with them, your meal hot and waiting for you this time.
Margaret takes a bite.
She does not drop dead, so you begin to eat.
You tell Margaret you've hired the services of a poetess who is to be your court bard. Or bardess. She's to be given a room and adequate food until you can decide on her permanent accompaniments.
She must be given a fair and adequate ration. She's to be performing at the gathering and will need to mingle among the nobles.
Margaret tells you she understands and will inform the fat maid in charge of the servant hierarchy. Good.
… You wonder if Beatrice has uncovered anything.
Your mind is still flitting to possible suspects of the plot.
Whoever is doing it has access to gold. Enough to bribe the whole Old Guard.
You only got to examine it for a second, and you didn't have a reference, nor did you have the opportunity to show Ricardo, but… it didn't seem debased or fake.
Perhaps if it were fake, the Old Guard would've caught on?
At any rate, you're wondering if that eliminates Dimitrie and his mother as possible suspects.
Dimitrie did attempt his bribe with 'debased' coin, after all. If you remember Ricardo's words, it was the sign of a region that did not see a lot of currency exchange, or poor sources of gold.
It's too flimsy to entirely eliminate them. A woman who would push her son to bribery proves herself capable of bribery, at least.
Though you're still not sure of her motives. They make no sense.
–Well, Dimitrie is not the issue here. It's who has bribed the senior guard and the Old Guard by extension.
Who initiated it? Who had the chance?
…You honestly don't know.
And can you say for sure none of the Chrisania siblings are involved?
You believe Robin. You trust in Robin.
But even Beatrice can't say she's completely sure about the rest.
This may be a hint that Beatrice isn't the super-spy you've been using her to be.
She's very good at uncovering a person's character and motivations. What will earn their trust and loyalty or at least 'keep them in line'. But actual movements of their day-to-day activities… She did uncover Ricardo's 'relationship' with Margaret, but was there anything else?
You suppose that's to be expected. She was on a time limit, with the need to play 'aristocrat' at the same time. Her 'nullify senses' magic doesn't seem to mean she can literally turn invisible and walk around anywhere.
If there wasn't some limit, Daniella wouldn't have found you all that night.
But if it were the Chrisania siblings… what would be the point?
Make it easier for them to seduce you by telling the guards when to move? Tell them when to have people around to witness you committing the act? Use the gathering to announce they're all pregnant?
You can't exactly ask one of them. Robin knows you know about the plot, but you didn't outright say to any of them: 'I know what conspiracy your parents forced you into. Here is an out.' And Robin would be the most reluctant. If there were other details to the plot, it'd make sense she wouldn't know them.
…It could literally be anyone. Or a group. There were too many nobles for you to keep track of.
No, it would surely have to be a group. That would make amassing that gold much more feasible.
You had better be prepared to use your dungeon. Or at least to have loyal guards around to keep them under house arrest.
–Then the purging of the Old Guard.
You continue eating.
You knew being King wouldn't be easy.
You knew you were a foreign King, taking over a draconian old man's Kingdom after spending about a week at the castle… if that.
Yes, you remember. It took you less time for you to get to Castle Valachia and King Vlad to die than it took for you to actually get to Ruhemania from Virilia.
This is your Kingdom.
And you're going to shepherd it like it and make the people prosper. As much as you can. Free of power-hungry nobles willing to play the back-stabbing game.
…You spare a glance at Tharja and how innocent she truly will be going into the gathering tomorrow.
That's all right. She won't be harmed.
If some catastrophe happens. If all your plans fail. If it truly becomes an armed uprising… if you were to die…
Tharja will live on. With Beatrice. For all time.
And she'll be able to raise the baby in her belly.
That's all you need to have real hope going into tomorrow.
You draw your meal to a close with everyone and depart.
It's past midday. Before sunset.
You could possibly handle one or two last actions.
You don't feel like going to see Tharja yet. You need to clear your head.
You still need to 'act naturally,' you can't snoop… at least outside the bounds you normally would do so.
>A visit to your treasury is in order. Perhaps you'll meet Camilla, or be able to have Ricardo update the order that Robin will remain General indefinitely if you were to need a regent.
>…A belly will calm you down. As will time spent with Mania away from your current thoughts. Go meet your third witch.
>It's worth it to try to spend time with Beatrice. Take her to your tower.
Option 1, need to make sure Robin's position is secured.
Agreed, Option 1. Updating the order will also show Robin that we are truly taking her council under consideration, not just giving lip service.
>6 votes for option one, visit the treasury to see Ricardo, perhaps see Camilla, and update your order.
Visit the treasury.
Poll closed. Update soon.
The treasury has the most potential. See Camilla, if only for a glimpse, and meet Ricardo. Two birds, one stone.
You can even think of valid business.
With that in mind, you head toward the treasury.
You can't help but note the treasury entrance is guarded by two members of the Old Guard. You're sensitive to that now.
They let you know Ricardo is alone inside. Oh well. At least you don't have to be disappointed at not seeing Camilla.
You descend your staircase into your treasury.
You find Ricardo, indeed alone.
You exchange pleasantries and tell him you're updating your order from before.
You've made Robin general. You need an order that she will continue to be general even if you needed a regent due to being incapacitated or temporarily unavailable at your castle.
He nods, and says he'll draft an updated order.
"Incidentally… do you know who would be regent in that case?"
Yes. Yes you do.
It's the next in the line of succession.
In other words… Tharja. Isn't that right, you ask?
Right. You may have technically been regent after King Vlad died but before you were officially coronated.
But you know if you asked or told Tharja, she'd delegate or otherwise make someone else regent.
In the case of Robin, you know she wouldn't replace Robin for anything.
Though she'd respect the law as well as something you wanted.
"Do you still want to create this new order, Your Majesty?"
>Not necessary. You know Tharja will keep Robin as general.
>You'll make the order anyway. Tuck it in your pocket in case you need to show Robin later.
>Actually… What if Tharja can't be regent either due to not being available? You want to make a new law about who will be regent.
We can worry about the other regent stuff later.
Better safe than sorry, and I don't think Tharja would take it in anything but the way we meant it- assuming it ever comes up.
Only four votes, but they're unanimous and it's a rather lowkey choice.
>4 votes for option two, update the order.
Update the order to make Robin general indefinitely if you need a regent.
Poll closed. Update soon.
You sigh. Yes of course you do.
It's not going to happen or be necessary, but yes.
You go ahead and add in the other loophole Robin thought of. No 'super-generals' or otherwise altering if the general has authority.
He pens it, giving it for you to stamp. You do so and take it with you.
You can show this to Robin or just let Ricardo have it filed.
Finally Robin can have security. She'll have the Old Guard purged soon anyway.
"Is that… all, Your Majesty?"
…What's wrong, you ask him?
Ricardo has a sort of melancholy look about him.
"That gathering is tomorrow, isn't it, Your Majesty?"
Yes it is, you remark.
Does Ricardo know something? Is he trying to hint that he does to you…?
You ask if he'll be present.
"Hm? Oh, yes. Yes of course. I will be present. …As will my wife."
… You're not sure what to say.
Something's bothering him, but you think it has more to do with his emotions than any… plot.
You've got your order. Camilla isn't here. You could still leave and find something else to do before the daylight slips away.
But… maybe it's worth it to talk with Ricardo a little more?
>Ask if Ricardo would appreciate a man-to-man talk between… 'friends', ostensibly.
>Thank him for the order, ask him to let you know if any irregularities come up with the treasury, and excuse yourself.
Option one, might as well treat Ricardo decently for once considering we rarely check on him. No harm in that.
Option one. He clearly needs to talk and ignoring that here could have repercussions.
>4 votes for option one, spare a man-to-man talk with Ricardo.
Have a talk between 'friends' with Ricardo.
Poll closed. Update soon.
You guess you can spare some time for the old bachelor who's no longer a bachelor.
You ask Ricardo if he has time for a… 'friendly' chat. Man to man, as it were.
"…Well, there is time."
He takes you into the back room.
It looks like it's been more used than it ever has been. Dust has been stirred. Ricardo must be working hard.
Ricardo lights one of the candles so you have some light.
Is he happy you invited him to the gathering, you ask?
Ricardo's mustache sort of twitches.
"Of course, Thank you, Your Majesty."
Then, why does he seem so lugubrious?
Go ahead, you urge him. You're concerned.
He gives a sort of sigh.
"I never thought I'd have a wife. I never thought there'd be a woman who would be introduced as 'Ricardo's wife'."
Has she been in the treasury? Is her presence bothering him? You don't imagine Camilla herself doing so, but maybe Ricardo is feeling some… sour grapes.
He shakes his head.
"Yes, she comes here. And no. It's all business," he mutters.
Really? Not that you think he's a liar, you say. But you remember him saying he appreciates a woman with 'a head on her shoulders'.
He gives a little bit of a gruff snort.
"Yes, well, it's hard to think about sex when we're discussing the castle's finances."
–You'll buy that.
So it's not jealousy?
"Mm. I know you've basically 'claimed' her, as it is. She may already be pregnant?"
You decide to spare him the details.
"Yes, I'd be surprised if that wasn't the case."
So, what's the problem, then?
You want to hear, honestly.
Ricardo gives you a little glance, face tight, then sighs.
"It's one of those things I never thought I'd have, a wife. Under any circumstances. Even if it's a sham marriage. Even if she has no real interest in me. Just the fact there is someone who exists being introduced as 'Ricardo's wife…' It's almost normal."
He bites his lower lip, looking utterly pained.
"It's something I thought I'd never have. And… I know that my mother would never have had."
You suppress a gasp and hold in your sigh.
You don't know anything about her. Other than that she was likely an aristocrat, and King Vlad never married her. Though with Ricardo's words, it seems she was never married at all.
What happened to her, you ask?
"…I don't know."
He was set to be trained to learn how to maintain and run the castle's economics when he came of age.
"Soon after, my mother was sent away from the castle. To live on some estate. I never saw her again."
That time, you can't suppress your shock. That's… heartless. Cruel.
Ricardo replies it was in King Vlad's interest, he knew by then he was his bastard, and what it meant.
You're sure his mother must have missed him, every day.
You watch his shoulders droop, his usual stony face fighting back emotion.
"My mother was a Saint. That's why she could do it. Why she accepted it. …It likely wasn't important to him, but it was to her."
You can't help but be moved.
You pat Ricardo on the back, then…
Somehow, it turns into an outright hug. One which you'd give a grandfather, at least.
It's all right, you tell him.
You know how he feels. Mothers are special. He needn't feel guilt.
You're holding Ricardo, strictly speaking, more than you're comfortable with. You're aware of the smell of dust, parchment, and ink from his body and clothes.
But you can also feel the moisture that he leaves on your tunic, before stepping back.
"Mm… t-thank you, Your Majesty."
He pats himself down, gently dotting his eyes with a sleeve while he looks away.
So that's it. Ricardo's feeling haunted that he now has a wife when his mother never, and would never, have had a husband.
If you were inclined to be charitable, his actions may have actually been kind.
He may have known his family was being targeted by witches. He may have already lost a wife or child.
By keeping Ricardo hidden away and sending his mother away, he may have spared them the worst of his crusade. In which case, rather than Ricardo being an unloved sad sack, cruelly used by King Vlad to serve his own ends… he'd be the favorite, carefully sheltered so he wouldn't know what danger he was really in.
…But you can't tell him that. Neither are you really inclined to think that well of King Vlad.
You tell Ricardo he's right to share.
It's a universal thing. Anyone would understand the kindness mothers have for their children. The sacrifices they make. The feelings that evoke as their children. …And you're sorry. You're grateful for what he's doing.
Please, teach Camilla well and alert you to any issues.
…You're almost tempted to tell him you're willing to go to the length of playing along with the fact Camilla's children will be thought of as his, and that he won't have to face the possibility of being publicly thought of as a cuckold, but you can't. That's simply too important. Moreover, you're not sure he'd actually care.
At any rate, you tell him you'll be glad he's there. There will be good entertainment.
He nods along, but you can tell he's not really interested. That's fine.
Your talk reaches a lull. After so much emotion, you doubt there's anything left to talk about.
You thank him as always for his hard work. You're glad he could open up with this as well.
He gives an awkward nod. You think he may be surprised himself that he went so far as to accept a hug.
You exchange pleasantries and excuse yourself, bringing your man-to-man talk to a close.
You ran out of time.
There's nothing to do but retire to Tharja's room.
Oh. That's a surprise.
Noi is guarding Tharja's wing. There's absolutely no mistaking her huge form.
You salute, which is crisply returned.
You decide against saying anything. You would, perhaps, if the Faire wasn't going on and tomorrow wasn't such an important day, but it is going on and tomorrow is an important day.
You enter Tharja's room, knocking before she unlocks the door.
She's not nude, but she's excited.
"You were so right! The new girl you have is… she's fascinating!"
Tharja can only be speaking about Noi.
She starts excitedly talking about how she wants to 'initiate' her right away, but can't because she knows she can't get her to leave her post.
"Please Edward, can't you assign two guards so I can 'borrow' her? Or put her on a schedule where she guards a washroom?"
Normally you'd be happy to join in Tharja's excitement. But that's not possible right now, you whisper to her.
Wait until the Faire is over and there's not so many potential witnesses, you say.
She pouts, but agrees.
…The idea of Noi with her pubic region shaved and wearing one of Tharja's white nightgowns is an interesting one, though.
Where on Earth she'd get one in Noi's size… she would have to use magic to do it, likely. Or create it out of stitched sheets.
You decide to mention to Tharja you've hired a poetess to be the court bardess. She'll be staying in the castle permanently barring some lapse of judgment on her part.
You add on that she's very cute.
The prospect of yet another woman Tharja hasn't seen sets off another flight of fancy in Tharja and planning for how to help you impregnate her.
You wonder if Tharja may need to help with that. She did seem to have been coming on to you, but it may have been attached to desire for your coin, which you don't have to bargain for her anymore.
At any rate, you'll have plenty of time to seduce her.
You're grateful for the time with your wife.
You're able to forget your misgivings with the focus on how many pregnancies you're going to inspire.
Not to mention by the time you're done talking, you're both more than eager to start focusing on each other.
You lay Tharja on her back and ound your hips into her. She wraps her legs around your body and accepts your length.
So your lovemaking continues until you're both satisfied.
You go back to your tower. The guard reports no one has been by.
But, he must be wrong.
You find a set of keys by your bed.
…These could only be from Beatrice. A sign that your dungeon is prepared.
You'll have to keep these to yourself and not let the maids see.
The next morning arrives.
It's the fateful day, as it is.
Whatever conspiracy is going to happen, it will likely be at the gathering.
You prepare yourself and descend your tower. A maid is there to tell you that the gathering will begin immediately after midday.
There will be some light finger food and wine at the gathering. Margaret will be there if you choose to imbibe.
You wonder if that's wise.
The aristocrats may take your taster's presence as a sign you don't trust the food or drink. It may complicate matters.
On the other hand, if you freely indulge, it may complicate your health.
Would it be possible for poisoning to occur?
…You somehow doubt. You confirm with the maid that there's no specific plates being served. A poisoned item freely distributed would therefore mean everyone would die. The wine will similarly all be served from the same barrel with no specific cups for any one person.
At any rate, you could tell the maid you don't intend to imbibe anything. Then Margaret need not be present.
You think it over, and make your decision.
>Have Margaret present. You may need her there to act as your taster.
>Tell the maid you don't plan to eat or drink. Margaret will not need to be present.
>Tell the maid you don't need Margaret. You may eat or drink, but it will be the same as every other guest, so you will logically be fine.
Option 2. We can have a snack or meal beforehand, and another after if we so choose. There's no reason for us to take the risk when we don't know exactly what the current plot entails.
Option two. We'll keep Margaret out of harm's way, and we will also act with caution. There's no telling what might happen.
Option 1. Gonna be a long dinner if you can't eat, and you'll need your full strength and wits when the curtain rises on the play.
And antidotes, effective or not, were a thing for those who wanted to try poisoning a gathering while in attendance.
Perhaps we could have Beatrice conjure us up some food and being it out during the party if our hunger becomes unmanageable? It would prevent a poisoning and still allow us to be nourished in the event of activity.
I want to clarify just to be sure:
Everyone will eat at midday, including Edward. This is his "second meal" that always happens, gameplay-wise.
The gathering (which is entirely a mingle, not a banquet) will then happen. There will still be plates of little hor d'oeuvres to pick at. This is to show Edward is a good host and showing hospitality. (The other nobles' food probably isn't as good or filling as Edward's personal plate.) This includes wine, as the maid says.
He can make it through without eating as he does most nights. In other words, it's not managing hunger that is the issue.
It's whether he wants to be seen using a taster for the things he eats or drinks, be seen just not eating/drinking anything, or will be seen eating and drinking along with his guests. These could all provoke different reactions, if they're even noticed at all. (Margaret being present to taste his food would likely be the most noticeable of the three because she's a whole servant who will need to step in, taste, and then wait for a moment.) Edward anticipates some possible reactions to his decision, which he may or may not be correct about.
Please continue to vote.
>1 vote for option one, have Margaret present to act as your taster.
>5 votes for option two, Margaret need not be present, you will not eat or drink.
Plan to forsake all eat or drink at the gathering.
Margaret need not be present, you tell the maid.
You will simply go without while your guests have their fill.
If you change your mind, you'll let them know.
The maid says she understands, and Margaret's duties will be shifted accordingly.
…You aren't expecting poison, but this is a good middle ground.
Margaret won't stand out and risk making you look paranoid. Neither will you risk your health by eating. Will all luck, it won't be noticed among the nobles gathering, and even if it is, uncommented on.
That settles that.
You'll just eat a satisfying portion of your midday meal.
You proceed on to your morning meal.
Your food is served. Margaret tastes. She doesn't die.
It's… ordinary. Much too ordinary. It feels like something is waiting to get you. It takes you a full minute longer than you normally start eating before you dare to do so. Just in case.
Tharja is all smiles when she talks about supporting you at the gathering and playing the role of your wife. In a way, you envy her.
There was no point in telling her about the conspiracy. It would have only worried her. She simply has to be present.
Beatrice also idly talks about the gathering and vaguely talks about how droll it will likely be. She's heard rumors of an entertainer. You confirm it.
Elizabeth and Margaret wait attentively and say nothing, as usual. Elizabeth has come a long way from the clumsy maid you once knew. Her lace collar around her neck inspired her confidence, it seems.
Margaret has always been professional. You shouldn't take her for granted.
…After you finish eating and you're saying goodbyes, Beatrice discreetly flashes you a glimpse of parchment that says 'Nothing to report.'
Nothing to report. Meaning she's spied nothing suspicious. Ah, if only nothing suspicious were going on.
Your head swims at the possibilities of what you could do this morning.
Should you spar?
You may need your muscles fit.
Besides, Robin should be putting her plan to redo the guard schedules into action. You're not sure if your presence would help or complicate matters.
You rule out the armory. You have your sword.
Tharja tells you she has something to do with Beatrice, and they'll be off together.
You wonder if that will involve any sort of subtle preparation for the gathering. You don't think Beatrice will be giving her the truth, at least.
You rule out any activity with Tharja or Beatrice.
Your mind runs to your Faire.
…Mania is still there. It would be nice to see her. Rub her belly. Drink her milk. Be held and stimulated. Perhaps listen to her entire lullaby and even chance to let yourself doze.
Other than that, you're not sure. You have entertainment at the gathering. You can't think of anything left to throw gold at that could help make it more lively.
Maybe the wine from that one merchant, but you'll write that off as too little too late.
You think you may have bothered Ricardo enough yesterday. He needs time to adjust to Camilla being his wife and sorting out his emotions before actually interacting with her publicly.
You'll let the old man have his space.
The only other option you could think of is to consult your entertainer. Venti was her name?
Make sure she has accommodations she likes. That everything went smoothly. That she has no debts.
Hopefully you won't interfere with whatever preparations she's making.
…Other than that. You're out of ideas.
You can't wander along the halls where the aristocrats are. You may startle someone at the last moment. And for what? Seeing someone walking around?
…You feel anxious. You want to feel less anxious.
If praying to the Church made you feel cathartic, you think you'd be tempted to visit the priest again.
As it is…
You decide where you're going to go.
>A visit to Mania at the Faire will calm you down.
>A visit to your new court bardess, Venti, will give you confidence.
Hmm… Option 1. I think we need to get some air, step away from what's about to happen, let some tension go. Sadly, Venti would only keep our mind on it.
Option one, if it truly means Mania is the only external relief Edward may avail himself to atm.
if this write in would be acceptable, why not visit the stables?
admittedly there is a bit of curiosity piqued by the interactions between Cordelia and Malon since all of that apparently did a solid 180.
also Eclipse is as much of a homeboy as Ricardo is.
I have no reason other than the stables are relatively close to the armory/training grounds. This write-in is acceptable with that caveat.
In that case, I’m switching my vote to this write-in. I’d like to see how Malon and Eclipse is doing.
I'll vote for the write-in.
Option 1. Run home to mama in times of stress, as it were.
I vote for the Write-In
I vote for the write-in
I'll vote for the write-in as well, with the caveat of acting casual and trying not to draw any undue attention from the guards. Didn't realize the stables were that close to the guards.
>3 voes for option one, visit Mania.
>6 votes for write-in, visit the stables.
Poll closed. Update soon.
There's another option, it occurs to you. One that is probably safe.
You can't imagine Eclipse being in on the plot.
You decide to spend time with your horse.
You're not sure you'll actually do any riding, but it can't hurt to just spend time with the beast. Walk or brush it a little.
The stables are relatively close to the training grounds, but as long as there isn't a commotion it'll be fine.
Thankfully you encounter the best possible situation you could've expected.
Malon, alone, tending to Eclipse.
She gives you a smile that brightens up the entire room and spreads into your heart.
You smile and ask Malon how Eclipse is doing?
She tells you he's fine. The tournament has done no harm to any of the horses. The trail set up to joust on was properly flat and steady. The rails are now removed, meaning the horses can return to being ridden freely.
"Did you come to ride him, King?"
You don't want to wait around for Malon to prepare him. You don't want to risk losing track of time. You know you'll need to bathe with the smell of the stables on you.
You'll just brush him and feed him a little.
You can't help but have mixed feelings.
It was King Vlad's will, a gift to you, that brought Eclipse to your castle. Malon, too.
You sigh, melancholy. It's impossible not to connect something to King Vlad in this castle.
You refuse to be upset. You simply lose yourself in the moment of brushing and tending to the beast. It snorts happily as you do so. It's recognized you as its master. No one will take that away.
You can take some satisfaction from bonding with the animal.
Malon suddenly speaks up.
You turn your head.
Is something wrong, you ask? Are you keeping her from some other task she needs to do?
You're almost tempted to ask if there's a problem with Cordelia, but Malon shakes her head.
She looks around. At both entrances. Then…
She crouches down and grips her hands on the hem of her dress. She raises herself back up with her strong legs and…
Malon's flashing her entire lower half at you. Her red pubic hair shines in the sunlight.
But more than that…
She's raised her dress to just below her breasts. Revealing the slight protrusion in the middle of her belly.
…Malon has a bump.
You let out an audible gasp as Malon blushes fiercely.
Since when, you ask?
Malon makes a cute little sniff.
"Just a few days ago."
She quickly lowers her skirt again.
You embrace Malon and hold her in your arms. Your hand goes to stroke her middle through her dress. Your other hand traces her wide hips and thin waist.
Here it was. The second sign of a budding pregnancy in Ruhemania, after Elizabeth.
Soon your seed will develop even more. You'll see everyone's middles swell.
Tharja's, Beatrice's, Sully's, and more…
You're only saddened you begin to hear the trotting of hooves and must separate before you're seen embracing.
Malon gives you an innocent, loving smile. There's tears on the edges of her eyes.
This is quite the reveal. It's perhaps the best thing you could've known.
You tell her to take care and you'll try to come by to appreciate her more later. Unfortunately… you have to spend time being King for a while.
She nods. "I understand, King."
Stablehands are bringing in horses, but you chance to take her hand and give her one last rub before you go.
You step lightly away from the stables, knowing you'll have to put all of your energy into facing the conspiracy.
You arrange a bath and a change of clothes. You won't be attending the gathering in full regalia, but you wish to look your best.
You shave yourself, and wipe away the smell of horses and the stables.
Your midday meal with Tharja and Beatrice is almost… ordinary.
They are both looking their best as well. Beatrice has a lovely dress with a fine flower accessory and her butterfly seal of nobility.
Tharja has some cosmetics applied to her face which draws attention to her eyes without being overpowering.
Margaret tastes your food before you.
She does not drop dead, so you start to eat.
This time you clean your plate utterly. You prepared to go for the entire gathering without eating or drinking. It's nothing different from most nights, but you need to be sure.
Your stomach gives you a little bit of protest, but it's fine.
There are maids outside to lead you to the banquet hall where the gathering is going to take place. Margaret and Elizabeth stay behind.
Tharja holds your arm while Beatrice walks a respectable few yards behind you.
Tharja conspicuously has her book tucked under her arm. Beatrice is still carrying her little carrying pouch with her own book inside.
The inside of the ballroom is clean and has long tables set up. Bread and salt as a symbolic display of your hospitality. Followed by more delectable fare in small portions to be picked out and eaten.
There are servants bustling around. Neither Margaret nor Elizabeth are among them.
You don't see your entertainer.
Not a good sign.
However, she's the first one to come in the door. Her lyre in her hands. Clothes free of dust and grime.
…She's very close to being late, you tell her.
She gives an apologetic smile.
"Sorry about that, Your Majesty! Castle's bigger than I expected, and they didn't tell me they were giving me a room farther away."
–Hm. The maids did? That's odd, but it doesn't really mean anything.
She tells you her voice is in pristine shape and she's completely prepared. Good.
She'll be plucking a few notes and testing her range to see how much volume she can fill the ballroom with.
Aristocrats begin to come in.
There's a servant at the door to announce their name, their name. In the form of 'their name, in their home territory, arriving.'
It allows you to greet your guests without the mistake of not knowing their name. There's no way you could remember every aristocrat's name if you wanted to.
In all, there's between thirty and fifty people in the room.
Your soldiers, and Robin, are the last to arrive.
The soldiers are all members of the young Loyalists, thank God.
You and Robin spare a few words, out of earshot of anyone else.
"Everything is how we planned, but there was a struggle. My dear comrade tried to claim the sword you gave me was no longer valid as a symbol of your authority. You had taken a new sword, therefore that was the 'royal sword.' This sword I held therefore became any other normal sword by consequence, and my authority changed with it."
…An outright takeover. Lovely.
How did she handle it, you ask?
She huffs through her nostrils and takes an aggressive tone.
"I told him if he said so much as one more word, I would show him who has the authority, by right of our King and all of Ruhemania… and I wouldn't need to draw your sword to do it."
… She told him that?
The senior guard is old, but hardly that old. He's fit and strong and has battle scars from days he was young. You're not sure you'd want to spar him openly if you absolutely had to win.
Robin nods. "I did."
You tell Robin she has the biggest set of balls you've ever seen on a woman.
That draws a laugh from her.
"I'm a man now, Your Majesty."
You do a headcount. It looks like everyone is here.
Ricardo showed up dressed in his normal clothes. Camilla was with him, looking entirely too young and beautiful to be his partner, but they were introduced as being 'in Valachia'.
The priest is here. He's dressed solemnly in his robes. He has an attendant with him.
The burgmeister is here. His clothes are fancy, but not on the level as the aristocrats.
And the Elbanians are here. They're having the most problems mingling, it seems.
Wait a moment.
The Chrisania siblings are here. The entertainer is here, regaling a group with a bit of poetry. The soldiers are here. All aristocrats you've invited that you've been able to keep track of are here, with one exception.
Dimitrie is not here.
You realize that now. He may be the last person not here.
You're sure you heard 'in Torbuja'. That must have been his mother or someone else.
But Dimitrie is not present.
…Should you let it go?
>Send a maid to check on Dimitrie.
>Send a soldier to check on Dimitrie.
>Let it go. Something must have come up.
How much do we wanna bet that he's stuck somewhere trying to put on a Knight's armor that doesn't fit him?
Write in option: Send in a squire/page.
Sending in a maid for Dimitrie would mean we hold his absence as not important as we’re using a person of lower status to fetch him.
Now, sending in a soldier might alert the others into thinking there is something wrong. Public speculation would be an arrest or something worthy of a crime. We do not want that either.
Dimitrie was in the tournament so no one would bat an eye if a squire or page was sent to get him. Something of a cover for sending someone to investigate his whereabouts, given that the write in is valid.
I'm not sure what squire of page means. None have been referenced in the story so far. There were not knights (that he was told about, at least) until Edward just invented them and made Dimitrie his first one.
I can't accept this write-in, but it would count as a vote for option 2, it seems.
Please continue to vote.
Option one, with an extra word to be careful about it. I don't think we've seen the last of the Torbuja plot.
Sending a maid to carry a message like this is right and normal. Sending a soldier would seem too official and risks trouble. (Plus that's one less loyal guard in the room if something goes down while they're gone)
>5 votes for option one, send a maid to search for Dimitrie.
>1 vote for option two, send a soldier to search for Dimitrie.
Send a maid for Dimitrie.
Poll closed. Update soon.
You could send a soldier. It wouldn't be too out of place. He's one of your knights, after all.
But in the end, you decide there's too many risks. Both in image and leaving you with one less soldier.
You instead tap a maid.
Dimitrie, in Torbuja, your royal knight, is not present.
You'd like to know why. Hopefully it is tardiness. If it is, make as little a fuss as possible, and please escort him here.
She nods, and leaves to do so.
In the meantime, you slowly go around the gathering and welcome each guest. Tharja is by your side. Both to be presented with you, and to emphasize your tie to Ruhemania through her.
Everyone you meet is polite, no one shies away or otherwise does anything but treat you with the respect you're due.
The maid you sent comes back.
She informs you that Dimitrie was found in his room.
He is not feeling well and apologizes but he cannot attend the gathering.
He was not able to personally notify anyone of his absence for fear of being contagious and wishing to isolate himself.
The maid in particular only spoke with him through his door.
That is all.
… That's suspicious. He was fine enough for the tournament just the other day.
Something he ate?
If he truly has some sickness, is the whole castle infected? Should you order the gathering shut down?
–No, you can't do that.
And you can't send someone else. That would be calling Dimitrie's honor into question and really attract attention.
You'll have to accept it.
Dimitrie will not be at the gathering.
You spend time talking to Tharja.
"I've never been around so many people outside of a service, Edward. It's… it's a little daunting."
She hugs your arm.
"I'm glad you're here for me."
You sigh in her embrace and dare to pat her arm.
Yes. It's a little strange to think Tharja has spent her life cloistered enough that she's literally never been around so many people at one time. It's a fair-sized gathering, but not that big.
But this is a huge event in her eyes.
You have no choice but to avoid talking to Beatrice.
She flashes you a sly smile when your eyes do meet.
You chat with Corrin for a moment.
You ask if he's approached the Elbanians.
He admits he hasn't.
"I didn't think it was appropriate to possibly talk about sensitive information at such a public gathering, Your Majesty."
You nod. He makes a very fair point.
You exchange some light words with Cordelia.
Her bustier is stuffed, giving her the appearance of breasts.
She compliments your hospitality and your showing in the tournament, but otherwise your talk is a little anemic.
Camilla is with Ricardo. You bid them both welcome to your gathering.
Camilla can't really talk now that she has a husband. He's expected to talk on her behalf because it's so formal a meeting.
Ricardo is not up to the job. He simply nods and gives you a few platitudes.
You've passed around the aristocrats…
Your gaze finally falls to the three groups that are left.
The burgmeister, the priest, and the Elbanian diplomats.
It's clear they are the 'odd men out.'
The burgmeister tries to engage with the aristocrats and barely gets a few words before they move away.
Everyone is treating the priest solemnly. Respectfully, but it leaves him with little to be engaged with at the gathering.
And the Elbanians… no one seems to want them there. They appear the most dismal of the bunch as a consequence.
You should go greet all three groups, but in the meantime…
You catch a glimpse of the entertainer, Venti.
It may be worth it to take her up on her offer.
A tune popular in Kervuva. A Church parable she can make interesting. A song from Elbania, or at least known in Elbania…
Or a fable of a wise King who brings fortune to an impoverished people.
That last one's for you, of course.
You make eye-contact with Venti.
She raises her lyre, as if expecting you to silently direct her.
>Draw her attention to the burgmeister so she can play music that would appeal to him.
>Point her toward the priest so she can tell the Church parable.
>Subtly incline your head toward the Elbanians so she can hopefully appease them with a song.
>Give her a smile and nod. It's time for a subtle paean to yourself.
On a slightly different subject (since not everyone checks the chat thread): I'm trying not to be paranoid, but I think the maids are in on the conspiracy. The oddness of Venti getting tucked away and uninformed, the maid not addressing Dimitrie directly. Maybe it's what we do know making me hyper-alert, but something feels wrong.
>5 votes for option three, appease the Elbanians with a song.
Have Venti sing to please the Elbanians.
Poll closed. Update soon.
The group that's having the most trouble is the Elbanians. Bad for international relations.
You gently roll your head toward them. Hopefully she'll take that as a signal.
True to her promise, she nods.
She strums a few strings on her lyre, gathering attention.
"This next song is popular far and wide, from Ruhemania to beyond…"
She manages to capture everyone's attention with her announcement, and plays a few more strings.
"There's a strong wind that blows, from the mountains to the sea…
It makes the waves churn, eddies through the valley…
From the far East steppes…
To the forests of the West…
Through the dry hills…
And the seasons wet…
Every one of us knows,
The sting of the snow…
This is God's Earth, shared by you and me."
Well, it's not exactly… focusing on the divine right of Kings and the aristocracy.
In fact, some of your aristocrats seem a little puzzled by the choice of song. You can see a few tense faces, near-frowns, and puckered lips.
The priest seems to approve.
Moreover, the Elbanians are downright ecstatic.
At least compared to how they looked before. They begin smiling, actively listening. Some even nod their head with her lyrics.
You know it's struck a chord with them.
Good. You appeased who you wanted to appease, at least.
You're not sure if it will mean better relations in the future, but hopefully this will leave them with a good story to relay back to their Queen.
The food is about half gone.
It may be time to wind down the gathering soon, but no one has left.
You're a little restless.
Is this all one big scare? Did they conspiracists catch on you were wary?
And Dimitrie wasn't here… the maids said he was confining himself to his room, but you can't help but feel a bit paranoid.
At least you know Noi is in front of Tharja's wing.
There's a break in Venti's song.
In that break… there's a very loud tinging sound of cup against cup.
You look over and see an older woman, perhaps six decades? Enough for some grey hair and wrinkles.
"Pardon the interruption. I am Oana, in Torbuja."
She smiles out to the crowd. No one is talking enough to drown her out. She knows how to project her voice, as well.
"I would like to say, on behalf of all of us here, how utterly pleased we are with the hospitality our Monarch, His Royal Majesty, King Edward has shown us. A toast to King Edward, if it'd at all be appropriate."
Well, that's fine… the timing is strange when you know of conspiracy, but that's fine.
You watch as some aristocrats who were without wine go to pick up a cup.
The only people without are you and Tharja. As well as the priest, Robin, and your soldiers.
You made the decision not to eat or drink, so you abstain. Tharja is likely following the idea of it being bad for fertility? You think you remember her mentioning that.
"To King Edward, with our thanks."
She raises her cup, a few aristocrats chime in with 'To King Edward.' And everyone drinks.
… You half expect people to start keeling over and die, but it doesn't happen.
Well, you thank everyone for their appreciation, you say.
This Faire was a celebration for the new season and a new page in Ruhemanian history. To show hospitality to all in Your Kingdom. You're grateful they all came.
"Yes… actually, Your Majesty, it does provide a number of us an opportunity," says Oana.
You feel a sudden shiver down your spine.
You thought for sure the toast was over and people would go back to mingling.
Instead, Oana is still talking. People are still listening.
"As you must know, your predecessor… he maintained a status quo that while it may have been what was best for the country at that time, seems a little… beyond necessary, now."
She looks directly at you. She's smiling, but less so. She wants something from you.
… You're aware of the legacy of His Royal Majesty, King Vlad.
As you said, that's why you organized this Faire.
"It's a very reasonable action, Your Majesty. But can you explain why you have not rectified some other part of his reign? One that made sense for King Vlad, but perhaps not so much now?"
… You don't want to know. You don't want to play along.
This is it. This is the conspiracy. You know it is.
But you can't have her arrested. She's done nothing but talk.
Finally you ask.
…What is she talking about?
Oana's eyes turn sharp.
"King Vlad was not just King of Ruhemania, as we all know. He in fact, held every title in Ruhemania. Every duchy. Every County. Every Barony… everything, save the Church's territory and the humble burgs."
"…Surely you must realize this is not a normal state of affairs…?"
"No other country in the world has a Monarch who owns every single last title therein."
"As the descendants and inheritors of the lesser nobility who swore fealty to King Vlad…"
"…We would like to encourage you, King Edward, to please correct this obscenity."
"Surely you recognize this is a fair and just urging?"
She holds her hands together, in a clasp like she's pleading.
"We beg you, Your Majesty. While you have us all gathered."
You suddenly see the point of the conspiracy.
This woman wants you to hand out your titles.
Now. On the spot.
To the aristocrats you have invited who are from every last corner of Ruhemania.
Moreover, there is a part of you that can't help but agree with her.
She is right. It's obscene for a King to not just be a King, but to be many times a Duke, Count, and Baron, as well.
But… you wanted to hand those titles out to your family.
Keep them close to you so you could guide your children to be your proper heirs.
And you barely know the faces of everyone here besides a few choice individuals. Are you ready to give out real power to those you barely know?
Not to mention this woman clearly doesn't have your interests in mind.
You won't ignore you were being targeted by a conspiracy. That your soldiers were bribed, and went along with it.
It surely can't be for the sake of handing out your titles.
… The Church through the priest and Elbania through the Elbanian diplomats are watching, as are the nobles gathered.
What do you do?
>…It is a fair request. Start handing out titles to those nobles who hail from each duchy, county, and barony you possess, save those you reside in and must control to be King.
>Agree with her in principle, but decline to 'rectify' the problem right now. You are King and you will decide when, and who, to award your titles to.
>Decline outright. This is neither the time nor place.
Option 3. No compromises for this obvious manipulation, we need to show strength.
A less bloody, yet more insidious problem than originally anticipated. And what's more, handing out titles and power allows for arguments and division of land. And the conspiracy will likely seek to have us dead to allow them to gain more power, or at least solidify the titles granted to them.
Option two. We have no plans to hold on to our titles forever, and this seems assertive enough. And denying them outright might drive the conspirators to take more drastic action, or give them grounds to decry us as a hypocrite.
I don't know if there is a great resolution to this, but we were already planning to do this
This could be incidental to the conspiracy or part of it. Either way, we're still planning on arresting the senior guards and we were planning on divesting ourselves of titles (I think?)
Option three, we’re the ones hosting and yet they have the gall to ask for a request.
But I do like the point others are making to call out her lack of decorum.
We never had any intentions of holding on to all these titles. But titles are bestowed by a king unto exceptional vassals and servants for shows of fealty and duty to the kingdom. Oana and others have yet to do so. They haven't even renewed their vows of fealty to us.
Put her in her place, but be truthful about it. We're not the type to stake someone for no reason, but she deserves a tongue-lashing for her brazen attempt to cow us.
I would even cue Venti to begin singing and playing loud to drown out her retort. She has no power here.
>5 votes for option two, concede she may have a point, but you have royal prerogative.
>2 votes for option three, decline outright. You are King. You make the decisions and this is not the time nor place.
Agree in principle, but decline to be so 'urged' at that moment.
Poll closed. Update soon.
You smack your lips. You can't help but wish you had something to drink. Your mouth feels a bit dry.
You tell Oana you've heard her. She's not wrong. –In theory.
But, you are King. The right to award your titles is yours alone. And you will do so at a time when you see fit, to whom you see fit to have them.
You thank her for the humble musing, but that time is not now.
You start to try to find Venti to perhaps cue her to start with a song or other melody…
But Oana's voice is clear and cuts through the ballroom.
"Your Majesty, I ask rhetorically, but if not now, when?"
… When you see fit, you reply.
"Your Majesty. Look around. Look at us. Many of us are old. We are grey. We remember the times before the unification of the country. before the time Ruhemania had a King… a mighty King in King Vlad. Now we have a young King who promises renewal and a 'new page' in Ruhemanian history. Yet you will not grant us what we've been denied for so long? You will not renew Ruhemania by delegating King Vlad's concentration of power?"
There's a murmuring as more than a few aristocrats start to add affirmations of 'Yes, she's right.' 'Fair point.'
You point out as a woman that wouldn't include her.
She gives you a wan smile.
"As you say… but I have a child. A lovely, dear child…"
Now you remember.
"…One which His Majesty honored with the bestowment of a Knighthood…"
This is Dimitrie's mother. You almost forgot when he mentioned her name.
"…Is he worthy of your honor, but not a title? The land he's grown up in, loved, and knows as his home?"
Yet the land he could only describe as 'has trees'? You see through the deception: she wants to control Torbuja through Dimitrie.
There's yet more murmuring from the aristocrats. It sounds like more are growing in favor of her words.
… You take a deep stark breath.
The pieces are beginning to fall into place.
When Dimitrie first arrived, his first words were to try to get you to lower his taxes. Would he have created that scheme by himself?
–No. You see it now. It was this woman's request. She pressed him to face you down and try to enact some subterfuge.
Moreover, when you knighted him, he barely could take his eyes off you for fear you'd harm him. He jumped when you drew your sword to honor him. He insisted and told you his mother forced him to cheat. He didn't lie.
Now you grasp the nature of the conspiracy against you.
This isn't an armed insurrection. Nor a knife in the back. Neither is it even a vile poisoning.
It's the kind of rebellion only an old woman could organize.
This is a velvet glove revolution. One she's hoping will humiliate you and cow you into submission.
The role of the Old Guard is apparent too.
How much of this murmuring is choreographed?? How much of it is genuine? Have all the nobles been bribed, or only some? –No, perhaps they don't even need bribes.
The Old Guard has been giving them the opportunity to meet and plan as they wanted, in preparation.
And the guards here tonight…
If you declared you had enough and decided to have them arrested on the spot, you don't doubt the Old Guard would've refused to move a muscle.
But, the Old Guard is not here.
It's your Loyalists, who won't be swayed.
But she hasn't given you a good reason to arrest her, not yet.
You'll show her you won't be so easily manipulated until she crosses that line.
–And? You ask?
The Knighthood was a reward for his chivalry. Recognition of honor shown.
You should perhaps extend the compliment to her that she has done a splendid job raising him. That she's reared such a splendid young man.
You watch Oana's lips tense as your words strike home.
"…Thank you, Your Majesty."
She doesn't sound amused. You know you scored a hit, there.
"However, while I do not question the right of your royal prerogative, I think there is cause to question its use."
Venti, you say, please play us a rousing song. This is a time of celebration and hospitality.
Venti starts to pluck a few notes, but there's an uprising of disapproving muttering from the aristocrats near her and she stops.
Any attempt to get Venti involved is just going to make this devolve into a shouting match and she clearly doesn't want to be responsible for escalating it to that.
"… Please Sire, I only wish to speak a little longer," continues Oana.
You're not going to get rid of Oana just by shouting her down. She has enough nobles with her who want her to speak.
Perhaps if she crosses some line you can have her arrested, but not yet.
Tharja is joining you in giving her dirty looks. Even she has picked up something is wrong about this situation. That it can't be spontaneous.
Oana coughs, clearing her throat.
"As we all know, King Vlad had one heir… and that heir, when married, forfeited her right to our current King, His Royal Majesty King Edward. And yet…"
She flattens her lips, glancing at you.
"Word is that King Edward was here for not even a week's time before King Vlad, rest his soul, passed on to the next world–"
"How dare you!"
Tharja loses control of herself and yells right at her.
It gets an audible gasp from everyone in the room. It gets a surprised look from Oana.
"How dare you imply what you're implying!! My husband is your King by all rights! My father made him heir knowing his time was growing short! –You should be ashamed!"
… You hold Tharja a little closer.
She gives you a pained look, then hugs you. Tight.
There's a murmuring going through the aristocrats. It… sounds sympathetic to Tharja.
Her outburst was a terrible breach of decorum, but it seems to have played to a majority's sympathies.
And with good reason. Oana was on the verge of implying you may have had a hand in King Vlad's death.
…You did, but in your defense, he was a tyrant.
Oana lets a moment pass before clearing her throat again.
"–There was no such implication. If Her Highness would simply let me continue to speak…"
She turns back to you, then outright addresses the nobility.
"This new King Edward talks of his royal prerogative which he gained very quickly. He's created this lavish Faire for his subjects. Aristocrat and commoner. No one could say it's disappointing. It's a grand occasion. …And yet."
She turns back to you.
"What is the first thing that greets every attendee as they approach the castle? –A rather stark, dismal reminder of a time long past. It puts one in mind of fear, King Edward, not mirth. You've sent every guest very mixed messages."
… She means the stakes, you confirm?
–You can't exactly threaten her by saying she's making you think you may need to sharpen a few more.
You admit. The presence of the stakes is a mistake you will rectify.
They will come down. Soon.
You turn to your nobles.
You meant no unease. You've done nothing but show your hospitality, good will, and respect. The time of the stakes has ended.
"Yet, there's no shortage of labor and work going on in the area, is there, Your Majesty?"
You blink. Is there? You're honestly not sure.
What is she talking about?
"Besides the… stakes… you have a rather large project under construction. A glorious tower."
…Oh. Right. That. You almost forgot with all the festivities.
"One could only imagine the cost. One could also only imagine the purpose. No one seems to know… would the Monarch please indulge the aristocrats who pay His taxes: whyfor did he budget such an addition? The King seems to already occupy one. And Her Highness has her own wing of the castle. Who then, could this tower be for?"
It's for Beatrice. But they don't know she's a witch who needs seclusion. She's just 'your mistress' to them.
And you did spend a large part of the treasury and a lot of effort getting it built, if not fully completed yet.
Oana looks at you. A lot of aristocrats are looking at you.
You've got to give… some sort of an answer.
You're not sure if they already know.
>You explain nothing. It's your royal prerogative to have a tower built. That's enough.
>Ask her if it does not stand to reason that it's to house your family? Remind her a King is expected to create heirs. –It's not technically a lie, but it is a distraction, at best.
>…You know what? Fuck it. Tell the truth, unabashed and unashamed. It's for your mistress, Beatrice. And she's worth it.
It's too early to reveal or expose Beatrice into this battle yet. I'd rather risk that Edward spent the funds on something logically sound, albeit a little selfish. Having no explanation or a flat-out confession it's for Beatrice are both two extremities that we might regret telling later on.
As far as I'm concerned - they're trying to fish out information, so let's give them our 'filtered' info.
Tharja just did us a huge solid by standing up for us to Oana. The last thing we should do here is address Beatrice as mistress and thus repay our wife's kindness by saying it's for our mistress. We know Tharja wouldn't actually care, but it would certainly be perceived as a shameful thing to say it right in front of her.
So that is why Dimitrie is suddenly "sick"… he knew his mother was up to something and didn't want to be present when the inevitable confrontation went down.>>91602
I vote for option one. Challenge her directly. We build the tower for the good of the kingdom, we have long terms plans for it (technically not lies) and that's all she or anyone else needs to know.
Option three is out of the question for precisely the reason ButtDestiny explained. If anything, we should emphasise the close connection to Tharja.
Option two is a very transparent lie and would be conceived as a weak answer. The castle is largely empty anyway with almost all rooms mothballed and unused. That's why we can house all these guests now. The limiting factor was the maid staff and how much they could clean in time for the faire, not the number of free rooms in the castle.
This is also a struggle for dominance, at least in the conversation. To accuse the King of wasting money so close after almost implying he murdered his predecessor is… well not quite treason, but it's certainly nobody's business but the King's how the money is spent. And as King by divine right, Edward does not have to justify or explain that spending. To demand an explanation is a direct challenge to his authority.
They all better remember that the end of stake-a-palooza does not mean that there are no longer consequences for disobedience or disloyalty. If they are that concerned about their tax money, maybe they'd prefer the much cheaper accommodations in the dungeon.
And before she changes topics on us again, we could mention that we thought about purchasing Torbuja's finest wood not that long ago, but maybe if Torbuja isn't inclined to show its loyality to the crown, the crown won't be inclined to do business and spend the tax money there. The Elbanians certainly have the same quality trees growing on their side.
Actually, Wiz raises a good point.
I'm switching to Option 1.
Wiz makes a good argument. Switching my vote to Option 1.
I like this write-in, therefore I'm also switching my vote to option 1.
Voting for Wiz's write in.
Option 1. "Because F you, that's why."
>8 votes for option one, it's your royal prerogative, period.
>1 vote for option two, cite a need to house your future descendants.
Give no explanation, beyond it's your will.
Poll closed, update soon.
You explain nothing.
It was your will that money be spent to create a tower. A tower is being built.
You are her King. She has no right to criticize.
"Hm. So we have a situation where a new King, a King who is not Ruhemanian, comes to the castle, takes power, and immediately spends the entire treasury…? For reasons he won't explain."
It was hardly the entire treasury, but you won't let slip details of how your castle is run.
Instead, you say that You are the King. She's coming dangerously close to challenging Your authority, you say.
"Well, everyone here surely remembers what King Vlad's punishment for questioning his will would be. Perhaps His Majesty is not aware? Yes, King Vlad did war the entire independent aristocracy of Ruhemania into submission, but then… he did not stop there, did he? Executions of entire families were made until every title defaulted to the Crown. As we've been remembered with the glimpse of the stakes…"
She affects a sad, grimful expression.
"And we have a new King, a King who promises hospitality and a 'new page' in history. Yet, when advice is suggested on ways to change that history… he relies on the old ways. He wishes to hold on to the concentration of power. To ignore the 'lesser' nobility. –How dare we think we should have any right in organizing our own country? Our own land, which we own in all but name? It's my humble suggestion to our King and his divine right, that he allow at least a little bit of consultation on Earth."
…You somehow have the feeling that if the Old Guard was present instead of your Loyalists, her language and 'suggestions' would be much worse. Calling for your abdication or an outright destruction of the Monarchy so Ruhemania could be independent states again. The fact you uncovered as much of the conspiracy as you did is making her be more careful.
"Therefore… I'd like to propose this new King accept a council, to guide him in the ways of Ruhemania so that he is properly informed on the state of the country and can better spend the money we pay to him dutifully as taxes. As well as other matters of State."
You really are done.
That's not acceptable.
You start to motion to the guards.
Oana realizes what you're doing and looks directly at you.
"Are You prepared to kill us, King?!"
All movement stops.
Her eyes are directly on you.
"We will not go quietly for the crime of airing our thoughts and appealing to Your reason." She turns to the soldiers. "–Will You strike us down right now, then? Old unarmed men and women, with your swords? Will you turn this night of 'hospitality' into a bloodbath to christen Your King's new reign??"
Even your Loyalists are pausing, ill at ease.
Oana's drawing a line in the sand and asking if you dare cross.
You give a subtle glance to Robin.
She seems at a loss. That's a bad sign.
If she thought they'd go through with it, she'd be nodding and telling you to make the order.
You give a glance to Beatrice.
You don't doubt she could assassinate Oana, or perhaps even the entire nobility, overnight.
…Extreme methods, but you'll keep them in your pocket for now.
You clear your throat.
Perhaps Oana's personal behavior has not risen to that extreme a punishment…
But can Oana really claim to represent the entire nobility?
"Why don't we find out, Your Majesty? I propose a vote."
"One for the creation of a privy council. Other Kingdoms have such a thing. This would certainly be 'turning a new page' if you, King Edward, were to allow the creation of one."
…Having such a thing is purely…
"…your prerogative, yes." She echoes, right as you speak. "That is exactly the point, Your Majesty. Your prerogative, while yours, is… questionable. Your explanations explain nothing. They do not exist. King Vlad could get away with it, but…"
She smacks her lips.
"Surely, King Edward, you must realize when you give every indication you're going to 'turn a new page' on the country's history, and yet refuse to let go even a little bit of your concentration of power, you're giving a mixed signal? One as assuredly puzzling as inviting everyone to a merry gathering with stakes greeting them."
Yes you do realize.
You've realized from the start. That you're a foreigner who'd barely been inside the country for less than a week before becoming King. That this was the setup of a dark fable with a sad ending. A cautionary tale of good will being repaid with greed.
You realized also when Ricardo warned you that the nobility and peasantry would eventually realize you're 'not King Vlad' that they would begin moves against you.
Your option was to either remind them, with more than a few stakes, or… try to make your own way.
This is what your own way is bringing you to. A tense confrontation with an old woman. More of a hag than Mania.
You are a just and reasonable King. No matter what she may think.
You have nothing to hide in your decision making, which has been for the good of Ruhemania.
Just like her taxes and everyone else's are paid for the good of Ruhemania.
Therefore, you tell her she best speak cautiously when she starts talking about a 'privy council,' as if you have no choice.
"…That's why we vote, Your Majesty."
Oana's terms are simple.
She will make her case for the creation of a council. You will make the case for the status quo.
You'll both have chances for rebuttals, then every aristocrat will vote.
They'll state their reason for doing so, or abstain, as they wish. They may change their minds and switch sides, as they wish. Until there is no more room to debate.
… You give a glance to the people gathered.
She simply can't have bribed all of the aristocrats. There must be more than a few undecideds. You have done a lot of good for them. You're popular.
You think you may be able to win this.
Especially with Tharja, Ricardo, the Chrisania siblings, and Beatrice on your side.
–So this is why Dimitrie did not appear? Oana likely knew no matter which way he voted, it'd look bad for her.
As for what this council would actually do, what powers it would have, when it meets, etc., would all be decided later.
"Are you sure we cannot compromise, Your Majesty? I ask for very little," she says.
Your answer is no. If you create a council, it will be on your terms. You think even Kingdoms that have one follow that as a rule, not an exception.
She nods, expecting your reply.
"An impasse. Thus, we vote."
It's at that moment the burgmeister speaks up:
"'Scuse me, but I hear a lot of aristocrat games going on. I think the commoners deserve a say. On behalf of Kervuva and a representative of the commoners of Ruhemania, I demand a vote."
"Demand? The commoner makes a demand? From nobility?" She makes a show of acting shocked at the mere thought.
You say he's right. He should have a vote.
You cannot be King and ignore the needs of the burgs or the people in them.
–Especially when the burgmeister likes you and has a stake in you winning, but you don't need to say that.
"Thank you, Y'Majesty!"
He gives a pleased bow. Unfortunately you hear a few dissatisfied murmurs through the aristocrats.
…Hopefully more aren't inclined to join Oana.
Oana turns to the priest next.
"Would you have a vote, Father? On behalf of the Church?"
He shakes his head, immediately.
"This is purely a secular matter, the Church refuses to take any position, save that regarding God's law."
He takes a literal and metaphorical step backward.
–Well, that doesn't exactly help you, but it doesn't hurt you, either.
Oana turns to the Elbanians next.
"There are limits to foreigners influencing Ruhemanian politics, are there not?"
You clamp your face tight as you realize the implied snipe against you. But, you refuse to rise to her bait.
The Elbanians step back.
"We have no right to have any sort of vote in Ruhemanian affairs. We'll merely observe."
You suppose that was inevitable. They're diplomats, not your subjects.
Oana turns to Beatrice.
"You… you're not Ruhemanian, are you?" she asks.
Beatrice smiles. Not innocently or obliviously, but with full knowledge of what she's saying and letting Oana know.
"I am not. –And yet I've grown to love Ruhemania! So much so, I've decided to stay here forever. Where I can love it every day… and night."
There's an outbreak of amused laughter from the nobles, and even more from the burgmeister. Her implication wasn't lost among the men.
You expected Oana to continue to object, but she lets it slide.
Beatrice will have a vote.
You can't get out of it. Ordering mass arrests for the crime of 'suggesting' you have a council isn't going to be enough to carry them out. Especially when they're all organized.
You have to abandon strong-arm tactics and rely on your social skills.
–Well, isn't that your forte, anyway?
You look out over the ballroom.
Oana is on one side of the room.
You're on the other.
Tharja immediately steps over to you.
"There's simply no way you'll convince me to vote against my husband. The man I love and cherish more than anything."
You hear a few sighs and choked sobs from the aristocrats. You think the more romantic ones have been moved by her display of loyalty… and love.
You allow Tharja to hang off you and whisper to her that everything is going to be okay. Even if you lose somehow, you're still King.
Oana simply nods.
"Will you make your argument first, Your Majesty?"
…That's a subtle question.
It may be better to let her talk first so you know what to address.
You're arguing against the creation of any sort of 'privy council,' and the continuation of the status quo of you having full discretion in exercising your power as King.
Now that it's reached this point, continued hardlines and tautologies of 'it's my divine right' are likely not going to be persuasive.
On the other hand, you already have one vote over Oana.
Oana is the one arguing against the status quo.
Perhaps you should let her go first?
>Take the initiative and address the nobles first on why a council isn't necessary.
>Oana is the one proposing change. She needs to prove her case and you merely need to nullify it. She may go first.
I vote for Option one. Go on the offensive.
I have a few ideas what Edward could say, but it's late here. If the vote is still open tomorrow morning, I'll flesh out my ideas for his speech.
I have a feeling that she has already prepared her ammunition and is waiting for us to fall.
We're already on the defensive here. If we switch to the offensive, especially without us knowing anything about her or what to attack about her, there's a chance that we could overplay our hand and she can get out her argument entirely unanswered.
We don't have the right amount of ammunition to go on the offensive here. If we had the means to discredit her before she even started, I would exhaust that salvo now. But given we're now in a position where we would be striking blindly, I am not comfortable entering on those circumstances.
Option 2, but if the vote's open long enough for Wiz to make his case, I'm open to swapping my vote.
Option two. I do like letting my opponents go first so I can formulate a strategy. And right now we sorely need one, for all the reasons that Murble has listed.
>1 vote for option one, take the initiative and argue first.
>5 votes for option two, let Oana speak first.
Allow Oana to speak first.
Poll closed. Update soon.
Option 2. Challengers should always go first.
This is a trap and you won't fall for it. Oana is the one trying to persuade the guests. You have divine right on your side.
You want to be able to make a proper response before you both get to your rebuttals.
You tell Oana you'll graciously defer to her.
She treats it as if you've done something gallant.
"Thank you, Your Majesty."
She turns to the other aristocrats.
"Lords, Ladies, and other fine gentry, I stand before you as a woman who has been pushed to speak up, despite her own misgivings. I respect the King. I swear my loyalty to the King. I think all of us agree the King is a genteel sort. He is certainly gregarious."
"And yet, is he sending the right messages to us, his aristocracy that is expected to shepherd the land he cannot rule directly?"
"He comes from a far away land. A place neither I, nor do I think many of us have ever heard about. I know no details of his upbringing. Has he shared them with anyone?"
… No one moves to your defense.
You had the opportunity with the Chrisania siblings, you suppose, but you have basically kept it secret for fear they wouldn't like the fact you were basically the heir to an independent dukedom. Not even a Prince.
"Her Highness has said, rightfully, that King Vlad knew his time was short. However, can we really accept King Vlad did not think he'd have time to properly align King Edward to Ruhemania's interests?"
"King Vlad was a humble man. A pious man. He would not have wanted himself in his final resting pose to be sent around Ruhemania as if he were to be prayed to as a deity."
"King Vlad was a scrupulous man. He would not have spent his treasury with reckless disregard."
"King Edward has shown he does not want to rule in a manner similar to King Vlad, but were these changes for the good?"
There's a general murmuring from the aristocrats. It seems they're mostly in agreement with her. The exception is the burgmeister who looks put-off.
"King Vlad's demand for obedience was legendary. No one could doubt the discipline it taught all of Ruhemania. It had its time, as I'm sure our Monarch would agree."
She gestures to you.
"However, by his own words, he seeks to 'turn the page' to a new chapter of Ruhemanian history. …And in doing so, he'd like it very much if he could keep all of the concentrated power, authority, and strict discipline King Vlad demanded. He's all too happy to keep the spoils of King Vlad's efforts while eschewing the parts he finds personally distasteful."
…Well, yes. You don't want to set more stakes in the ground. That's true. But you don't want to give up any power you've inherited before you're sure it'll be used correctly.
You keep that in the back of your mind for your own speech and let her go on.
"A century ago, there was no Kingdom of Ruhemania. Ruhemania was simply the collection of independent territories that existed. Somehow, they all managed to get along in near perfect harmony. There were few wants between them. Needs were met, and satisfied. Why is it that now, when King Vlad set up such a stable Kingdom, King Edward demands our strict obedience… and taxes. For the sake of this Faire? A tower he refuses to explain?"
"As I've said, it is a fine Faire… and will surely be a fine tower…"
"…but fine Faires become fine memories. The tower is a traditional symbol of hubris, as the old Church parable says."
"King Edward I'm sure will stress hospitality. But, ask yourself this."
She stops talking, looking among the aristocrats, stopping at distinct people to meet them with eye-contact.
"He's offered us much to eat, and to drink… yet why has he not taken even one bite?"
There's a few gasps.
You're honestly not sure what she's saying. She's stopped just short enough you can't accuse her of implying you've meant to poison them.
Before anyone is allowed to think too much, or speak, she goes on.
"There's only one explanation: he simply does not regard us as worth his time. He gives, but he does not share. He means to placate us with bread and salt, but without meat."
That's catchy. That's actually an interesting slogan to use.
The chattering that's going on with the nobles reinforces your estimate. She's scored a hit.
She turns to look directly at you.
"King Edward, this is my plea."
"You're simply too young, too inexperienced, to truly rule, unaided."
"King Vlad needed no such aid, as well he let us know."
"But we cannot sit aside and accept you holding the same sort of absolute rule. Holding all titles. Accepting no input from the aristocrats who pay your taxes."
"You claim you'll award your titles 'at your prerogative.' My stance is that your prerogative… needs some informing."
"Accept this. And if you cannot accept this, then we will show you that it is in your interests to accept it."
"Or you may call the guards, stab me through, and clap the rest of us in irons, as you clearly would've rather done."
She turns to the aristocrats.
"Is it any coincidence the guards gathered here tonight are all impulsive young men?"
There's… some murmuring, but less so.
"If there's one last comparison that could be made between you and King Vlad…"
"It's the obvious. You have brought your foreign ideals with you to Ruhemania. That's all that needs to be said for why you need a council to inform you. In both history, and tradition."
"In fact, it's not hard to believe you show outright favoritism to others like you. You easily invited nomads to sit in the castle. You've been seen visiting them. …Is that really the example you wish to set for Ruhemania?"
"They're not to be emulated, Your Majesty. I don't think anyone in this room would contradict me."
There's another murmuring of agreement there.
The crowd isn't exactly hanging on her every word.
But her speech is carrying some sway.
It's all you can do to well down your emotions and try to look regal.
Every virtue you've committed is being made into a vice.
Every vice with extenuating circumstances is being thrown in your face. Or some vices that should be ignored are being absolutely screwed in like a torture implement to the thumb.
This woman wants to destroy you.
'Council' nothing. If you give even an inch, it won't be enough. She'll expand it to something else until you've either outright had the throne pulled out from under you, or it's completely destroyed in favor of split fragments of something that used to be called 'The Kingdom of Ruhemania'.
…She's a fine candidate for Beatrice's 'talent,' but that doesn't help you for the here and now.
You have to survive this vote. Without losing face in front of the rest of the nobles or making yourself out to be a tyrant.
You can't embrace King Vlad's legacy and throw them all in the dungeon. That's simply not an option.
But hopefully you'll be able to separate the wheat from the chaff.
"…It's at this time I will yield to His Royal Majesty, King Edward. Then, my fellow gentries, I will rebut King Edward's speech, and he may rebut my words before the vote."
You suppress a grunt. She's already trying to make herself look like the 'leader' by directing the format.
You clear your throat to get everyone's attention.
…Now you actually have to decide what to say.
Oana is warping and twisting the reality of the situation to serve her ends. All for the purpose of making you look like a young bumbling fool who needs an elder to hold his hand.
It's tempting to simply go through her argument and poke holes one by one.
On the other hand…
Oana is letting slip in parts how two-faced she is. She seems stuck between praising King Vlad and decrying him as a tyrant, as well as other inconsistencies. Her 'council' will be biased toward her. Pointing that out… Well, it might win you points with the men, at least.
You could completely throw away the terms she's set.
Just try to charm everyone present.
That may have the best chance of reaching people, but it could fall prey to her upcoming rebuttal.
You look out at the crowd and begin to speak:
>Refute Oana's speech with logic, point by point.
>Attack Oana's character. It should be obvious how ruthless and power-hungry she is.
>Abandon logic. It's time to do what you're best at: win over the audience through your charm.
Never attack the person you're arguing with: Attack the argument. The second anyone stoops to a personal attack in something this important, they lose.
Best case scenario, when Venti composes a song of this night, she'll include how Edward won with wit and integrity, while Oana was reduced powerless, banished for her pitiful attempt at a coup. (Hopefully, anyway.)
Option 1. I only hope that the logic is enough. The crowd seems like it could go either way, so it's good to know that not everyone is dedicated to her cause. And we shouldn't start slinging mud on her character until she throws the first punch, and even then we would have to do so in a calm manner.
But I would also ask that Tharja be given the opportunity to speak. She is also a monarch of Ruhemania, the current heir apparent, and the daughter of King Vlad himself. She knows out benefit to the lands, and she can speak of our graces.
You never extol your own virtues. Always have a hype-man, and from the reaction earlier, Tharja clearly has sway with this crowd.
It will also demonstrate our ability to defer in the event of our own deficiencies.
Whether you all want to set it as a term upfront or to play it as a trump card for our rebuttal is up to you, but I think it is a very strong choice.
I agree with Murble that we should let Tharja speak on our behalf at some point, but I think we should hold on to that card until the rebuttal. Keep our first speech for logic, then appeal to our audience's emotions after.
Option one please
if the country wants change, a council would slow it down, too many cooks ruin the broth so to speak
>6 votes for option one, use logic and refute Oana point-by-point.
Base your opening argument on logic.
Poll closed. Update soon.
You thank Oana for his words, and her presence at your Faire.
You're all too happy to give your argument. As much as you look forward to greeting the sunshine on a fine summer morn.
You take a deep breath.
Oana brings up a number of issues, each you will refute in full, and therefore dispel any notion of a valid argument she may have.
One, the peasants loved King Vlad. He was sent around with an honored guard to be properly mourned before his interment. The men who went with him considered it a great honor.
The burgmeister nods, but the rest… don't seem to like your response.
Two, she accuses you of reckless spending. Nothing could be further from the truth. It's with the utmost respect toward them all that you make decisions regarding finances.
You will gladly explain: these decisions are what's best for Ruhemania.
Gold is worthless sitting in a treasury. You are aware of this. It's simple economics!
Your construction is causing circulation and providing work for the laborers hired. It's true for the tower, and true for the Faire.
What sort of grand gathering have they seen before in Ruhemania? Yes, you've spent money, but the country will make it back and be better for it. How many merchants are out there, even now?
This is hardly just a 'fleeting memory'.
…There's some murmuring, but you're not sure if it's positive or negative.
So you go on.
As for the accusation that you're simply 'enjoying the spoils' of King Vlad while doing nothing…
She is partially correct. The time of stakes is over. You are happy to end that tradition, while maintaining respect for the King and Your law.
But You will delegate once you feel the conditions are met. They just haven't been, yet.
You're losing the crowd. It's undeniable that they don't like your argument, which is amounting to a promise.
Nothing for it but to move on.
As for the bread, you say… It's very simple. You wanted to give them more to eat. As King, you are already eating heartily. Is this not a symbol that you're willing to make sacrifices for the benefit of Ruhemania?
…That gets a few nods of approval, but it's a muted reaction. It'd be hard to match her slogan, you suppose.
Oana has outright accused you of violence.
She was merely disrupting the festivities, nothing more.
And quite frankly, she has no right to force the issue like this.
You have an ingrained respect for your elders, but is this really the time or place? Now she has the entire party segregated into groups, to what end?
You ask that they please listen to your points and hear the logic.
You've lost them. The room is silent.
No one is listening to you. Or at least they're not listening to your side of the issue.
You're basically repeating Oana's points for her.
And they're more or less valid… just being twisted and forced on you. And the aristocrats don't care about that.
You think many of them must also view this as a relatively 'minor' thing. She's not demanding you abdicate, or even your titles. Just 'a council,' which will 'advise' you. They must surely think it only matters to you, and not to them.
Oana's cry of 'If not now, then when? We're old,' applies for many of them.
–You have to think on your feet. You're doomed if you keep appealing to logic.
>Cut your losses, thank them, and wait for the rebuttal. Spend the time thinking on what you'll say next.
>Switch from logic into an empathic appeal for their support and a request for more time.
>Point out the obvious, that Oana has offered no solution as to what her council would look like or do. They shouldn't assume any of them will have a real say.
Aw crap. Not how I hoped it would go, but sadly not too surprising.
Option 2. We can't end on a weak note like this, and Oana will likely have an answer ready for option 3.
Have to sleep now since it's late. Carry on without me! I'd say 'don't mess it up', but I have already demonstrated my social ineptitude, so I am reasonably certain you'll do fine without me. :P
I’d rather we have Edward considered his first argument a loss and move on, but with our dignity and strong will intact. Choosing for option two will just make us look more pathetic than we already are, as well as giving already a sign of weakness. Oana and her sharks can smell that a mile away.
Option three is suicide because we’d be basically calling them out rather than sticking to the logic game, too early to play the blame card here.
We have to figure out something to sell besides a promise. That's why Oana has the upper hand right now. Selling the promise isn't going to do the trick if there's nothing to make it more enticing than a tangible council.
Option 1. Turn this into a rope-a-dope. Maybe she'll overplay her hand and we can strike back.
We can't change horses mid-stream like that. We decided on logic for our first strike, we need to settle on that. We'll have to take whatever she has for us on the rebuttal and try to bring this back around in our own. Learn from the mistakes we made here and play more to the aristocrats in round two.
>5 votes for option one, cut your losses and give Oana her rebuttal, using the time to think of another line of attack.
>2 votes for option two, switch from logic to an empathic appeal of support.
End the speech, try to make up for it in your rebuttal.
Poll closed. Update soon.
That's… all. All for now. You'll say more in your rebuttal, you conclude.
You end on a sour note, looking out at an unsympathetic crowd.
…It's going to be difficult to come back from this. But Oana will hopefully give you more to address.
You'll yield for Lady Oana's rebuttal, you say.
There's some nods from the aristocrats who turn to look at her.
Oana meanwhile… she looks directly at you. There's a smile on her face.
"I decline my opportunity for a rebuttal."
You can't keep the shock out of your face.
You needed her to talk more!
"King Edward may make his rebuttal."
She can see you're floundering. She can tell the crowd is not on your side.
She's not stopping you from putting your foot in your mouth.
The aristocrats immediately turn back to you.
…You have nothing to rebut.
The crowd doesn't like you.
What are you going to do?
>Go without saying a rebuttal and hope the people who you know will vote for you will carry the day with their words of support.
>As King, demand their votes!
>Emphasize as King: all you've done is for the good of Ruhemania.
>The crowd seemed to like Tharja, beg her to speak up on your behalf again.
We led with reason, Tharja needs to appeal to their hearts.
And for the reasons that I stated before, I think Tharja provides a concrete counterpoint to everything Oana stated.
That, and I don't think any of the other proposed options will pull us out of the tailspin.
We present Tharja as our co-Monarch and let her explain why she believes us to be good for Ruhemania and why she provides better counter-balance than anything a council would provide.
I never thought that logic would come back and bite us so hard. And Oana is far more dangerous and shrewd than I thought. It feels like any 'safe' option we pick recently just makes things worse.
Option four. None of the others feel like they'll work at this point.
Can I get some clarification here? You say in option one "the people who you know will vote for you will carry the day with their words of support". Will those who are voting have a chance to state their case/reasoning before voting commences? If so, there's no need to have Tharja speak now, as she will say her piece before voting. If not, then it would probably be wise to use her now.
Every aristocrat will, as they weigh their words, vote for either Oana or Edward. They will either give a reason for their vote or abstain. They may choose to switch their votes as the vote goes on, until there's no more debate and the vote is done.
Tharja has already voted and made her speech: "There's simply no way you'll convince me to vote against my husband. The man I love and cherish more than anything." She's effectively already voted for Edward and declared she will never switch sides. She won't speak again unless prompted now.
Noted, thank you. In that case, to avoid a situation where she doesn't get to speak for us and point out the influence that she, the born heir of Ruhemania before our marriage, has on us, I'm going to vote for
>5 votes for option four, rely on Tharja.
Pass the rebuttal to Tharja and hope what she says on your behalf resonates.
Poll closed. Update soon.
…You've said all you can say.
That's what you tell your subjects.
That's why you'd like instead, to let someone else speak.
Someone near and dear to your heart.
You reach out and touch Tharja's arm.
She looks up and meets your eyes. Her face shows a mixture of bewilderment and fear.
…Please, you say, drawing your voice to a whisper.
You're losing them.
As King Vlad's daughter… they may listen to her.
Tharja doesn't let go of your arm.
But she turns to the aristocrats.
"I've heard a lot about Edward being a terrible person." She sighs, audibly saddened. "He's my husband… and I love him. He's done what's best for me. He's done what's best for Ruhemania too. It pains me to hear him spoken about like this… like he's your enemy."
She looks at them.
"He's not your enemy. He's your King. He deserves your respect."
… She stops talking and steps back.
Despite the simplicity of the words, it seems to have had an effect. There's some sympathetic gasps and murmurs.
…It seems to be mostly feminine in nature, though. You think the emotional appeal had more impact on the women than the men.
Oh well. It's something.
The aristocrats are exchanging glances between each other.
"I believe we've reached the end of our arguments. It's time for the voting."
Yes it is, you say.
Two lines. Oana and her 'privy council' or you and your continued responsible rule.
This is what the conspiracy has built to. You had your say.
Now you just have to listen and hope. –And perhaps decide what to do depending on if things go your way or the other.
>No choice yet. Further update coming soon.
At first, it seems like people are afraid to move.
Then, someone moves and speaks up.
"Lady Oana makes fair points. King Edward needs guidance and I will support the creation of a council if he's going to refuse. With us all gathered here from all over the country, this is our only chance to make sure it happens."
There's a loud murmuring, as the man moves over to Oana's side. As do many others. At least ten.
She… has a sizable lead already.
A woman then moves and speaks up.
"Her Highness speaks the best for King Edward's character. I believe she's the best judge."
She moves to your side. One other woman joins her. That's it.
Then… The burgmeister from Kervuva speaks up.
"This is what I've got to say: I don't see how this so-called 'council' is going to improve things. King Edward's done a fine job, so far. It's hardly like people can't get food in their bellies. He's got my vote."
He starts to move, then says one more thing:
"And, come on, isn't this a little premature? It's been what, a few months? Treat this like a honeymoon! If the country is belly-up a year from now, then you can start in with your political backstabbing!"
He makes his way over to your side… but three undecided aristocrats immediately go over to Oana's side.
… Sounds about right.
You try to hold back your frustration. Giving the burgmeister a vote was the correct thing to do.
Oana has a lead, but that's fine.
You're sure the Chrisania siblings will give you some glowing recommendations. And… perhaps Beatrice. Ricardo, you're not sure how charismatic he'll be. But you'll count on their votes.
>No choice yet. Further update coming soon.
"The notion that King Edward spends money too easily is right. He donated entirely too much money at the service, merely to make himself look pious. True piety comes from humility."
An aristocrat joins Oana.
"I cannot condone the liberties he's allowed the nomads."
Another aristocrat joins Oana.
"Not just that, but visiting them!"
Several more join Oana.
This is getting a bit scary. If it continues like this, you might actually lose.
… You see a familiar face as Robin steps forward.
"His Majesty has trusted to appoint me as His general. I swore a personal oath of loyalty to him. It would be a betrayal of that oath to not follow His judgment. I oppose this vote categorically and encourage others to do the same."
She steadfastly moves to join your side.
You smile. Of course Robin would join you.
… A male aristocrat steps forward.
"Um. Beg pardon. Why is a woman in the military, and general at that?"
Before you can speak, Robin stares him down.
"I swore an oath to forsake my womanhood. I am now a man. One of noble birth."
He gives a bewildered look before practically running to Oana's side.
…You're noticing a pattern.
Even the people on your side are encouraging the lesser nobility to vote against you. It's either canceling their votes out, or outright losing you votes.
You suppress a sigh and wait.
>No choice yet. Further update coming soon.
Cordelia chances to step forward next.
"…I would very much like to join the vote in favor of King Edward, but as a woman I must defer to my brother."
She gestures to Corrin.
Corrin steps forward, turns to Oana, then turns to you.
"King Edward is a fine King, and Ruler. I think when it comes to Ruhemania, we speak from a time of ignorance. We've had but one King before him. We therefore have one baseline for which we must compare. This is incorrect to assume a King unlike King Vlad is incompetent or unworthy. It's simply not the way."
He shakes his head.
"King Edward has his own ruling style that is the best for Ruhemania as it is, right now. I'm proud to be his subject, and look forward to serving as his chancellor."
"On behalf of Chrisania, my vote is for the King, in opposition to the creation of any council."
You could kiss him.
You let out a sigh of relief.
He moves to your side, with Cordelia, and a handful of other nobles. Some even come back to vote for you from Oana's side.
The sides are looking a little more even now.
… You look to Camilla.
"Ah… I would very much like to join my siblings, but I must defer to my husband, first."
She gestures to Ricardo.
You nod. Of course, that's proper. Ricard needs to declare his support for you.
Ricardo… stands there.
… Come on, Ricardo.
What are you waiting for, you scream at him in your mind.
He continues to stand there without taking a side.
What is the hold up…?
Come on, and make a good speech!
… You try to will down the paranoia as to why Ricardo and Camilla aren't voting with you yet.
But you're thinking so hard about it you don't even hear the next few people who choose to speak up, or where they go to vote.
>No choice yet. Further update coming soon.
You do a quick head-count.
…You honestly aren't sure who has the lead. Corrin gave you a clear advantage, despite the burgmeister and Robin's errors.
But it seems to have dwindled.
The only ones still on the sidelines are a few random nobles, Camilla… and Ricardo.
You don't like it.
Ricardo should not be a fence-sitter.
He needs to make some decisive move.
…Yet he doesn't.
Were you a fool to invite him? At least you would have had Camilla's vote if you hadn't.
Some other aristocrat steps forward:
"I've noticed something, if I may address the entire gathering: the only people who are strongly on the King's side are people he's given personal positions of power, other than the most esteemed burgmeister who's graced us with his presence, and the woman from his own country."
You don't like it, but it's fair. You have given personal positions of power to Robin, Corrin, and Cordelia. Beatrice too, really.
"This is a farce. We need a council. Let's not look divided by being half on one side, half on the other. A King who is advised is wiser than a King who isn't."
He goes to Oana's side.
…So does everyone else.
The lesser aristocrats who stood with you all desert.
The fence-sitters go to Oana.
You're left with Robin, Corrin, Cordelia, Beatrice, the burgmeister, and Tharja.
You… you stare out and try to numb back your feeling of horror.
There's no denying you're the loser here.
Oana has won.
Oana gives you a gloating smile.
"Well, we have a decisive vote, don't we, Your Majesty?"
…So it would seem, you reply.
"Since it is so decisive… I would like to alter the arrangement."
You and Tharja outright gasp.
Oana stands at the front of her gathering. The rest of the nobles stare back at you. Some look vindicated, some look almost sympathetic… but it doesn't matter. They're all on her side.
"I was going to suggest this council be headed by a certain man… a man who held a high esteem with King Vlad and who continued to hold his position under you, King Edward…"
Oh, no. No, no no no no.
"…But I learned recently that he also has a direct blood relationship to our dear departed King Vlad. He is his direct scion, in fact."
"I talk only of Ricardo."
"I hear also he is married, and his wife may already be pregnant."
She turns back to the nobles gathered behind her.
"Would this not be a better choice for King, instead of some aristocrat from some place most of us have never heard of?"
This isn't happening.
You want to yell.
You want to scream.
Ricardo's a cuckold. Camilla's babe is yours.
He's old. He doesn't give a shit about Ruhemania. He knows Ruhemania only through his files in his treasury.
But your body seizes up.
How on Earth can one woman make you feel so helpless??
Isn't she a mother? Isn't she Dimitrie's mother?
"I propose we arrange a council… under a new King. He may be a bastard, but he is King Vlad's bastard. He's very fit."
There's a growing number of nobles who all are giving words of approval.
"Let us swear fealty to this Ricardo!"
… You see it now.
Dimitrie gave debased coin to the stablehand for his bribe.
Robin brought you coin that was entirely genuine. That was what the Old Guard had been bribed with.
Oana had to be the source of the bribes.
Where did she get the coin? The good coin?
…It's so simple. Your own treasury.
Ricardo had the Old Guard bribed. Ricardo financed Oana's scheme.
And now you're staring not just at a 'council' but losing your entire Kingdom.
You stare at the Priest, he's making no move to correct that this would be a violation of succession.
You stare at everyone else gathered with you… to their credit they stay beside you and even now do not desert.
You hug Tharja.
It's… all right. Whatever happens, you'll both be all right.
"Well… Ricardo, or should I say, potentially King Ricardo… do you agree? Are you ready to cast your vote?"
It's Oana's voice, but you don't want to look at her.
You don't have to accept this. You still have tools. Beatrice… Beatrice will have many targets tonight.
…If you can stomach it.
Ricardo takes a deep breath. You hear his old lungs.
"Mm… not yet. I wish to say a few words, first. Words I'd appreciate if everyone would listen."
You turn and look at Ricardo, as does the entire room.
You're feeling numb. But… you're listening.
He doesn't really alter his gaze.
He's looking at you.
"I wish to correct a grave misunderstanding," says Ricardo. "One which has resulted in an unjustifiable situation."
Just… get it over with, Ricardo. You've won. You get to be King. You fell for all of his talk about 'not wanting to be King'.
You blame yourself. You can only blame yourself.
"…Many decades ago, King Vlad did sleep with a woman, my mother."
"However… he was misled and deceived."
You suddenly blink, looking at him.
Oana's confused too.
"My mother, you see, she was possessed of a lustful nature. King Vlad, then an heir to a Duchy, was hardly her first… neither was he her last…"
"It was because of these base urges that she became pregnant, and in fact, was several weeks pregnant by the time King Vlad was tempted to lie with her."
"What?!" cries out Oana.
Your stomach flip flops in the completely opposite direction.
Oana is in a state of shock. You know this isn't part of whatever outcome she expected. Ricardo must be doing something she didn't plan for.
…No. You realize exactly what Ricardo's doing.
He's basically announcing to the entire gathering that his mother was a whore.
He's ripping her reputation to shreds.
And his, by proxy.
"I know because of her confession to me, and also it was by this action of sleeping with King Vlad, she admitted, that she hoped to become his wife… but as we all know, King Vlad would not let himself be forced into deals King Vlad did not make. Especially those based on false pretenses. That is why, when I came of age, she was sent away."
This can't be true.
He's making it up.
You realize with a start why he's doing this. At this point, it's the only way Oana is going to be stopped. He's doing it entirely on your behalf.
–You almost want to step forward and shout at him. Tell him he doesn't have to lie. His mother was a Saint. He told you so. You know he believes it, deep in his heart.
Yet, you can't.
"That's why I cannot and will not accept the fiction of being King Vlad's bastard son. It is something to which I have no right, and no desire."
He spares a glance to the priest.
"You've heard my confession? The status of my birth will be rectified?"
The priest is staring in shock, but he clears his throat.
"Ah… it will. Thank you, Ricardo."
Ricardo's out of the line of succession.
It's just you and Tharja.
That also means children born to Camilla will not have any claim to your throne, unless it's through your line.
Ricardo's personal sacrifice for you is going to reverberate throughout history.
Ricardo coughs and continues.
"As to the matter of my vote: I say this notion is stupid. I side with the King, and so does my wife."
"Furthermore, those of you who are voting with Oana are being led astray by false promises by a bitter old power hungry woman who wants to rule you far more ruthlessly than King Vlad ever did."
"And on a final note, for those who are voting with Oana because of her bribes, it would be appreciated if you returned that money to the royal treasury: I have the receipts to make sure you do."
He moves to join your side, Camilla with him.
At the same time, there's a veritable stampede as every aristocrat rushes to get from behind her to you, instead.
It's almost frightening watching these nobles, most of them old, actually sprint as if their lives depend on it.
At the end, you're staring out at Oana, all alone.
Her eyes are wide and she's at a complete loss for what just happened.
"…Long Live King Edward."
"Long Live King Edward!"
There's a break out of nobles cheering your name from behind you.
…You'll deal with them later.
For now, you're finding your voice again.
You step forward and stare at Oana.
Well… it seems that the vote hasn't gone her way.
There will be no replacement King. There will be no council. There will be no good result of her attempted backstabbing.
In fact, she's guilty of an outright coup.
Her expression… goes a tense smile.
"Aha… Your Majesty… surely you don't think I acted with anything but good intentions?"
You make a show of considering her words.
Mhm. Good intentions at playing usurper.
She grimaces, then turns to the Elbanians.
"You all! Record this! Report it back to your Queen! How the King arrests an old woman who threatens his rule!"
You hear the Elbanians coughing and talking amongst themselves before one replies.
"We'll sadly share the news with our Queen that His Majesty was most unjustly the target of an unscrupulous woman's plot, and foiled by his loyal retainers who saw through her lies."
Oana all but recoils from the words, making a pained wince.
… You grin.
The momentum is back in your favor.
Your guards are looking much more confident and ready to move in.
All of her allies have deserted her, you can punish them later.
Oana makes one last plea.
She throws herself on her hands and knees, clasping her hands together again.
There's tears in her eyes.
"Please, Your Majesty… mercy for an old woman…"
An interesting idea.
One you must consider.
>Arrest her. Order the guards to take her to the dungeon.
>Seize her. Order the guards to put her under house arrest: throw her in her room, alone, and don't let her out.
>…she will have mercy. Until Beatrice visits her later. Tell her you will, for now, not arrest her.
Edward is a just king, and she will be punished for her crime against the crown. Stripped of her title, exiled to Torbuja or beyond, never to hold power again. And if she attempts to raise her hand against us ever again, we will see to it that she and her line are eradicated from the earth.
Remember what I said about not having Beatrice ‘experiment’ with Oana.
Well, I retract my points on that.
Much as I would like her to die, she unveiled her plan publicly, and was foiled publicly. I don't think it would reflect well on us if she mysteriously died not long after we grant her mercy.
Option one. It doesn't seem like we're getting anywhere by being idealistic. And being 'just' not only means showing mercy, but giving punishments appropriate to crimes. We gave her the chance to say her piece, and she attempted a coup, attempting to place another on the throne. That's high treason, and should be punished accordingly.
Executing her outright is not necessary at this point, but I don't trust her enough not to Weasley her way out of house arrest.
We need to be a fair king. But also not a weak king. We need to be ready to show that we can level severe punishment when it is called for or else there is no motivation not to cross us.
Besides. Nobody visits the dungeon.
Also, we should inform Dimitrie that we have dealt with the issue of his mother, and that she will no longer force him into doing her will. Possibly consult with him about her punishment/fate.
When one insists on behaving as a hag (with apologies to Mania) then one should get their just desserts and be granted the company of witches.
Option 1. She F'd around, she's now finding out.
This escalated quickly…
Option 1. Oana crossed a few lines too many, and now it's time to face the consequences. I don't doubt she might have her ways of trying to escape house arrest either. What Edward does with her after locking her up… We'll see.
Maybe this will have the added effect of scaring the old guard into retirement, lest Edward consult Ricardo about their own 'receipts'
Gonna have to go with the majority here, despite wanting Oana dead for the stress she put us through. Option 1. And let's make a point of stressing that this IS merciful, because we could always add one new spike before we get rid of them, otherwise arresting an old lady could go badly.
>8 votes for option one, have Oana taken to the dungeon and kept there until you decide her ultimate fate.
>1 vote for option two, put Oana under house arrest until you decide her ultimate fate.
>2 votes for option three, publicly grant her mercy… and have Beatrice assassinate her later.
Have Oana taken to the dungeon.
Poll closed. Update soon.
She's guilty of leading a coup on her King. You will grant mercy.
The mercy will be the dungeon.
She won't be chained, but she will be caged. And fed. But she will be there.
Four of them step forward, eager. They take her by the arms.
Oana actually tries to shrug them off. Even now she doesn't give in.
"You're worthless… you're the usurper! You usurped Vlad's power and kept it!"
A guard clamps a hand over her mouth, leaving her to shout muffled cries.
… You cross over to Robin.
You pull her close, then take out one of the keys to the dungeon.
You tell her you found it. It should work. You've been down there before, in the past. It's old, but the doors will hopefully still shut and the locks still hold. Oana need not be tortured. Gag her if she must be.
She has your full permission to go ahead with her 'wholescale purge'.
Arrest the Old Guard as soon as feasible.
She nods, then goes to catch up with the soldiers.
You turn to the crowd of aristocrats who abandoned Oana.
You're confident now. You summon every ounce of fire you have.
Do they not see?
This is why you refused to grant your titles or delegate any of your authority, yet.
You've yet to meet men who could be trusted!
Those worthy men who you have, you've made trusted advisors… and they can't accuse you of only making them your toadies. Ricardo was King Vlad's master of coin. You recognized his worth. You kept him as master of coin.
Someday, you may find you need a real privy council. Someday, you will bestow your titles.
But it will be to good, honorable men.
Men who have the best interests of Ruhemania in their hearts. Who care for the land, its traditions, and its people.
Not greedy unscrupulous scoundrels who speak of those concepts as mere conceits to use as stepping stones to power.
The display they've shown at this gathering tonight has not given you hope of finding any soon.
Some of the nobles hang their heads in shame.
More of them simply look tense and bewildered by your words. You think if you could freeze this image in your mind, you'd be able to tell exactly who was guilty of conspiring before this gathering and who was merely cajoled or taken in by the atmosphere.
Every bribe that was accepted? They have one day to deliver it back to the treasury. If not, there will be a penalty. And that penalty will not be paid with more coin.
That gets their attention. You've given them a dilemma. They can either return it and admit to conspiracy, or keep it and be guilty of theft when Ricardo gets his notes in order.
You'll wait and see how it resolves.
…In the meantime.
You ask a maid to please call back Margaret.
You're parched. You could do with a cup of wine.
You tell Ricardo you'll both speak later. You'll trust him to follow your order.
You thank the Chrisania siblings for their support. Especially Corrin and his silver tongue.
He smiles at the compliment.
"I would've rather not put it to use, Your Majesty," he says.
You finish two cups of wine and find your wife to embrace her.
You tell Tharja you're sorry, but you will be a little late.
You have to visit someone. Tonight.
You personally go with a maid to Dimitrie's room, you then ask her to leave so you can be left alone.
You knock on his door. A solid knock. Stronger than a woman could do.
You receive no reply.
You knock again.
This time you call out.
It's King Edward, Dimitrie, and you know he's in there.
You hear a loud coughing sound.
"S-Sorry… feeling sick."
You tell Dimitrie if he doesn't open the door he will be disobeying his King's command.
Open the door.
The door slowly creaks open.
You nod to him.
You'll be coming inside, you say. They have to talk.
Dimitrie clearly doesn't want you in his room. He hides his face and won't look at you directly.
But you shut the door and bring him to sit on his bed.
His sword sits nearby.
Does he know what happened tonight?
You relay the events of the gathering.
You barely mention Oana calling for a 'toast' when he bursts into tears again.
He starts babbling to you, before you can even tell him to calm down.
"I knew! I knew, M-Majesty…"
"I knew exactly what she planned to do…"
He's wincing terribly. You can't help but sigh.
Is that why he wasn't there, you ask?
"Y-Yes… she warned me…"
"Warned me if I did anything but vote for her I'd regret it… That I better talk about how evil you were… 'despicable', she said."
"…I said I couldn't do it."
"I said I wouldn't vote for you or her. I wouldn't stand up and call you a bad King when you aren't… I'd just go in a corner and hide."
He rubs his hand over his face, still not meeting your eyes.
"She… started saying I was worthless…"
Terrible talk comes out of Dimitrie's mouth. Talk about how he's been treated his entire life. How Oana cowers him. Controls him. Forces him. And if he tries to object, then…
…you finally catch sight of Dimitrie's face and why he's wincing so much as he cries.
You order him to look you directly in the eyes and he slowly turns his head.
He has a terrible wound. It'll heal, but it looks painful.
You ask Dimitrie how he hurt his eye.
"Hah… coughed and… smashed it into the wall."
You saw it at the gathering. How rotten this Oana was. In her heart and mind. Now you're seeing the physical aspect of her cruelty.
He's probably guessed, you tell him, but her plan did not succeed.
She's in the dungeon.
He starts crying even harder, enough he can't speak, so you just let him.
You expected that reaction. Even if she's brutal and brutalizes him, she's still family.
He finally takes a long hard sniff, forcing his emotions down.
"…Put me there, too."
You just shake your head. No, you won't.
"I m-mean it… I'm as guilty as her… I could've told you… I could've gone anyway and voted for you… spoken for you…"
–Maybe he has some responsibility, but you spared it for his action at the tournament, this seems to be the same situation.
… You finally understand the bizarre actions behind Dimitrie's bribe.
Oana likely didn't want Dimitrie to actually win. That, or she thought he had no chance of winning.
So she had him bribe the stablehand, in a very clumsy way.
Either you would discover it, and disqualify him, or… you would miss it.
If you missed it, then Oana would have something to blackmail Dimitrie with. Revealing his cheating to you, after you awarded him a Knighthood. Whether it actually came into play or he won decisively, it wouldn't have mattered.
…It nearly worked. If the stablehand hadn't been honest, or perhaps if you hadn't been there to hear the confession, he may have given it to Dimitrie.
At the same time, the use of debased coin threw you off the trail just in case you found out about her other bribes. Of the Old Guard or the nobility.
"…I'm serious. Arrest me. Execute me, if necessary. You can't trust me. I've betrayed you twice… I lied when we first met!"
He shudders with emotion again.
…That's his mother talking, you say. Telling him he's worthless.
He's not worthless. He's worthy.
You know he has chivalry in him, despite his behavior at times.
He's been pushed and poked by his mother for too long. He's been bullied into being a tool for her wants.
How about… instead of being your prisoner…
…he becomes your sword?
You pat him on the shoulder. Firm.
He's still reeling, but… he doesn't jump.
"If… if… you think I'm worthy, M-Majesty…"
This will hardly be the last of Dimitrie's issues, you think.
But you're beginning to get him on the right path.
… You decide to bring up the next touchy subject.
About the fate of his mother…
He cuts you off with a sharp bitten out phrase.
"Please. I don't want to ever hear of her or her fate… Your Majesty. Whether you free her or otherwise. Don't ever let me know."
You understand. He's basically telling you if you execute her, not to let him know about it. He doesn't want to think you or him are responsible.
It's probably for the best that they do not meet again.
You tell him he'll get a better room once the Faire is over. And a small estate to manage. You'll work out the details then.
He lets out one last sigh. You can practically hear the tension leave his body.
You take it as a good sign it's time to leave.
Enjoy what's left of the Faire, you advise him.
A time like this will never come again.
>No choice yet. Further update coming soon.
You go to Tharja's wing.
Noi is standing there. She tells you she's been told she's going to leave her post in about an hour… something is going to happen.
Robin acts quickly. You tell her to follow Robin's order exactly, and she says she will.
You get inside and knock on the door to Tharja's room.
You spend an hour locked behind the door with Tharja.
There's nothing you can do but hold each other, your bodies full of relief, and a little unease.
"Husband… what if she had succeeded?" she asks.
…You don't know. Ricardo becomes King?
You can't imagine what Ricardo being King with a 'council' led by Oana would look like.
Probably he'd be a figurehead. You'd be banished, at best. Tharja and you would have to renounce your claims…
A 'council' you could have probably dealt with. Perhaps had Beatrice kill Oana? Then it may have been a little more manageable.
But Oana never wanted that. She wanted real power, and when she got everyone on her side and started changing the rules, no one had the courage to stop her and come back to your side.
Not until Ricardo did what he did.
Tharja curls up with you.
"So, he was never my brother…"
You tell Tharja it was very likely Ricardo made that up. That Ricardo is in fact her brother, but he needed to say he wasn't to destroy Oana's support.
Tharja's blushes, embarrassed.
"S-Sorry, I shouldn't be so naive."
It's all right.
…Anyway, you wouldn't have let that happen.
Beatrice… would've needed to work a lot tonight if it came to all that.
"I'm sorry husband. When she said what she said… I wanted to take out my book and just shoot her with my magic."
You understand her feelings. She said a lot of hurtful things.
But she's gone now.
–Or at least in the dungeon.
"Husband, are you going to execute her?"
… You wonder.
"You might want to think about if you'll do it before the Faire ends?"
… Maybe a private execution.
No commoners were involved. You'd rather not advertise you dealt with a velvet coup.
You'll decide later. The army is going to have its hands full tonight.
You decide to spend the night with Tharja, just to be safe.
Being together helps you both forget the stress of the day.
Fortunately… you're both disturbed by nothing.
>No choice yet. Further update coming soon.
You wake the next day.
You leave Tharja with a kiss and go to see the results of your orders.
The guard outside Tharja's wing is one of your loyalists, he reports the general is awaiting your presence in the armory.
… You ask if an escort will be needed when you go there, and he reports you will not.
Robin is indeed in the armory.
She reports the Old Guard is completely arrested.
Those in the barracks were separated from their weapons and came quietly once they realized they were surrounded and outmatched. The only exception was the senior guard. Fortunately he was unarmed and being tended to by the medicus at the time. Noi and one other soldier restrained him despite the struggle. Neither were injured.
The rest of the Old Guard were individually approached one-by-one while still on guard duty. They were informed of the failure of the conspiracy, and encouraged to surrender with honor. There was no resistance and their weapons were handed over with only a little urging.
Furthermore, the Old Guard's belongings were confiscated. Their bribes returned to Ricardo. Their equipment they bought is now held in the armory for redistribution as it's unlikely any returns can be made to the merchants.
They all are being held in the dungeon. The senior guard and Oana are gagged as it's too dangerous to allow them to speak.
There is no more 'Old Guard' faction or 'Loyalist' faction. All in the army are the King's soldiers.
"It's surprising, but not even one cage in the dungeon was unfit for use. It's a testament to King Vlad's reign, I suppose."
Robin goes on to say she awaits your further orders.
Specifically, what to do with them.
They did betray you. You're not sure how many were cajoled in a manner like Dimitrie. Peer pressure may have played a role. …But they all accepted the bribe. None spoke up. Some even spent their ill-gotten gain.
You must choose the extent of your leniency.
What does Robin suggest?
"My elder former-comrade is simply too dangerous and guilty to go free. The rest… you may hand out wolf tickets. Either only to those who surrendered with honor, or all of them. –Individually, so they may not band together as a group."
–Just to confirm, what's a 'wolf ticket,' again?
Robin gives a little smirk.
"'Time served: get out.' Not a sign of honor or dishonor, but release. In this case, with the understanding they must leave the castle forever; it would be akin to banishment."
"Woof," she echoes.
>Hold the senior guard indefinitely or until you decide to execute him. The rest of the Old Guard may be issued a 'wolf ticket', one by one, if they agree to swear fealty and never take up arms against the Crown again.
>Hold the senior guard. Only issue wolf tickets to those who surrendered 'with honor'. They must swear fealty to you and promise to never take up arms against the Crown again.
>They're all guilty and letting them go is too easy for them. Keep the dungeon stocked until you either change your mind or execute them.
>Something else. (Write-in.)
Write in: Conduct an investigation to find out who were the main conspirators to the coup and the ones who simply followed their orders. Then banish or hand them wolf tickets based on the results of that investigation. This will gives us the best results without letting sympathy cloud our judgment.
Anyone can simply agree or surrender to the opposition when it’s clear that they have lost. But we all know deep down, there are still hints of resistance residing in their hearts and the only way to sift the ones who truly yielded and those who did not is to find out through this investigation. Only then, can we properly purge the men and start anew.
It’s also gives a psychological effect. For by cutting off the heads of the rebellion by banishing them, it will set an example to those are considering in starting future resistances and will discourage anyone from forming a coup ever again.
I miswrote my write in - I meant to say either set free or banish the men based on the investigation.
Option 2. I *can* be fair, I *can* be nice, but my patience is limited. These people tried it even before the coup.
I like this, I vote for the write in.
I'm feeling doing this Japanese Emperor-style.
Our guards swore an oath of fealty to the King and to protect our life. Their lives are staked upon this duty. As they have failed, their options are two-fold; accept your shame and be banished from Ruhemania, or give your life for your King like you previously swore and atone for your mistake. Your death is considered a KIA, your family receives your salary from the crown, you are buried in the soldier's cemetery, and your crimes are considered forgiven.
You pay your blood-price either way, but only one ensures your legacy and redeems you in the eyes of the kingdom.
I understand the sentiment, but Edward would know that Church law has excommunication as a punishment for suicide, and he would definitely get himself in trouble with the Church for telling his soldiers to commit suicide to save face. Suicide is a mortal sin under any circumstance. (There's even debate on how much of 'martyrdom seeking' is akin to suicide.)
Therefore, I cannot accept this write-in.
Hmm… I guess if we have to investigate one of them, we have to investigate all of them. It will be time consuming, and I get the feeling that we'll have some difficulty piecing together who is telling the truth, but this feels fair to me.
Whoops. Forgot to actually say that I support Maxi's write-in.
The more I think about it, the more I like this. I support Maxi's write-in.
My reasoning being we don't owe anything to these traitors, least of all an investigation to see who meant it the most. Agreeing to a coup like this is nothing short of a spit in our face for everything we've done.
I vote for this write in.
I don't think we can be soft on any malicious participants but I don't think it's appropriate to execute soldiers pressured into it. However, we can cross that bridge when we get to it.
Please write out what your vote is. Please do not link a comment and say "Agreed." There have been times in the past where a person has clicked the wrong comment, wrote "Agreed," then later realized they had clicked on the wrong comment. I therefore ask everyone to please write clearly what they are voting for.
That said:>1 vote for option two, hold the senior guard and those guards who needed to be apprehended. Only issue wolf tickets to those who surrendered "with honor," with conditions.>1 vote for option three, they're all guilty and all must be held until further notice.>6 votes for write-in, investigate the Old Guard for who deserves a 'wolf ticket' and who must be in the dungeon.
Poll closed. Update soon.
…The circumstances aren't the same.
It seems pure chance whether an Old Guard member was in the barracks or on guard duty that night. Any one of them could have surrendered "with honor," if given the chance.
You want all of them kept in the dungeon until further notice. Then you want Robin to investigate each individual Old Guard. Find out who was most involved in the conspiracy, and who was merely cajoled.
If they were pressured into joining the conspiracy… you might be tempted to grant leniency and simply free them.
If they were passively going along with it, they may receive a wolf ticket and banishment.
If they were actively and happily going along with it, then execution awaits.
Robin… tenses her lips.
"An impractical plan, Your Majesty. Allow me to explain how…"
Her 'gut' reaction is that this investigation will require time, resources, and effort that could better be spent on other things.
Robin explains that truly determining that through an investigation will require guess work, and conclusive evidence may not exist. The senior guard openly admitted his role, and that it was to save Ruhemania after you'd shown you'd gone crazy by trying to recruit women and then putting a woman in charge.
"I'll admit, I've taken it personally. I have seen little evidence the rest of the Old Guard didn't agree with him. –Perhaps even some of the regular army, at first."
"There's several pieces of evidence I think we could find."
One, the bribes. Whether the bribes were actively spent, or just passively held.
Two, the markers that told the guards what to do: passively let aristocrats conspire, or stop others from discovering them. Exactly which guard was assigned to which part of the halls, and which specific order they were given, may reveal what level of complicity they had.
"We've found a few of those markers, but finding all of them will take work."
Three, direct questioning.
"We may get a few idiots who insist you're a terrible King to the death."
"I strongly object to freeing any of them without outright banishment."
The Old Guards are still soldiers. They know the castle's guard schedules. They know its passive defenses.
Even if they stay in the castle, and especially if they stay in the army, there could be a chance they become fifth columnists.
–What's a 'fifth columnist'?
"It's a man who harbors treasonous thoughts and will become a traitor and help an enemy who appears at the gates. By betraying us from within."
…So someone who would lower the drawbridge when under siege.
"There's one last issue."
Depending on how many nobles you arrest for conspiring, if you put them in the dungeon, the dungeon may get full.
"They're… uncomfortable, Your Majesty. They're squalid. They smell. There's vermin. Most of the cages don't have holes to pass food. We're resorting to throwing in bread. Or appearing with a group of soldiers to dissuade a rush to escape while we open the door, drop in a bucket of slop, and then shut and relock the dungeon door."
–You hope they're not being fed literal slop.
Robin suppresses a sigh.
"Figure of speech, Your Majesty. It's an unappetizing gruel, at least."
Yes, King Vlad's dungeons weren't meant for long-term housing. He meant to starve people in them long enough to have a stake made and intestines… prepared.
"You'll need to clear them out eventually, Your Majesty. You need not let the floor run red, but banishing is the only other real option. That or letting them waste away until they die of old age or bad conditions."
… You nod.
Still, the situation isn't that dire, yet?
She shakes her head.
"If you arrest the nobles, you may wish to put them under house arrest instead of the dungeon."
You'll consider Robin's advice.
You have to agree with Robin. setting the men free is foolhardy, not mercy. They simply know too much and an oath to not betray you can't be trusted when it comes to that.
Even a 'wolf ticket' and banishment might be a risk with that knowledge in mind.
…You can't help but feel some offense too, now that Robin has let you know exactly why the senior guard turned against you. That he still declares you are crazy, and of unsound judgment. That he openly parades his dishonor and betrayal.
It's not far off to assume he personally ordered Sully's helmet to be sabotaged. So that she would become injured.
>Conduct the investigation, but presume all men guilty. If real circumstances exist, then they earn their 'wolf ticket' and banishment.
>Abandon the investigation. Hold them all prisoner.
>Execute the senior guard in front of them, then slowly banish the Old Guard with 'wolf tickets'. That will scare them into submission.
>The dungeon is truly too much to hold the men for long enough that Robin can hold an investigation. Just slowly banish the Old Guard with 'wolf tickets' and then you'll decide how to handle the senior guard later.
>Execute all of them. If those are the conditions they're in, it's a mercy.
This is a tough choice….
Option five, but keep their deaths private and done discreetly, why?
Robin has already stated the downsides of banishing them. There’s a chance they can come back to bite us by leaking the information they know about the kingdom’s defenses, individuals who might end up being spies or defect to opposing forces who want to bring Ruhenmania down. Enemies of the state.
I suddenly realize conducting an investigation might take too much valuable time and as the investigation is being conducted, we are not solving the finite dungeon capacity. Keeping them in the prison means we also have to make sure they couldn’t break free or someone from the inside frees them. Again, too much of a risk.
I hate to employ Vlad’s methods here, but perhaps these people need to realize that Edward is just holding back by being kind and compassionate…because this is exactly what happens when our kindness is being taken advantage of - we can bare our fangs just as easily. The difference here is that unlike King Vlad - there will not be be any bodies for people to see or remember. People will move on and forget the men - their existence erased.
Unfortunately, for them, any hints or what’s left of the rebellion ends right here. Edward’s reign shall live on.
Mercy may present a danger, but it is the right thing to do. Let's find out who deserves it. If they truly want mercy, they'll help to speed-up the investigation.
We don't need trained brigands roaming the countryside. If it was one or two guards they wouldn't be able to cause trouble on their own but if it's a bunch of them, now we have a bunch of pissed-off mercenaries gunning for us. They broke their oath. Simple as that.
As much as I hate it, I have to say option 5. >>91828
has a good point, they broke their oath once, what's stopping them from doing it again?
Option 5. Clear traitors are not worth the time and effort.
I agree with Wiz on this. I also want to strongly caution against option 3- we stand just as much a chance of making the senior guard a martyr to the other guards as cowing them into submission by executing him in front of them.
Option one. We can't turn cold-blooded now. It could very well undo everything we've done to build up our reputation. These men have friends and families who will feel their absence, and we can't get rid of everyone that poses a risk without making enemies.
Okay, y'all have good points, but here's my thinking. we don't have to kill people for any minor disobedience like King Vlad, but we do need to show that we can and will take off the velvet glove to use the iron fist if pushed. Let this be the last mass execution, because hopefully we won't NEED the fear to keep people in line past this.
The people won't see it as the last. One mass execution will leave them thinking that more will follow, whether we intend to or not. They will see as no different from Vlad.
"The people" aren't going to see anything. This is an internal castle matter. Or do I have that wrong, aristo?
Wolf ticket or execution, we're going to have to deal with the guards' families either way.
It's not like they're going to Western Union money home from the far hinterlands.
At least with their death we can spin it however we want and make their families at least think they died honorably, etc etc. With a wolf ticket it's plain to everyone what went down, and twenty years from now we have a knife in our ribs from a disgruntled son of one of them.
And if we wanted to be Vlad 2.0 to the people, we wouldn't bother taking down the stakes.
It was assumed private execution.
If people want it public, Edward can order that.
I'm going to switch to Option 5.
Oh, I was absolutely thinking private. If we do ANYTHING like this publicly, we're dead within the week from a peasant rebellion.
At the risk of revealing too much, Edward would have to do a lot more than justly execute some royal soldiers who have personally betrayed him to get a peasant rebellion. (The soldiers did just extort the peasants for more taxes, remember. They're not endeared to them.) That said, publicly executing so many would put a damper on the mood.
>3 votes for option one, go ahead with the investigation.>2 votes for option three, execute the senior guard, issue the rest 'wolf tickets'.>5 votes for option five, execute them all.
Justly execute them all for conspiracy.
Poll closed. Update soon.
You didn't understand the full details until now.
An investigation will take too much time and yield too little results, and basically will pardon treason. It's not something you should entertain.
You tell Robin you won't need an investigation. Or 'wolf tickets'.
Execute them all as it's feasible.
"I understand, Your Majesty."
Is there any problem, you ask? You honestly want to know.
Robin says there really isn't in terms of your decision. They are guilty. Executing them privately is your right. The soldiers will understand.
"The only problem is the actual logistics. It was also the reason I suggested wolf tickets."
Meaning, actually executing them is an issue. Then carting away the bodies.
They'll need soldiers to actually carry it out. One by one.
"Most of the Loyalists do genuinely hate the Old Guard, but it's best this be done in an unemotional manner because it involves other soldiers. And especially because there may be some who have made actual relationships with them."
To that end, she will order Noi to be the executioner. She has the most strength, and has only just joined the army. She doesn't have a relationship with the Old Guard. She'll understand it's Your just order and carry it out without regret.
…Is that wise? You inform Robin that according to her personal history, she's never actually killed before.
"Frankly, Your Majesty, 'has never killed before' can describe all of your loyalists. Even some of the Old Guard, most likely."
Fair point, you concede.
"The last consideration…"
The matter of those who 'surrendered with honor'.
"You're right. It was arbitrary as to who got the actual opportunity. But now it's actually been done and can't be taken back."
The soldiers who know about the execution may not like that 'surrendering with honor' ends with an execution anyway. There may be rumors.
"But I have an idea that will account for that."
Those Old Guard conspirators who 'surrendered with honor' will get a quick death, via beheading or another means of their own choosing. Only if they choose a method that's viable under the circumstances. Bludgeoning, for example.
Old Guard conspirators who did not 'surrender with honor' will be stabbed and left to bleed out. They'll die a lingering death.
The senior guard will be executed last. The horror will be part of his punishment.
"That way, we can claim we've rewarded their 'surrender' while still executing them, justly."
…All right. You'll consent to all of this.
When it's all done, the bodies will be taken one by one to the commoner's cemetery, or sent to a plot suitable for nobles if they have noble origins. After the Faire.
"Oana… I recommend not executing her, yet. She's a very savage woman, Your Majesty. You were right not to grant mercy. She cares only for what people think to get what she wants. Gagging her was a true necessity, and we may need to bind her physically."
That's fine. You don't need to know the details.
You warn Robin that Oana is not to be talked about with your knight Dimitrie. Under any circumstances. Do not let him near the dungeon. Do not let the soldiers idly chat about her.
She nods and swears it will be done. …Good.
… You're sorry she has to deal with such gruesome orders so soon after becoming general.
Robin shakes her head.
"This is what I've prepared myself for my entire life, Your Majesty."
Robin is truly amazing.
Despite knowing she's a woman, she endlessly studied her books. If Beatrice is right, she designs whole military plans in her head when she's bored. Emotionally preparing herself to give orders must be nothing.
–Will she enact her reforms?
She blushes, a finger going to scratch her cheek.
"I was considering it, once the business is done and the Faire is over…"
She has your full permission to start over. Do it right.
Just alert you before any truly drastic changes. You do value the men.
It pains you to see them turn into traitors and demand execution. You truly hoped to win them over.
"…I understand, Your Majesty."
… You're reminded.
You reach into your pocket and present Robin with your order.
The one that will make her general permanently until you personally decide otherwise. The order that prevents any possible regent from removing her.
She looks it over and… shudders.
"I… I don't know what to say…"
She turns to you, her eyes wide.
"Are you sure?"
After all that, she asks if you're sure?
You tell Robin she's earned it. Both in ability, and loyalty.
Even when you decisively lost the vote, she did not waver and crossover.
"…The thought never crossed my mind."
"I was… disappointed, but I can see now you had very good intentions. And the full extent of the Old Guard's suppression wasn't yet known."
You nod. Sometimes it's necessary to only respond when a situation has escalated.
Will she adjust to her siblings being around, as well?
She closes her eyes, and nods.
"If we're all united, then I will accept it. They have no right to pressure me or cajole me into compliance anymore."
You nod. That they don't.
"–But they were plotting against you, Your Majesty. Doesn't that bother you?"
… Let's just say you are willing to show leniency when it's more a result of having no choice in the matter.
They need not ever know you knew. They didn't betray you either. It's be different if Corrin had dared cross over.
You both lapse into silence.
You tell Robin you believe you're both done here. You'll leave her to carry out your orders and maintain the security of the castle while the Faire is going on.
If she can, please also try to recruit new bodies before the Faire ends. Male and female. There will be occupancies to fill in the army ranks.
"I will. Thank you, Your Majesty."
…Suddenly she bites her lip.
She turns around, pulls her pants down to about mid-thigh to show her bare butt, then plants her hands flat on the table. She arches her back and presents herself to you.
"Do you want to do me real quick? You know, knock me up?"
>Yes. Consider it an "inspection."
Option one, a no brainer. We need heirs who inherited her intellect and tact, after all.
Not to mention blowing off some steam from the stress we just went through. And since she's asking, it might even be a reward of sorts for her.
Option one, sure.
After this, though, I think it'd be nice to check in on Sully.
Sentencing dozens to certain death doesn't quite put me in the mood, even if it had to be done.
Honestly, Option 2 is the one that I would logically pick, but something to take our mind off the fact that we just had a large group of people we know and trusted to guard us put to death is a good idea. So I'm ACTUALLY voting Option 1.
Option 1. It's either this or getting a stiff drink, and I'd rather see Edward avoid turning to alcohol for stress relief.
>6 votes for option one, impregnate Robin.
>1 votes for option two, decline.
Poll closed. Update soon.
Having to make the solemn decision to order a series of executions does not inspire your libido.
…But seeing Robin presenting her bare ass does.
And you need the stress relief.
You unfasten your leggings and get behind her, stopping only long enough to lotion your cock and her pussy.
She gives out a hitched cry as you penetrate her, then start thrusting into her.
She rocks and arches her backside against you as you return the favor, meeting her petite ass with your hips.
She likes these business-style quickies doesn't she?
"Ah… yes." She breathes, as you curl over her back. "Being romanced takes too long… just knock me up."
Robin is efficient to a fault.
There is a lot going on, you admit. When things slow down, then you can start finding reasons to bring her back to Tharja's room.
Go up on your tiptoes, you urge her.
She does, giving you a little more leverage to thrust. Making it a little easier for you to lift her.
It makes it harder for her to thrust back, but it gives you plenty of more control over how you thrust.
Which in this case… is fast.
Robin tucks her face inward as she stifles a moan, shuddering and clenching her teeth.
At the same time, you cum, deep inside her.
Your throbbing, thick cock pulsating as you shoot out rope after virile rope inside her tight, virginal pussy.
Is this the fourth time you've had Robin? You believe so.
That means she's the most likely Chrisania sister to be knocked up.
You look forward to seeing her belly swell as she commands your troops.
–Hopefully she'll find some more suitable woman soldiers before the Faire is done.
Your sex over, Robin surprises you by taking out a rag from her pocket and holding it over her vagina as you pull out, preventing your seed from seeping.
…She was prepared for this.
She's still bent over the table, presumably needing to regain her strength.
"Y-Yes… I knew it'd be happening again."
… You lean close and pepper the nape of Robin's neck with kisses, before finally turning and kissing her cheeks.
She turns herself over so you can share a proper kiss, and you both fall into a blissful moment together.
… It's easier for you to keep your cock clean.
You tell Robin that you'll come by later for progress reports. And to be prepared to follow up with Ricardo.
…She can keep the symbol of your authority with your sword.
If she really needs to unsheathe it, you'll understand with all that's going on.
You decide to stop and talk to Sully.
She's resting in a hammock next to the medicus's section of the barracks.
She recognizes you and gives you a salute. That's a good sign.
You bid the medicus to leave you both alone to talk for a moment.
She tells you she blames herself for her injury. She should've been more careful, or realized she had no hope of winning.
…No, that's wrong, you say.
You lay out what you learned for Sully.
She was a victim of a conspiracy and was given a helmet too large.
When she was unseated, her head smashed into it as a consequence and it led to her injury.
There was no helping it. The only way to avoid it would've been to unseat every opponent while not being unseated herself.
Even you didn't manage that when you won the tournament. Sully had no chance.
She looks at you with surprised eyes before rolling back to stare at the ceiling.
"Shit… I remember that now…"
She was told there was no helmet larger for her. She can't remember who spoke. She'd forgotten it until you jogged her memory, which is murky from around the time it happened.
"Should've known… but why would they do that?"
–It doesn't matter. There's been changes and they've been punished.
Just rest, and recover.
She tells you she can start to stand up, but it's basically her waiting. The medicus has told her not to train for risk of hitting her head and making it worse.
"Hey, but King…"
She reaches out to take your hand, and you let her.
She brings it down to… her mid-section?
…Sully has the slightest hint of a hard patch along her belly. One that feels like more than muscle.
She tells you she woke up like this. Otherwise she would've skipped the joust.
"…but a pregnant knight charging on horseback… is it bad?"
You laugh and tell her it's all right.
Take care of herself. You'll check on her soon.
There it is. Another small beginning in Ruhemania, besides Elizabeth and Malon.
The sun is rising too fast, and you're missing your breakfast.
You say your goodbyes and go to the sitting room.
Breakfast is uneventful. You tell Beatrice you'll look for her in her room later.
You tell Tharja you'd like to walk her back to her library.
You go to see Ricardo.
One of your soldiers is outside the treasury, you salute and enter.
Ricardo is sitting alone at his desk.
You get inside and just… look at him.
You want to hug him.
You've never felt more gratitude toward a man.
And yet… Ricardo sits there, as if he's waiting for you to tell him to draft an order.
Ricardo, you say.
… You stop.
It's better you both talk in the back room, you tell him.
You don't bother with a candle, there's enough light and you plan to talk as long as it takes.
How long had that been going on?
Ricardo gives a large sigh.
"Remember the note I sent asking you to come by the treasury?"
The message sent to you, to meet him at the treasury for some issue, 'at your leisure.'
That was him trying to tell you he was being extorted into financing a bribery scheme. If he'd said it was urgent, Oana would've known he betrayed her.
"But you didn't come by. You put it off for a day. You put me in a very precarious situation."
When you did show up, you gave him an out by suggesting he summoned you because of the Elbanians.
By that time, Ricardo knew he couldn't do anything. The moment to alert you had passed.
"If I suddenly told you about the plot in any capacity, Oana would've known I'd done it ."
So, he changed tactics. He financed it deeper and acted like he was completely on board with her scheme. Oana began to make promises that Ricardo would be lavishly rewarded since he gave her his full cooperation. That she'd make him the head of the council. It was then he revealed he was King Vlad's bastard, and she could use that to oust you entirely.
"You marrying me off sealed the deal and convinced her it was viable. She could now claim I'd have an eventual heir. …I was to be her figurehead."
At the gathering, Ricardo would graciously and reluctantly accept his position as the elected King of Ruhemania. He would confess that you were unfit to rule. He had been master of coin for both King Vlad and you. While King Vlad's rule was frugal and conservative, you had wildly spent the treasury without concern for figures. That it was now empty. You used the royal coffers and the nobles' taxes that filled it as your personal coin purse. That you even spent it on prostitutes to sate your lusts.
That last part brings you a bit of distaste. You didn't go that far.
–Well you had spent gold to hire Venti, who you hope to sleep with, but it's Beatrice's gold, and it wasn't an explicit exchange. Similarly with your tip to 'Alena', though that didn't work out.
–Mara was a prostitute, to be fair, but you gave her no money.
Ricardo goes on to say he showed Oana records he had of your spending to convince her this was your most vulnerable spot. It became her ammunition during the speech. That's why she focused on the tower and the Faire.
"Therefore, Ruhemania would soon go bankrupt. Even a council wouldn't stop your spending. I was to be Ruhemania's savior."
…And instead he became your savior.
He lets out a scathing sigh.
"I won't take that much credit, Your Majesty. Trusting that woman would've gotten me my own knife in the back, eventually. A woman like that has no integrity."
Indeed, he was surprised you didn't point out how she was so power hungry when you made your little 'speech'.
"It would've been the natural thing to do."
…Maybe. But it wasn't your thing to do.
You don't regret it. Responding in kind in that situation might have won your votes, but the episode was a sham anyway. You'd rather have your dignity and integrity.
In fact, it may be better that you 'lost' so decisively. At least this way Oana will get her just desserts as an usurper, rather than just someone who made a 'reasonable proposal' that failed from not getting enough votes.
Ricardo nods. He offers the consolation that a great deal of the nobles were paid to support Oana and not respond to your speech, no matter what you said.
–Has anyone come forward to return their bribe?
"…Not a one."
Report them to the guards, you instruct him. You meant what you said.
Ricardo promises he will do the best he can, but the 'receipts' detail was mostly a bluff.
He didn't personally hand out the coins. He can only infer who received what based on what Oana told him.
–Then you will see if Oana will part with the information. And what you remember about who was so 'enthusiastic' about voting for her.
And if you can't, a great deal of nobles will soon be under house arrest until you do.
You metaphorically nudge Ricardo by arching your eyebrows.
"What, Your Majesty?"
He had that on his mind, didn't he? In your last talk before the gathering.
That at the vital moment, he would say what he did about his mother.
That's why he was melancholy the other day. Much more about that than Camilla's presence.
"Camilla was another bit of glue that almost sabotaged me, Your Majesty. If not for your vague order about 'taking a handful of coin,' she may have suspected why the books weren't matching the reality."
He doesn't need to change the subject.
What he said wasn't true.
He's King Vlad's son. He knows it.
He blinks his eyes and you can see vaguely that they're shining. Glossy.
"I'd much rather be my mother's son than King Vlad's," he says.
Still, it was a tremendous sacrifice for him. For his mother as well. He's not bothered by it?
"…" Ricardo takes a deep breath, then he sighs.
"My mother was a Saint. …She would understand. She would understand. She would understand the reason why I needed to say such things. Such things about her. About her decency."
His hand comes up to pinch the bridge of his nose, as if he were deep in thought. But you can tell he's trying to repress his tears.
You remain silent as he lets out a stressed, rueful laugh.
"No one… no one will ever care about her. Who she was. How she lived. –Especially now. There will be no books, recordings, or memories of that woman who was my mother."
He's desperately trying to wipe the tears away from his eyes as soon as they form.
… You decide it's a good time to put your plan into action.
You take what you've been holding out from under your arm and pass it over to him.
'King' is fine. Look at that, you tell him. Light the candle if he needs light.
He's confused, but he turns to do so.
The room is illuminated with a tiny spark as Ricardo gets the candle lit.
You watch him finally look down at the book you've handed him. The one you took from Tharja's library.
He opens the pages, then turns back to you.
"…Your Majesty, why? This is just a genealogy."
Turn to the last marked page, you say.
He does so, unhurriedly.
His bony fingers stretch as he gently picks the pages, then settles on the one you indicated.
You watch Ricardo's face intently as he reads.
You know he's gotten to the page about King Vlad's line.
His eyes finally spy the part you've been waiting for him to catch.
You watch an expression you've never seen on him before emerge as his eyes find what you intended to show him.
You'd call it… joy.
His words catch in his throat before he finds his voice.
"The scratches are old. Y-You… you wrote this long ago."
It's the section you added after King Vlad's death. When you wrote King Vlad's death as 'peacefully in his sleep'. Lorenzo's death as an 'accident, stairs'. And added your own marriage to Tharja.
You also drew a new line and box to King Vlad's name.
In it, you wrote Ricardo's mother's name, which you had remembered.
You tied Ricardo's mother to King Vlad, and then you added a line and wrote Ricardo's name as their son, acknowledging him as Tharja's half-brother, a legitimized bastard, and third in the line of succession.
–You added in Camilla's name as his wife before you came here, as well.
There's then a rustling as Ricardo brings his robed arm to his face and loses control of his emotions. He's shuddering and shaking as he's overcome with the feeling of bittersweet vindication and recognition.
You hadn't thought much of it when you did it.
You never thought you'd actually show him.
But you realized recently how much it meant to him.
Enough you wait patiently as his sobs echo through the room.
Then, as suddenly as they started, he stops. He pulls back his face from his sleeve and takes a breath.
"Scratch that out," he says. "It's not the truth. It must be scratched out. For your sake, King."
Instead of doing that, how about if they just write 'disputed' instead?
His eyes clench shut and his mouth twists in a tight-lipped smile before he coughs and looks away.
"That… may be an acceptable compromise," he says.
>No choice yet. Further update coming soon.
You sit across your table with Beatrice. Her butt sitting on a cloud of golden butterflies.
…It seems you both were so preoccupied with the Chrisania plot, you completely missed Oana's.
"Indeed. It was an interesting evening, though, wasn't it, King?"
Did Beatrice really find it so? 'Interesting' isn't the word you'd use.
"That woman… she seemed the perfect foil for you. She's old. You are young. You try to find common ground with people and expect them to return the consideration you show them. Meanwhile, that Oana cares about nothing but her own ends. She manipulates people's will through appealing to their core prejudices, and already stacked the odds in her favor through appealing to their greed rather than 'play fair'."
You're hardly that saintly. You've manipulated people too. Though hopefully to good ends.
…But Beatrice's words that night, in her vote.
It sounded more like what Beatrice would say, speaking right now, than what a mistress would say.
"Oho~ So you caught on. I will confess having fun with my response. There was nothing I could say as a 'mistress' that would have been persuasive, of course."
Does this mean you're no longer Edward, the boring King who made a few people happy and left the rest neutral?
She makes a little scoffing sound.
"It seems you've learned not everyone can be appeased, at least."
Yes, you realized that.
You don't doubt if you did hand out your titles, it would've just given Oana more legitimacy to start her vote. Something like 'And shouldn't your vassals have a say?'
…Was sBeatrice looking forward to the night, when it looked like you'd lost? Possibly taking up the job of assassinating as many as several dozen people?
Beatrice takes out her pipe and makes a show of taking some plant life from her hand and packing it into her pipe-end.
"I'm not saying I would have refused, but orchestrating something on that scale would have required… planning."
She sighs, taking a moment to take a puff. She didn't even light it, but smoke emerges from the tip.
"It would have been easier, perhaps, to cut off the head and see if another sprang up."
Beatrice apologizes for not catching Oana's plot.
She was simply focusing too much on the other spying you assigned her to, or Tharja's tutoring. By the time that was over, it was too late. The die was cast and events were in motion.
"It does reinforce what I've learned about mortal society. …Cutthroat."
Yes, you can't dispute that. In parts, at least.
Is Beatrice pregnant yet?
You decide to push your luck with a direct question.
"Do I look pregnant, King?"
Her hand reaches down to the neckline of her dress. She pulls it until she reveals her breast to you. Big, soft, defying any gravity.
"What will you do about it?"
You have Beatrice on her back. Your cock is inside her and you thrust away.
She was in the mood to be dominant, but so were you. You compromised.
You have her leg sticking up with your arms around it. You stroke the supple flesh of her thigh, calf, and ankle, occasionally moving to brush her foot with your lips.
She grins up at you with a manic smile on her face as you indulge her need to have her feet appreciated.
"It's been… mm… a long time since…" Another moan comes from her mouth, unbidden. "You deigned to do this, King!"
Anything for your Infinite Golden Witch, you offer.
You continue to stroke… marveling at how soft beatrice's body is. Even after living in your castle as a 'mortal', the suppleness is otherworldly.
By design, of course.
Now… you need only add your own artistry to the portrait that is Beatrice's body. A big pregnant belly. With a baby inside her.
Your tongue curving around the curve of her arch, you thrust your hips one last time and cum inside your witch,putting more seed inside her.
The intensity of both sensations makes her shudder and shiver. Her eyes pinch shut as she tenses, coming right along with you.
Her walls pulsate around your member as you fill up her crevasse with more semen.
… Satisfied, you cast her leg aside and sink in between her legs until you can lean over her enough to kiss.
You share an intimate, satisfying moment together in the privacy of your tower.
>No choice yet. Further update coming soon.
You met Corrin, Cordelia, and Camilla, who were waiting to speak with you.
You settle on Corrin's room for the meeting site.
"We wish to apologize for not being able to do more about the conspiracy, King."
…Did they know anything, you ask?
"Days ago… a soldier ordered me to halt, and asked where I was from. When I told him, he pressed a gold coin to my hand and told me to 'enjoy the Faire.'"
He shakes his head.
"I knew no good would come of it, so I gave it back, and he attempted to press another."
The soldier walked away and Corrin simply left both coins on the floor. He wouldn't fall prey to an attempt to be indebted.
He didn't report the incident because he had no idea who to report it to, or who the soldier was. They were masked.
"I see now I was being 'recruited'."
…You nod. Corrin's story does match what Robin told you about the symbols some guards were instructed with. And what Ricardo told you about how the bribery was done.
There's nothing he could have done. You're already grateful for what he did.
"There's also the matter of apologizing again."
They know you know, don't they?
Corrin slowly nods, followed by Cordelia and Camilla.
"It was… just so much, Your Majesty."
They began to suspect something when you called them all together and suddenly bestowed upon them everything they always wanted in life.
When Robin announced she was outright general, something which they all knew she dreamed of becoming, that was when they were certain: Robin had confessed the plot.
"We all feel just terrible, Your Majesty."
They wish to pledge and swear their loyalty, in hopes of putting the matter behind them.
"And… if appropriate, a request."
They beg you to please not think too terribly of their parents.
It was true, they wanted the three women pregnant by you, but none of them took it seriously, except Robin.
"We were all certain when we returned home we could convince them to simply be happy as grandparents. They are old. Anything else would've been far beyond what they could ever hope to accomplish."
You remember what Beatrice told you.
All four of them, together, had talents that could have genuinely posed a threat to you, if utilized.
But only if they had the right resources.
And those resources would've required a son, through your line, and… Erika's witchcraft.
Or at least the support of 'a' witch, somewhere.
… You're going to be honest, you tell them.
First, you trust they'll be loyal, you're convinced after the gathering last night. That they stood by you and did not cross over.
However, you're not inclined to give the benefit of the doubt to their parents and their motivations.
That said, you know they must be dear to them. Chrisania is far, and Valachia is close.
As long as their parents understand you four will be here, and their father understands he will never be granted a title, you will ignore it.
"Thank you, Your Majesty."
You're glad you were able to clear the air with them.
As for Corrin, you would appreciate it if he takes it upon himself to meet with the Elbanians while they are still here.
Make sure their needs were met. If they had any complaints. Apologized for the cold manner in which they were treated at the gathering. Those sorts of things. If possible, a chance for further diplomacy in the future.
He swears it will be done.
You decide to escort Cordelia to the stables.
Was she surprised that you were so… amorous?
"I was… His Majesty is so very handsome. And I am so very…"
Comely, you interrupt.
Cordelia is a fine woman. Worthy of attention.
Her blush deepens.
"You flatter me, Your Majesty… I'm sure my sister's form pleases you more."
Shall you prove it to her, you ask?
You take Cordelia back to your tower.
At first, she insists on leaning over your bed, facing away, so you can't see her bare chest.
But, you coax her.
You tell her all women are worth appreciating.
"…If you really insist."
Her face is blushing red, down to the tops of her shoulders as you slide the dress off of her, letting it trail down until it lies on the floor.
… Her chest is indeed modest.
Robin's is petite, but Robin's fits the rest of her body. Moreover Robin doesn't have a complex about her figure. Cordelia clearly does.
You can see she's shaking like a leaf as she holds her arms out and lets you really see.
She's so delicate…
You start with a kiss, intent on showing her why it's better to have sex face-to-face.
There's more you can do to her. And have her do in return.
You spend some time kissing, stroking, and coaxing her.
When it comes to mount her… you discover Cordelia has a lot of power in her legs.
She wraps them around you and squeezes you tightly, her ankles crossed around your back.
She moans are you drive your cock into her again and again.
You're already at a point you just can't take it.
You can feel yourself cumming inside her, but you keep going.
You churn your own semen inside her as you're urged on like a stallion until you can feel her pussy clench around your cock. See her eyes roll back and her mouth hang in a drooling open grin.
Finally you're allowed to rest, and you share another kiss. Her legs slowly unlock. Her pussy: totally filled.
You were speaking honestly, but you can't help but love Camilla's form.
There's just so much to grab, hold onto.
And now that you have Beatrice's lotion, so little reason to hold back.
You're all but humping her like a wild beast as you thrust into her over and over again. The only reason you haven't cum already is you just got finished having sex with her sisters.
You're in no hurry, truth be told.
Her big soft breasts feel wonderful against your body. The please of pounding against her wide hips is a true treat.
By the time you're ready to cum, Camilla's come at least three times, and you're rocking into her with her entire body. If she's uncomfortable with your weight on her, she doesn't show it.
Before long you're arching your back and emptying your balls inside her.
There was a reason for taking her last, of course.
You want to show some consideration for Ricardo. He doesn't need to smell your 'efforts' with Camilla while he's showing her the ins and outs of the treasury.
Camilla for her part is happy to play along.
You think she enjoys the feeling of 'cheating'…
You're not sure what to make of that, but you're not about to turn down her body when it's so perfectly primed for baby-making.
>No choice yet. Further update coming soon.
After your midday meal, you're just… tired. Physically and mentally. Even sex with the CHrisania siblings only distracted you for so long.
You're desperate to get away from anyone involved in the conspiracies.
You retreat to Mania's cart. Tiny bulges are all well and good, but… you need a belly to rub.
It's silent in this part of the Faire. You wonder if Mania will be under her canopy, but you don't have to wonder long.
There's several cups left on the counter, but more enticing is what's behind it. The shape of her beautiful, fecund form.
So swollen and perfect.
She smiles on seeing you, letting you stare before you even share a greeting.
The moment passes, and then Mania wordlessly goes inside her cart.
Your greeting turns out to be an amorous kiss.
You stroke her face and caress her body as your lips touch and she happily lets you touch her. Your saliva mixing as your tongues mix.
It seems even Mania is starting to anticipate your visits.
Whole minutes have passed as you kissed, stroked, groped, and touched all of her… her breasts, belly, hips, ass.
She's been eager to return the favor, touching your chest with her feminine hands.
"Did sir miss this hag…?" she finally asks.
Very much so.
And, deciding to chance at being honest…
You tell her that you needed the peace she gave you.
"…Hehehe. Peace is precious, indeed. Come, sir."
She takes off her dress and reveals her naked form to you, inviting you to sit and curl up to her belly again.
…You wonder if she'll get even bigger or if she's reached her full potential.
You're honestly not sure. She could be holding twins and need a bit more time.
She gently strokes the nape of your neck as you kiss and rub her belly. Tracing your bare hands all around bare flesh. The taut skin of her stomach, her belly button… how long ago was it curved inward, you wonder? You wish you'd found Mania's cart sooner…
At least you've done all you can for her…
…Or have you?
You smack your lips suddenly and ask her.
Mania, would she feel right if a trained medicus visited her?
"…Hm? Whatever for, sir?"
To help ensure a good birth.
You're not sure how much the medicus has served as a midwife…
…there may yet be simple peasant women who have been midwives…
…but you want to be sure she has a safe and healthy birth.
You don't need to say the rest. That Mania, by choice, lives in the dirt. Carrying some foraged food and dried meat to eat and satisfy her needs. It's likely the nomads eat better.
You realize as you speak the words you're sounding more vulnerable than you'd like. You're practically pleading with her. Pleading with a commoner. A so-called witch and hag. But…
Her hand comes up to cup your face, to touch around your eyes and brush some moisture away.
"I… will… accept."
… You let out a long sigh as the tension leaves you.
You were half-worried she'd tell you the Goddess would protect her, or that she had charms to appease the spirits already.
You thank her. You'll make the necessary preparations and see to it.
"…This hag won't need to leave her cart?" she asks. "She won't need to give up her babe?"
Her question is said in a low tone and with an undercurrent of fear.
Her child is hers. A gift from the Goddess.
You can feel Mania's body shaking, through where your head rests on her thighs and through her belly.
"Hehehe… few would speak with conviction about the Goddess. Or her gifts."
…You suppose you're not normal, you say.
At least in the dark secrecy of Mania's cart, you don't mind saying such things. They're important to her.
She brushes your hair, gently, with a hand. Her fingers aren't soft, but her motions are gentle and soothing.
"I see… it was truly destiny…"
She sighs, holding you in a close embrace.
You get the urge to open up more.
You can't even share with Tharja like this because Tharja has no choice but to witness the events.
Maybe… maybe it's the time to increase your bond.
>Confide the pain of the past day.
>Ask Mania if there's anything she wants. Either on behalf of the peasants, or personally.
Option one, most of the trouble is now behind us and we can start building up our existing relationships with the others. I'd like to hear Mania's opinion on what has happened the past day as well as give her the privilege of letting Edward opening up to her. She communicated to us before, let's do the same. Option two just sounds too emotionless; as if we're just trying to further buy her in by offering favors where she has already stated before she's quite satisfied with her current life.
I’ve never understood why Chrom can’t end up with Cordelia. She’s there early enough, but they can’t support. And yet he can end up with his sister.
I dunno what happened in your version of Awakening, but neither Lissa not Emmeryn was one of the wife options for Chrom in mine. If you meant her sister, don't think she and Sumia are actually siblings.
>5 votes for option one, open up to Mania about the pain of yesterday.
Poll closed. Update soon.
You confess you needed peace after yesterday.
…There's been trouble at the castle.
You had to stare the full extent of betrayal and treachery that human beings are capable of right in the face.
Mania strokes you as you start to talk about the gathering. How every aristocrat in the Kingdom was there.
…There was intense scrutiny on your every move.
But moreover, one of your nobles had been plotting against you.
Suddenly every virtue you'd done was a vice.
And to be fair, the vices you had committed were made to be unforgivable sins. Beyond redemption.
You talk about the vote, the sudden twist of fate because of Ricardo, and your eventual victory.
You turn your head.
She'll forgive you, right? For not having the stakes out earlier.
Mania curls her hands to brush the hair from your ear.
"Of course, sir. The day they do come out will be worthy of dancing and singing."
And she'll forgive that the nomads were allowed in the castle?
You hear her take a sympathetic breath.
"It was kind of you, sir. Nomads need a place to rest their heads as well. No nomad ever bothered this hag."
She may be the first person you met who thought so.
And the peasants being able to see the body of King Vlad before he was interred.
Was that a bad decision?
"…It was made with generosity in your heart."
She sees it, right? King Vlad… he was a tyrant.
You finally say it. The open secret.
But you know the peasants loved him, because he brought them peace. Because he actually kept the treacherous and uncaring nobility in line.
Something which you barely managed last night.
"…This hag is not that old. But… it was surely a peace through war and cruelty. Such peace is fragile."
She tells you the truth. The truth she's seen from passing from settlement to settlement, village to village.
Many peasant settlements are struggling.
Yet there is never one word but praise for King Vlad.
'King Vlad is too busy protecting Ruhemania from harm and defending against usurpers who hate his Ruhemania. Who hate his peace.'
That is why he cannot directly intervene with their problems. It's not his fault. It's their duty to struggle harder for the sake of King Vlad who has done so much for them. And they must do so tirelessly and honestly.
Mania's words make you shudder as the epiphany hits you.
You really see.
It wasn't just a matter of 'People will realize you're not King Vlad,' and be moved to violate the law because you aren't keeping up the pressure.
It's also 'People will realize you're not King Vlad… and therefore should help them.'
It gives you a shiver of fear and anxiety at knowing so many will be depending on you to truly make the country prosper.
Mania recognizes it and brushes your cheek.
"…Sir. You must not carry all this weight."
"Destiny has its hand in everything. Even if you don't know it."
"As long as you act with love and generosity in your heart…"
"The Goddess will return your love. The spirits will give their blessings."
You wish… you wish it was that simple.
You had to order many treacherous men to their deaths.
And more to come, perhaps. Including a power-hungry old woman who would not be deterred.
"…That's not your fault."
Greed is a fault that comes from living in society, she whispers. Where people consider others no longer people, but things to be manipulated.
The treacherous guards saw you as a thing. The end of their power. Change.
Oana and the other nobles saw you as a thing to be shoved aside so they could enrich themselves.
"Does sir see others as things?"
Though… Mania's saying something interesting.
'Greed is a fault of society'?
Is that why she's a hag who lives outside it?
…You don't voice your question.
Mania starts peppering your face with kisses.
"Don't carry so much weight. It's hard. So says the full-term pregnant hag."
Your eyes meet and you share a little laugh together.
Surrounded by her belly and her, you're able to feel a little bit of your pain eased.
Unfortunately it's getting dark.
"Will sir come back?" she asks.
With good news. Hopefully.
You used to stay longer with Mania so you could sneak away more easily without being seen. But now you genuinely feel your mood lightened while you're there.
It's with a note of reluctance that you leave.
…Though you're eager to see Tharja.
You make your way back toward the castle.
–It's at the last moment you realize perhaps you should bathe before greeting her.
>No choice yet, further update coming soon.
Noi is not guarding Tharja's room that night.
A fact Tharja pouts to you about.
You do remind her it'll be some time before she can 'initiate' her.
"I know, Edward… but she's fascinating!"
You hope this isn't turning into a situation where Noi will be treated as some sort of… spectacle.
At any rate, you tell Tharja to please contain herself. You're not sure how Noi will handle the attention.
She swears she will, no matter how much she wants to 'prepare' her for you.
You meet with Robin the next day.
The deed is done.
Noi performed with stoicism and professionalism. She was masked, but that was mostly for her own morale.
She starts to list ways in which the 'honorable' chose to be executed, but you interrupt her and tell her you'll just trust her.
She does mention the senior guard was given an 'ironic' death. Cut open among the scars he had. He had been openly defiant the whole time in captivity, and only recanted as he lay bleeding out. He tried to beg Robin directly, suddenly reversing himself of all his previous behavior. He claimed that he always respected her mettle, and thought her suggestions were good ideas.
Robin's expression is flat and unamused, and you honestly can't blame her.
"It was pitiful," she says.
It makes your skin crawl to think the senior guard, who was respected and who you personally considered for the position of general… simply couldn't face the consequences of his betrayal and accept death.
Oana was not executed. She continues to have an attitude of indignant rage. Even with the action happening in the same room. It apparently doesn't matter to her.
"We had to physically restrain her, with chains."
…God. You're not sure whether to be impressed or aghast.
As for the lesser nobles…
"I've spoken with the master of coin. No one returned one bribe. Oana refused to state who she had bribed, but even if she had, we couldn't trust it."
Robin instead took it upon herself to order another campaign.
Lower aristocrats who crossed-over too quickly, or spoke up too passionately against you, have found themselves under house arrest. Their money has been confiscated, along with any valuables that serve no practical purpose, as it's assumed they were purchased at the Faire with their bribe.
Other nobles had their persons and rooms searched for an excess of gold. Those who went beyond a certain threshold, suggested by Ricardo, had all of it seized and are also under house arrest.
The result is Ricardo has been delivered an amount of gold he says will take time to sort and makes sure it matches bribes paid out.
"Apologies if it seems arbitrary, but it's the best we can do under the circumstances without simply letting everyone go free."
… Fair enough, you suppose.
"How do you want to deal with each noble currently on house arrest, Your Majesty?"
You decide to cover all bases.
Does this affect the state of the army?
"A little bit, but with so few left tending to guarding the dungeon, it's nothing that can't be handled."
There's little risk to keeping the nobles there. And the guards guarding them there.
You ask more about their conditions.
She tells you they're just confined to their rooms. They're allowed to bathe, eat food suitable for aristocrats, and those there with families have not been separated.
They've simply lost their freedom to leave their room.
"We can keep them indefinitely… or move them to the dungeon."
You think you have a good basis to make a decision.
You tell Robin your plan to handle the nobles under house arrest.
>Some may be innocent. Make personal appearances to each noble. Hear their testimony to innocence or guilt. If they're guilty but claim innocence, you keep them under house arrest. The innocent may go free and have their property returned if they swear a vow of fealty and loyalty. Those who confess to guilt may also go free, without their property, if they recant and make similar oaths of loyalty. It may not be perfect because you'll have to guess by what you remember and by reading their emotions as to whether they're lying about being innocent, but it's the best you can do.
>Don't bother attending. Simply ask Robin to make everyone say a vow of fealty and loyalty in order to be set free. If they can't even do that, they stay under house arrest.
>Don't bother attending, ask Robin to have them make a vow of fealty and loyalty for freedom. But if they refuse, they go to the dungeon.
>Send them one by one to the dungeon to see the state of Oana in chains. If that doesn't make them recant immediately, they get thrown in. If they recant and swear loyalty, they may go free.
Option 4. We show the iron fist beneath the velvet glove once, then put the glove back on and hope that they never make us take it off again.
Option 4, might as well commit to the temporary iron fist.
Option one. I don't like how fallible it could be, however, I'm not sure if using Oana as an example will be effective. They all quickly changed their votes as soon as they found they didn't have a leg to stand on, which also takes away from options two and three as well, I think. Also, having some nobility to help keep an eye on the land is necessary, and the interviewing process might give us a better idea who we can trust. And we always have Beatrice to spy and verify.
I'm going with Option 1. This is Edward's chance to use his charm and get on the nobility's good side without Oana's interference. It might take longer, but I think it's better than a guided tour of the dungeons
Option 1. If Edward can I think it'd be best to wait to evaluate each noble until Ricardo has finished his analysis on them. The more Edward knows before making each judgement, the better.
Option 4 was a somewhat close second but I don't think it's necessary. They know we sentenced her to the dungeon.
After some careful thinking and reconsideration, I'm changing my vote to option 1 after hearing everyone else's opinions about this.
You're all right, Edward could pull this off.
It tracks with Ed's style of governance.
Also, I'd prefer to be a hands-on king.
Not only is it most in keeping with Ed's personality, it's also the most likely to pay off in the long run. More work now, but we're not using fear tactics that'll probably get some false repentance and might bite us in the ass down the road.
Again I think mercy is the right thing to do.
>7 votes for option one, personally meet each accused aristocrat.
>1 vote for option four, bring them to the dungeon to see Oana, then if they recant, they can go free.
Make personal appearances to each noble. Hear their testimony to innocence or guilt. If they're guilty but claim innocence, you keep them under house arrest. The innocent may go free and have their property returned if they swear a vow of fealty and loyalty. Those who confess to guilt may also go free, without their property, if they recant and make similar oaths of loyalty. It may not be perfect because you'll have to guess by what you remember and by reading their emotions as to whether they're lying about being innocent, but it's the best you can do.
Poll closed. Update soon.
You tell Robin you have a solution.
You're going to take the mantle of enforcing Your law very seriously.
You will personally interrogate every noble under house arrest and hear their plea. You'll determine their innocence, or guilt, and decide from there.
Robin blinks her eyes, shocked.
Is something wrong, you ask?
"Well, no. But that will take a while."
There's between thirty and forty 'guilty' nobles.
…That many, you ask?
You can't help but rub your head. Fine, whatever. You're doing it anyway.
In the meantime, it'll give Ricardo time to work. If there's more money being confiscated than was given out in bribes, there's a problem.
"My suggestion is to have the expectation that everyone is guilty, Your Majesty."
You thank her for the suggestion.
You tell her to focus on recruitment.
You want to add a little pomp to the procedure.
You get your crown out and show up at each noble's room in that.
Most are bewildered. Furthermore you get the impression Robin did a good job of separating the guilty from the innocent already.
The first aristocrat swears his innocence. Swears he brought the money with him to the Faire. Cannot explain why he did not spend it.
You warn him that lying to his King will only make it worse for him.
Finally, he breaks down and admits his guilt.
However he says he did it because you're a filthy foreigner and the money was incidental. He won't swear fealty or allegiance to you. Ruhemania is better off with no King at all than you.
There's only one response. You have him taken to the dungeon.
Fortunately, men like him are in the minority. Most recant their treachery and happily swear allegiance.
However, a few have the gall to ask for their property back, and you simply look at them until they back down.
There's even a few who you are persuaded were truly innocent. You swear they'll have their property returned. They can even explain what was taken, and why it's important to them.
It takes you the entire day, and you're still not done.
The next day, Ricardo has figures for you.
There's a discrepancy. The coin value is lower than pre-bribe numbers. The value of the confiscated items is difficult to quantify.
In other words, you have no reason to go into the last day expecting anyone else to be innocent.
Even so, you go out with the expectation to hear everyone fairly.
There's more people claiming to be innocent today. Though you're convinced they're lying. You decide to go less by emotions and more by logic.
You try mixing in details only conspirators would know, and it trips up their protests enough to reveal the truth.
After that, they recant and swear oaths of loyalty to you.
In the end, you have a few more aristocrats in the dungeon for daring to tell you to your face that you have no right to be King.
But you also have no one under house arrest, and you're confident you've done justice to them all.
…Though you truly are tired. You've spent the entirety of the past two days on this thankless task.
You're definitely missing the rest of the Faire, and Tharja is the only one to really comfort you.
…Which she does, very well.
>No choice yet, further update coming soon.
You decide to meet with the innocent bystander who did her best on your behalf that fateful day.
You're directed to her door, which you knock on and step inside.
"Oh, Your Majesty!"
She was practicing with her lyre, and puts it aside to address you properly.
…Hello, Venti, you say.
You apologize for not getting back to her sooner.
She gives a little laugh.
"Figured the King had more important duties to attend to than a humble poetess."
But, her performance at the entertainment was exemplary. She delivered on every promise she made. There was no room for fault. She's truly talented.
You're happy to keep her here as your court bard.
That is, if she doesn't mind–
"I don't mind!"
She speaks up immediately, eagerly.
…That was quick.
Being surrounded by all that intrigue didn't frighten her, you ask?
She suppresses a nervous laugh.
"Well, I sort of understood it was beyond my influence. That, and…"
Every poet, bard, and female equivalent's lifelong dream is to find a wealthy patron to play for.
"And for the castle… the King! It's an opportunity I can't afford to lose!"
She gives a meek bow.
"Literally, I can't afford it. I paid all my debts and have come with my meager possessions and lyre. Naught else."
She explains part of why she kept so much debt was that it encouraged those who own her debt to help her in hopes of a future payment.
"That's the life of a starving artist."
–Clever. But she doesn't need that life anymore.
She'll be eating heartily and healthily. She just needs to keep performing as she's been doing.
The court is getting bigger and will continue to do so. People will need entertainment.
And you'd be open to hear any original compositions she has. Poems, or otherwise.
"Inspiration's striking me right here and now, Sire! Thank you! Thank you so much!"
You nod back. Good.
The idea of helping Venti create an 'original composition'… is tempting.
>Seduce Venti and impregnate her.
>Seducing her now will disturb the nature of your relationship. Abstain.
Isn't that a major reason why we hired her in the first place?
Option 1. After two full days of having to deal with the bad side of regal duty, it's time to enjoy the benefits of the job.
>7 votes for option one, seduce Venti and impregnate her.
Seduce the poetess.
Poll closed. Update soon.
Inspiration is striking Venti, you say?
You have to confess to her… you've been hit by a bit of 'inspiration' since you both first met.
She turns her head, apparently not getting it.
Since the first time she made eyes at you. Enticed you.
Ah, there it is. Her eyes widen and she catches on to your overtures.
"Well… I fancied a handsome King would be a most notable… patron."
She cracks a bewitching smile, batting her eyes at you.
"And I've been told my ability strikes some other poets with… envy."
You step a little closer, until you can bring up your hand and gently stroke her chin.
So, she was advertising her 'services'? To you, the King?
At that, she gasps, meeting your eyes with a surprised expression.
"Nay, Sire. Dost thou regard me as naught but a common prostitute? One who would rather satisfy a man's lust than his thirst for art?"
You're reminded Mara was a very good dancer, and prostitute, but her dance was overwhelmingly erotic to begin with.
If she wasn't a prostitute advertising herself, what was she then, you ask?
At that, she smiles even more.
"A tease. Majesty."
And somehow, she's teased her way into being your court bardess.
But can you seduce her into surrendering to your seed, you wonder…
You sweep Venti literally off her feet, holding her in your arms and setting her on the bed.
"Oh my, King!"
She's kicking her legs as you put her down, holding them shut at the knees.
"May we not kiss first?"
She pats the part of the bed next to her. Her lips twisted in a pout, on which she places a feminine finger.
Of course, you say. You're not the sort of brute who simply forces women to spread their legs.
You'd never rush things…
She rolls to her soft, cushioned butt, and plays with her hair.
You take it as a hint, and begin by stroking her face with your hand. Focusing on softly pushing it out of her eyes.
She is truly beautiful, you whisper.
She gives you a confident smile of a girl who's heard that flattery before.
"Does this maiden's beauty move you, Majesty?
It does… emotionally and physically.
You press a soft kiss to one rosy cheek. Then the other.
Before you reach her lips she dips her head enough your lips find her nose.
–Oh, she wasn't kidding.
What follows is a few hours of sustained back and forth foreplay. You kiss left, she moves her face right. You move to touch her clothes, she holds you close. All the time she's giving you eyes and signals she wants to continue, but her body absolutely stymies you to the point you have trouble standing it.
Of course, her behavior, and touch, has left you with a huge erection.
She may be the most dedicated tease you've ever met, even more than some aristocrat girls you knew in Virilia.
But… you play along.
She's having fun. You simply keep yourself from being too handsy. That is, until…
She turns to you with closed eyes and a soft smile. A pink blush dusts her cheeks.
Unsure if the carpet will be pulled out from under you, you move to kiss her.
This time… you're not disappointed.
One kiss turns into two, then three.
Then it finally progresses into an open mouth kiss and the dam figuratively breaks.
… She is a very good kisser. You can't help but be swept away as you roll around on the bed together.
Her clothes are… difficult to pull off. Almost impossible when she's trapped on the bed. You finally whisper to her you'd like to undress her. You yourself already took off your tunic, belt, and shirt.
At that she… pauses.
"Majesty… how far do you want to take this?" she asks.
Lying to her is unmanly and despicable.
You tell her ideally all the way… until you're both going at it and just can't take it anymore.
And you come inside her, leaving her heavy with a child. She's a very cute lady. Her children will be very cute. And… she'll look even cuter pregnant. As her belly swells with her child.
She bites her lip, looking conflicted. So plump and cute.
"Majesty… I don't hate that… but if you want it that much, then we kind of need a deal…"
She knows how truly you love your wife. It was obvious from how you held each other, and her impassioned words defending you.
She knows you have a beautiful mistress.
She knows you've been visiting the nomads, and their women aren't known for being ugly.
She knows you had three women by your side at the gathering who all seemed very devoted to you.
She's wondering where she fits into this picture.
"Majesty… feeding myself until coming to live here was always a challenge. I can't support a baby as an artist… how do I know you're not just interested in me for the novelty, before you get bored?"
… You're having a hard time rebutting her.
That was something you just didn't have to think about back in Virilia. You felt guilt at the women you lay with being sent away, but there wasn't anything you could do about that. Moreover, the servants, peasants, widowers, and other aristocrat girls… they eventually accepted you'd be trying.
But the dynamic is different with you as King. With all of your relationships so plain to see. And Venti clearly isn't stupid.
"I… want a guarantee."
She's happy to be your court bardess. Your court poetess.
But she knows you could dismiss her if she doesn't meet your expectations, or other possible reasons.
If she accidentally offended someone. If she wrote a poem you considered a slight.
She wants job security.
"I do like you, Majesty. You're really handsome. I like kissing you… touching you… but if we're going to have sex, I need to know I'm going to still be here."
… Of course you'd never just send her out into the cold. You couldn't do that to a woman who became a mother of your child.
Her lips frown. "And, a woman you had sex with a few times, but who didn't have one?"
You're beginning to hate how quid pro quo this is sounding. It ruins the romantic mood.
Venti for her part kicks her feet on the bed.
"I just want to know I'll always be your court bardess."
Venti eyes you. Though she started off teasing you mercilessly, you can tell you've riled her up.
But… she's scared. There's a part of her that's scared of your power over her.
She needs this to relax, or you may have to accept your relationship will be affectionate and one of mutual attraction without sex.
Can you trust her? At this point, you're not sure what else she could do to show you she's serious after how she performed at the gathering.
>It's an assurance Venti should have anyway. Swear to Venti she'll always be your court bardess, even if she needs to speak truth to power through a poem criticizing you, or accidentally offends someone. But she mustn't take it as an excuse to be lazy.
>Balk. You need the freedom to dismiss a servant, if necessary.
damn, did you draw this?
>9 votes for option one, give Venti a permanent position as court bardess.
Assure Venti she won't ever be dismissed. But she mustn't become lazy.
Poll closed. Update soon.
You apologize. This is something she should have anyway. You just didn't say so explicitly.
Venti will have a permanent position as your court poetess.
She's proven herself–
"Then, let's fuck!"
…That was quick.
Her voice is practically a desperate squeak as she jumps off the bed and starts taking off her clothes.
Her hands go to her tie first, then unbuttoning her top.
It's a drawn out process. She has buttons everywhere. Along her arms, her cape, her corset, and more. You're beginning to think it's to facilitate her being a tease, as it would be near impossible to remove without outright ripping it off of her.
Indeed, it'd been difficult for you to feel her breasts through the layers.
But she finally gets enough undone to lift the shirt off.
Her breasts pop out and show themselves to you.
Oh, that's interesting. Inverted nipples.
She catches you staring and raises them up.
"Dost the sight offend, Majesty?"
Of course not. It's an uncommon sight, is all.
You reach a finger around and trace the aerola.
She gives a small coquettish laugh.
"How many miles of womanly flesh must you have seen to know what's common and uncommon, Sire?"
Many, you whisper.
There's no other answer you can give. Other than…
Curling your fingers around where the nipple lies hidden.
As you thought, the centers are sensitive.
She lets you play happily as she strips the rest of her clothes. Her skirt, her long stockings…
She's breathing harder. You can feel her nipples becoming erect and starting to protrude. It's a tremendous feeling of eroticism. The sensation of pink flesh emerging from sensitive skin.
She moans, stretching down and kissing you before turning and falling on her back onto the bed.
"Please, I really want it…"
She bats her eyelashes at you, face turned to the look of the shy maiden.
Your hands go to undo your leggings, eager to have your manhood exposed for fear she might change her mind. It's such a flip between the woman who's been teasing you and this new shy moaning beauty that you can't help but be anxious.
Not so anxious and eager however that you forget to take out your lotion.
It's something soft that will make the sex feel better, you tell her. Just keep her legs spread.
She brings her knees up and gives you access to her pussy. She's wet already. Glistening with lubricant. The lotion might be superfluous, but it's too nice a luxury not to have. You coat your own member as well.
She slowly parts her legs, and you draw up your body to settle between them.
She spies down between her legs and gasps at your length.
"You're too big!"
You can't help but feel your ego stroked at that.
Don't worry, you tell her… you'll go slow.
You slide your hips forward on the bed, cock aligned perfectly with her pussy, and slip inside.
You both cry out in mutual twin cries.
You ended up slipping farther than you meant to, and…
…you tore right through Venti's hymen.
You stare at her with a mixture of awe and disbelief.
"W-What? I was always saving myself for someone special…"
… Oh boy.
You hadn't really thought Venti was a virgin. You misjudged her.
You apologize and tell her it was truly an accident.
Careful not to push yourself in more and hurt her, you climb on top of her enough until you can kiss her lips.
Stroke her tongue with your own.
She reaches up and wraps her arms around your torso. Not stroking you, but holding you like she doesn't want to let go.
"I want your baby…"
Her tone is a soft high-pitched begging as she cries out for you to put a baby inside her.
The words get an immediate reaction from you. Your back stiffens, your eyes widen, you can feel your cock throb bigger. Venti can no doubt feel it too, as she moans around you.
"Please, Majesty, I want it so bad… I want your baby inside me…"
You start to thrust.
You start to thrust hard.
Harder than you should.
But Venti doesn't complain, she just holds you tighter, even bringing up her legs to press her knees against you.
"Please Majesty, I need this so bad. Come inside me and give me your baby…"
It's been a while since a girl actively begged you to knock her up like this. With such raw passion and… desire. Without any prompting or making it an afterthought.
Does she want that, you ask?
Does she really want it?
Her breasts are bouncing all over the place, making her wince, but you can't help it.
You're practically nailing this woman to the bed for how fast you're thrusting.
Enough you're practically flat on top of her. Your feet pointed straight out, your ass simply rising and falling as you thrust your length in and out. And barely move it out. For all means, you are just humping this woman.
But the harder you go, the more she responds in kind.
"Yes! Yes! Yes! Please come inside me!"
The bed is rocking and knocking so hard against the floor and wall it could reverberate throughout the castle, nevermind how loud Venti is being.
"I want your baby… please Majesty… make me pregnant… I need your baby! I'll carry it… raise it… I want to give birth to lots and lots of your children!"
"Get me pregnant!"
"Get me pregna~nt!"
You're not even capable of talking.
You clench your eyes shut, holding her with her body pressed beneath you, sheathing your member inside her fertile valley as far as you can go as you come, and come, and come.
Seed spurts out from you. You've been teased and stirred up for so long, and Venti is outright pleading for your babies so much… you cum perhaps harder than you ever have in your life.
At least in recent memory.
Your mind goes white as you feel your cock pulsate. One spurt fills Venti's vagina, then two, three, four, five, six… you're still convulsing, still coming, and still putting cum inside her. As much as you have in your balls that you can empty.
"M-More… more cum… need your baby…"
Your body shudders with one last thrust as you let out your tenth spurt. As requested, all inside Venti's supple, beautiful, voluptuous body.
You immediately collapse into a weak mass of loose limbs. Your muscles are just too worn out.
You openly groan and pant as Venti shudders and has her orgasm around you.
"…Thank you, my King…"
… You still can't talk, so you just nuzzle your head against her.
That was good. You need more of that.
You had to make a promise, and deal with Venti teasing you for hours before she finally spread her legs, but…
You knocked up your court poetess. Hopefully she gets the baby she's always been wanting.
… You stroke her soft body and rub her hair.
Her arms and legs are still holding you, but sensitivity soon drives you both to separate.
You apologize for the… forcefulness. You really wanted to take it slow.
She shakes her head.
"I enjoyed it so much, Majesty… thank you for giving me a baby."
She presses a kiss to your head, affectionate, and you can only shudder at how perfect the moment is.
By the time you separate, you push a pillow under her butt so she stays angled with your cum inside you. She wants to stay like that.
"Call on me anytime, Majesty!"
Your stomach is telling you that you missed your midday meal. In fact, it's sunset.
No regret, though. You depart Venti's room with aching muscles, from your legs, to your back, to your groin.
Ten times you came… was it that much, or were you overestimating it? At any rate… you hope Tharja will accept simply talking and cuddling.
>No choice yet, further update coming soon.
Tharja has prepared something for you.
Something in the form of Elizabeth, standing ramrod straight next to her bed.
"I thought it was time we gave your slave some attention, Edward!"
–Ah, right. The 'slave' thing.
She says it and you watch Elizabeth shudder. A subtle little trembling. She's fully clothed. The lace collar around her neck, but she seems to really like the idea of being called 'slave'.
…Well, you can't disappoint.
You suppose it's best you 'inspect' her, then…
You walk in front of Elizabeth, taking her chin in your hand. You turn her head from side to side, looking at each cheek, then press a light kiss to each one.
Her face is acceptable. Feels very clean.
You make a show of inspecting other mundane parts of her. Her neck, her arms, her back… you're saving the best two parts for last.
Finally, you give her a mischievous grin.
If Elizabeth would, please… she must lift her skirt for your inspection.
There was no hesitation. Just a quick bending at her knees as her hands went down to the hem of her skirt and she pulled it up, up, and to her midsection, putting her nethers on display.
…She's freshly shaved, you remark.
Tharja gives a sultry little smile.
"I wouldn't let her be unprepared."
You do take the moment to admire Elizabeth. Lifting her skirt as if it were nothing. You imagine you could likely do it in complete public and she would.
But that's not what you're most interested in.
You command her to lower her skirt and lift the top of her uniform.
She needs to expose her belly.
Elizabeth's bump has indeed grown.
Not by much. She's still at a state where it can be hidden under her clothes.
But how much longer? You don't know.
You step forward and cup your hand around it. It's hard and sticking out of her flat belly.
Elizabeth takes in a deep breath and shudders as you touch her. She's clearly pleased with the attention.
You lean closer and kiss her.
You can't forget Elizabeth. THe first woman to show a bump in Ruhemania.
You look forward to seeing her slight frame dominated by what's hopefully a big belly.
You're concerned. She should eat more.
Is she eating her meals properly each day? No problems?
She shakes her head.
"None, Sir. I know it's important."
Well, that's good. You'd hate to hear she was under any pressure.
At any rate… you're just too tired.
You apologize, but you're exhausted from earlier. Perhaps you can all three share some affection instead?
Tharja looks the most confused.
"You're not going to tie her up, husband?"
–You suppress a little laugh. You know Elizabeth enjoys that.
At the same thing, you don't want to announce you just got done drilling your new court bardess, who was literally begging for your baby. Tharja would appreciate it, but you don't want to inspire jealousy in Elizabeth.
You tell Elizabeth you promise, you'll bind her sometime and really satisfy her.
She gives a soft nod.
"I understand, Sir."
You cuddle on Tharja's bed with Elizabeth, appreciating her tiny bump, her swelling breasts. They're signs that might be passed over if one didn't know what to look for, but you can see them plainly.
Unfortunately it contrasts with Tharja, who still is sadly not showing.
You don't want to end your time with them on a sour note, so you dismiss Elizabeth and comfort Tharja.
You rub her flat stomach and tell her just to wait. Soon it will happen.
She whines, confessing she wakes up hoping every day for that. The first thing she does is rub her stomach.
You just stroke her more.
In an attempt to cheer her up, you tell her a bit about Venti…
>No choice yet, further update coming soon.
You pay a visit to the barracks the next morning.
You're not there to see Robin, you're there to see the medicus.
You tell him there's a pregnant woman who's living in a cart in the middle of the castle. She's close to delivery.
He's to see to her needs and keep her healthy. You don't want any dispute. You want him to visit her in the morning and before sunset. Starting tomorrow.
He swears there will be no argument. He'll do as you say. Good.
You have the opportunity to see Sully, too. She's getting to a point she can stand, but needs aid. It should be soon she makes a full recovery.
You go out to the Faire.
Indeed, with the end of the gathering, the nobles have no reason to stay. In fact, most are in a hurry to leave. The merchants realize their most affluent customers are leaving and are leaving as well.
But there's a certain group you hope hasn't left yet.
One you don't care if anyone sees, now.
You see the nomads' wagon in the distance.
You get closer and see they've set it up to make it mobile again.
Vano greets you like an honored guest.
The other nomads still regard you with curiosity, but it's far from the bewildered treatment you experienced when you first visited.
Vano wants to stress he's thankful for such hospitality.
"Never have we been treated so openly, Your Majesty."
You tell him you simply welcomed him based on his word as an honorable man. Furthermore, he's one of the nobler visitors the Faire has had.
He bids you to please wait for a moment.
"I know two women who would be glad to say their goodbyes."
You can't help smiling, and Vano goes into the wagon for a moment before exiting again.
Behind him are Mara, then Nara. They step into the sunlight and greet you.
Mara approaches you, her body on display under a sheer robe.
"It was a wonderful time with you, Your Majesty. I only wish it could've been more."
She gives you a wink, and you tell her you very much had the same sentiment.
Nara approaches next, shoulder bared by her otherwise conservative robe. Her face holds a shy expression.
"Ah… Your Majesty… please keep in mind your fortune."
…Yes. It's on your mind.
You thank her for the glimpse into the challenges that will come to you on your journey. Nara has informed you as best she can about what's to come.
…Your mind remembers the card of the man pushing the boat with one long stick. How Nara talked about how it symbolized stress, and tireless work. Work that was appreciated and rewarded.
Your mind falls to Ricardo and you can't help but be moved, reminded of his sacrifice.
But more than that, the fortune that you would soon meet a religious person who will offer their services to you.
…Is that Mania?
–You think not. Mania didn't offer her services, really, you had to seek them out. Moreover she's said her understanding of the Goddess can't be taught. It must be someone who is coming soon.
At any rate, you nod and tell her you wish Nara the best on her own personal journey.
She has a small blush as she smiles and you know she caught on to talking about how you impregnated her.
You're tempted to ask if you could make use of the wagon one more time with them both, but the fantasy must remain a fantasy. They're about to leave. You doubt the inside of the wagon is set up specifically for your arrival.
Instead, you thank Vano again for the introduction to his daughters, and…
… If they ever come back to this area, they have Royal permission to ask to stay inside the castle.
You're not sure you'll host another Faire soon, so there may be nothing for them to actually do, but the offer is open.
Vano tells you such an offer is unheard of, but he will remember it.
You're indirectly begging Mara and Nara to come back so you can see them swell. Or at least meet your children with them, but he understands.
At any rate, you say your farewells and depart.
You try to burn the image of Mara and Nara into your mind before you go. Such women are not found often.
You go back into the Faire.
Well, the remains of the Faire. The carts are either torn down and gone, or in the process of being. There's no activity anymore, other than some meat vendors cooking the last of their stock in anticipation of midday.
Though there's another exception.
You see the canopy is still hanging as you approach Mania's stand.
This time, there's no one underneath.
But, you don't panic. There's one cup still out.
Besides that, you can hear movement behind the counter behind the curtain.
You call out to her.
Her response is a moan.
Oh God, is it happening?
You rush around the other side and enter the back of Mania's stall.
You find Mania, sitting on her bucket. She's already fully naked, her dress cast off to the side.
She gives you a wave in a greeting, along with a smile you can see by straining your eyes in the dark.
You're respectful of Mania's space, so you don't just rush in. You step carefully over to her side.
Is she in labor, you ask?
"Hehehe. No, sir. Just phantom pains, and fatigue."
You're glad she's not going through such a stressful thing alone. You'll sit with her, just to be sure.
"…Hehehe. Is sir disappointed?"
You feel a little bit 'caught'. You've never actually seen a birth close-up.
You tell Mania you're more concerned for her. Her health.
You take a seat next to her and take her hand in yours.
It's dusty. Dirty. Your hand is a bit callused from the swordplay you do, but Mania's is like a peasant's. She must do a lot of wood carving, even now.
…Is she going to stay in her cart, until the birth, you ask?
"Mm… I leave at night… though walking at all becomes a burden."
You can understand. Her belly is so big you wonder how she can balance it on that bucket.
Your eyes take in the curve of it. The fullness of her breasts.
For some reason you find yourself salivating.
Mania leans back a little, pushing her belly out and lifting up a tit, prompting you to lie your head down on her belly.
You accept the unspoken invitation and put your head down, giving it a kiss and wrapping your arm around her torso to rub her back before setting your head to rest on the soft, hard, belly.
She gently moves her tit to your lips, and you go ahead and open your mouth.
Her milk is sweeter.
That's your impression as Mania cradles a hand around your head, stroking your hair.
"Hehe… sir trimmed his hair."
Indeed you did. It was getting too unkempt.
Though you wouldn't say that to Mania, who has let her hair grow wild.
A few minutes pass with you like that, before you hear her speak.
"…Thank you sir, for coming back."
"Even this hag gets lonely."
You can hear her breathe steadily as you continue to suck. Your belly is going to be full, but that's fine, the kitchen must be used to you skipping meals or eating too quickly in the midday.
She starts to sing again. Her soft voice sings a beautiful melody.
The lyrics sing out words of a mother with her little chick. Promises of love, nurturing, and safety.
"I'll be the one to cherish you…"
"Grow strong and sleep while I guard your dreams.."
"Sleep well, little chick…"
… It's too much.
You turn your head, pressing your face against Mania's body and hope you'll be able to suppress your emotion.
But you know it's a losing battle.
You shake and shudder against her. Her body muffling your sobbing. At least from your ears.
Tears flow from your eyes as your face contorts in pain. As well as your heart.
"Sir–? Sir, please…"
Mania's hands stroke your neck in an attempt to help you calm down. But the tender gesture exacerbates the emotions you're feeling.
"…Did I offend?"
You realize Mania's tone is pleading with you. A mixture of concern and fearful sympathy.
You force yourself to suck in air and grit your teeth.
No, you say.
You're sorry. You're sorry for this unmanly display.
She moves to stroke your skin again.
"Please sir, this.. this hag is sorry."
No, she needn't be sorry.
You finally find an emotional anchor to hold you steady. It's from the need to let Mania know she's done nothing wrong. The sweet pregnant woman has done nothing wrong.
… You let out a long breath.
You… decide to tell her.
Something you haven't even told Tharja.
You sit up and rub your eyes, having too much signity to wipe them on your sleeve.
She did nothing wrong.
Her lullaby is beautiful.
Her song is touching.
Her voice is sweet and gentle.
You confess the pain that you carry around with you.
You tell Mania about when you were young. How you had a mother. A beautiful, loving, caring mother.
She died in childbirth.
Not with you.
With your brother.
Mania listens to you with her full undivided attention. You can't bring yourself to look her in the face yet, but you're grateful all the same.
…You were still young. Much too young.
You think you can remember her face. Your father had portraits. You used to stare at them and try to remember. You would… torture yourself.
In time, the two blurred. Was your memory wrong, or were little details from the portraits? You can't remember.
…You'd give anything to be able to remember.
To really remember her face.
The kind things she'd say to you.
The gentle lullabies you're sure she sang.
And that's why… to hear Mania sing so beautifully…
Yes, that's it. It calls all those feelings up at once.
'Surely to hear my mother sing would be to hear something as beautiful as what Mania sings now.'
She reaches over and takes your hand, stroking it gently. You can hear your words have moved Mania. She's sniffling in empathy.
"I'm so sorry, sir." Another sniff. "I'm so sorry."
It's all right, you repeat.
You love her song. It just… conjures up so many emotions.
… Did her mother sing it to her, you ask? She surely must have.
Mania's mother must truly have been caring and splendid to teach her such a lovely, comforting song.
There's a long pause, as Mania stops stroking your hand.
"I didn't learn it from my mother, neither did she sing it to me," she says.
Her voice is dry and melancholy.
"I learned it from the handmaiden who raised me."
>No choice yet. Further update coming soon.
Your eyes go stark wide as you lift up your head and stare at the naked, dirty witch in her hovel. Who would rather accept the name 'hag' than go by her name. –No, she honestly had to try to remember her actual name when you first asked it. For her to say such a thing…
You're not sure what your expression is showing, but it's clearly communicating the unvoiced question:
She's an aristocrat?
She nods, as if not surprised by your reaction.
It's incredible. Too incredible.
…It takes you a moment to breathe.
You continue to hold her hand, still watching each other. Your own confusion and Mania's resolute affirmation.
You take your free hand, reach down, and pick up a nearby stick.
You trail it against the dirt, and slowly write words. In as clear a lettering as you can stand to write with a crude implement in the earth.
'I love you.'
Mania peers out, needing to bend over with her legs spread wide apart to actually manage it… and you hear her give a soft little huff of emotion.
She reaches back to take the stick, which you hand over.
She trails her own message right below yours:
'I adore you.'
… It brings out your own sigh as you feel the tension cut. She's… not lying.
You gently hug her, feeling her arms reaching back behind your body as well.
… You don't feel any particular shame or confliction for using 'love' with Mania. You're in love with Tharja, of course, and always shall be. But you have a big enough heart to share your love with those you make mothers. And now… someone special like Mania.
This… this actually makes sense.
How many commoners would know a complicated word like 'maiesiophile'?
She knew Castle Valachia is actually called 'Castle Valachia'. How many peasants wouldn't just call it 'the castle'?
Even Beatrice said there's something going on with her. Her talk of the Goddess and blessings are nonsense, but it's a nonsense with a logic behind it.
… What happened, you ask?
You're not sure what story to expect. Will the expectation not be met, after all? You could believe Mania was an orphan, taken in by a kindly Lord, and perhaps left without any means to inherit once he died.
Or perhaps King Vlad's war affected her family.
But words like that don't tumble from Mania's mouth.
"This hag… she was raised kindly. With many servants. She was to be the young lady who would be the jewel of the family. My brother would lead, I would marry, and all would be well, as it always is."
She starts to sway, lost in recall.
"Yes… those days were long ago."
She lets out a small 'hehehe'.
–You're not sure what story this is going to turn into. Is this a runaway story, or a calamity story, where a noble house is broken down and left for nothing?
Mania suddenly pushes back from you, your faces close.
"Sir. A question."
Her eyes are shining, her face grinning.
"Are witches made, or born?" she asks.
–Oh. She's quizzing you.
Beatrice would tell you witches are made. Literally, through their ritual. They then must mature. Learn. Join society.
Mania's own story would suggest she decided to become a witch.
And yet… the way she's staring at you, as if it'd be natural for you to know the answer…
…You know the answer. You know Mania's answer, at least. She just told you again. With her words.
You shove your prior conceptions to the side and answer confidently:
She takes a deep breath, letting it out, before picking it up and continuing.
"I started asking questions from as long as I can remember talking. Questions that I could never get a good answer for. Questions that made whoever I asked uncomfortable."
"Why did I have servants?"
"Did the servants have servants?"
"Where did this food we eat come from?"
"Why do the servants eat other food?"
"Can we thank the peasants for making us this food?"
… You can't help but feel a little uncomfortable yourself.
The answer is it's just how it is. The real discomfort is Mania's questions suggest it shouldn't be how it is.
Was she punished, you ask?
You wonder if perhaps it would turn into a situation like with Robin, with a family that never listens to her.
Mania shakes her head.
"No. They never had answers, but they told me I was very kind to ask and show concern. If I wanted to help the commoners, the peasants, then there was a time and place for it. It was called charity. Alms."
You nod. That sounds very reasonable. Encouraging.
Mania's face does not look encouraged. She stares out flatly. Tense. There's a fire in her eyes.
"I would hear the servants sing and dance at night when it was their private time. They sounded happier than they ever did during the day. I'd ask them privately if I could see, but they told me it wasn't my place. I could see the fear in their eyes, from me asking them a question."
"…The servants had taught me all I could know. I needed a new perspective."
"One day I went for a walk. I intentionally left my coat behind. It was when we were far away from the mansion. I asked the maid to retrieve it."
"I waited until she was far enough out of sight and then ran in the opposite direction. Toward the settlements where the peasants lived."
"Ah, I'd never exerted myself so much. I was an out of breath wreck when I finally stopped running. I thought I'd pass out right there."
"But, I had done it. I'd gotten to the fields and attracted the attention of the peasants."
She turns her head toward you.
"What do you think happened?" she asks.
If you had a daughter who was coming of age… you'd be very frightened if you heard she had run away from where you could protect her and entered a peasant settlement.
You'd hope they'd return her back safely or at least be kind to her.
Mania hears your words and shakes her head.
"… Not what you'd hope for some daughter, sir. What do you think happened? To me?"
… If she went to the peasants to start to ask them questions about why they didn't eat the same type of food as an aristocrat, why they struggled while aristocrats didn't, and how much she wanted to thank them for growing her food…
–You'd think the peasants would tell her to go to Hell. Give her no answers. Perhaps get the attention of the Lord.
She lets out a soft little laugh.
"Sir guesses… wrong."
The peasants were very kind.
They told her how hard they worked in the fields. That they worked the fields because their father's worked like that. And their father's before that. And that they really didn't know any other reason.
No, they were not happy.
They were miserable.
The aristocrats took the best yield. And when the yield was low, they were expected to go hungry. And how they hated it.
They did not have much time to raise families, much less have them at all. Their main motivation for children was to have extra hands to work with them for when they were old. There was always the worry of not being able to feed them if they had too little food.
Moreover they understood. They understood why Mania wanted to know. They did not begrudge her the questions or move to throw her out.
They invited her to ask as much as she liked and hear as much as she liked.
"They didn't even worry about being punished for interacting with an aristocrat's daughter," she says.
…Your reaction is that her family must have had very strange peasants.
At that, she turns on you.
"Have you gone out among them, sir? Have you asked them? Not for charity, but because you want to know?"
You recoil a little and then admit, you haven't. The circumstances would be completely different, but you don't need to argue the point.
"Yes… they didn't expect anything from me."
In the end, she left with an epiphany and a broken heart. She waited until sunset and then went back home.
She made up an excuse about going to pick flowers and losing track of time and then the wind took them anyway. She was scolded, but nothing else.
"The next day was when I decided to do something very naughty."
She feigned illness and told her servants to bring her food in her room.
She took the food, sneaked out of the house, then took it to the peasants.
"At first they were afraid, but then they took it. They offered their thanks and had a little more food to fill themselves with."
She continued like this. She even hid her breakfast to have more to take later. She did it every day without fail.
How did she get back in time by morning, you ask?
"Hehehe… at first, I ran fast. Then I lost my strength and tried other means."
She realized she wouldn't have the strength to get back to her mansion. She bribed a servant to lie that she was still resting when she really fell asleep with the peasants.
When the servant finally feared exposure and refused to help anymore, she left anyway. When she returned in the morning she made up a lie that she felt compelled to walk at night.
She was moved to a room that was on the top floor. She solved that problem by tying her sheets together.
When they tied her sheets to the bed so that she couldn't remove them, she just threw herself out the window.
"It was very rainy that day. Very easy to just sink into the mud. After that, I felt and found places along the ledging to catch my fall."
You pause Mania's story.
All this time… what was Mania eating?
She smacks her lips.
–That can't be true.
She had to be eating something.
"No," she echoes.
Everything was saved and taken to the peasants. Or offered as a bribe to the servants to help her hide her visits.
How did she manage that?
She grits her teeth.
"I wouldn't let it stop me. I thought of them going hungry instead. The sick feeling that gave me was satisfying enough."
But, of course, it didn't last.
After a month, she brought her usual meal to the peasants and collapsed. Her legs had gone out.
"Hehehe… they begged me to stop. To eat. I told them I wasn't hungry. But, finally they convinced me."
They told her they would eat the food she brought. But she must eat the food they cooked and would eat.
A watery-stew made of leeks, onions, and pig feet.
"It was delicious," she says.
…Anything would be after going so long without eating.
"Though it was also the thing that revealed me."
The Ruhemanian onions were too strong in scent. She did recover, but her mouth reeked when she returned.
The servants noticed it and so did her family.
"I was dragged in front of them by the ear like a naughty child. They asked what I had been doing and I confessed readily."
They didn't believe her. They thought her sickness was genuine and it was making her throw her food away. Never could she be taking food to the peasants, and the thought of them taking it was obscene.
She insisted she was taking it to the peasants. She did this because it meant there'd be more for them to eat. That it was right that they eat, even if it meant she went without anything at all.
"They still weren't convinced, but they started to scold me as if they believed."
That wasn't the right way to give charity. To give charity to the poor was to give your excess and remind yourself of how grateful you are for their virtues, and build virtue for yourself. To help the poor must be done as an aristocrat would help them with alms. Not help the poor in a way that amounted to slow suicide.
She had disrespected the servants by not eating their cooking.
She had disrespected God for not being thankful for her daily bread.
She had disrespected the Earth for rejecting a bountiful harvest.
And… she'd disrespected the peasants for not eating their food.
"… I don't remember much of what happened after that. Not the specifics of who was doing what."
She remembers raising her voice.
She'd been taught like a good lady to honor her family and follow their words, but she would never accept any of that. Not in a million years.
"I told them the obvious truth. The servants weren't happy to serve us, they were scared. The peasants weren't happy we ate for them, they were miserable. If this was the world God wanted, God had created Hell on Earth and forced us to live in it."
"That was when Father started shouting over me and my brother joined in. When Mother started crying 'She's possessed!' When the servants backed away because they knew I spoke the truth."
"I realized what I always was. Something 'other'."
"They realized it, too."
They seized on her Mother's words and Mania's obvious 'ill-constitution.' Some 'thing' had stolen her daughter's body.
"It had been all since that day I sneaked off alone. I'd been beguiled by some temptation and corrupted my soul. I'd brought it into the house."
"…They had to burn me."
"My soul was corrupt, my mind gone, it would be the only way to protect their honor."
"And– I realized I needed to leave."
She ran away from them as fast as she could.
Fortunately it was still raining and the terrain wasn't suitable for horses. Nor were they so enraged to personally chase her into the dirty wilderness.
"I ran, and ran, and ran… and then collapsed again."
She'd gone right into the dense forest. She was cold, wet, her body was full of scrapes and bruises, and her aristocrat clothes were torn all over.
Fear motivated her to keep going when she woke up. Hunger would not make her go back.
"Besides, I had just gone for a month without eating. I could do it again…"
Eventually she found a river to drink at and the rain stopped. She was safe, but had no idea where she was.
"I couldn't find my way back if I wanted to."
So, that's it…
Mania wasn't just concerned for charity to the poor, but why the peasants were poor.
Your first thought is that Mania's family sounded reasonable until they relied on trying to explain Mania's concerns as witchcraft.
Going that far was despicable.
…But you can't help but feel a sense of awe.
Mania starved herself for an entire month to bring food to peasants?
If this had been in a different context, the Church may have made her a literal Saint for her action.
You're not sure you could accomplish such a feat. Not while still exerting yourself, and not while still carrying around perfectly fine food just for the sake of giving it to someone else.
The closest you may have gotten was at your coronation, where you briefly entertained the notion of feeding your meal to the lowly peasants while you yourself ate nothing, but you dismissed it as too extreme.
Mania's eyes fixate on something distant.
"I stayed there by the river, not knowing what to do. I had no servants to bring me food. No pantry to raid. No kind peasants to share their meagre meals. I wondered what would happen if I truly remained out in the woods without anyone to find me."
"That was when 'she' appeared."
Mania's voice trails off into a hard shuddering.
"It was night. It was raining. By all means, I should have at least fled from the river and found shelter under a tree. But… I didn't."
She rolls herself to her feet.
"I felt… a compulsion."
She walks a few steps, giving you a chance to take in the sight of her naked ass.
It's hardly tight. You can see ripples of fat, but what else would you expect? Besides… on a generous form like Mania's, it's part of her charm.
"There was a rock in the middle of the river. Big enough to climb on to. Flat enough to stand."
"I had never swam a day in my life until that point."
"But my instincts were telling me to strip until I was as naked as the day I was born."
She turns toward you. She has her arms spread out wide as if expecting some great hug. It puts her belly and breasts on full display.
"I swam… and I swam… and though the water was cold, I felt no pain. I reached that rock and climbed up."
She did? With what muscle? Forget swimming, how did she manage that?
"…It was then I realized I had been drawn there."
"I needn't scorn or pity my family. They had brought me to that moment."
"Everywhere I looked, the spirits' eyes were on me. They were everywhere. Absolutely everywhere. Watching me curiously like they'd never seen something like me."
"The moon cast its light down and she appeared."
"And she was pleased."
Mania lets out another shudder, trailing into an open-mouthed grin.
"Oh, how she smiled. She laughed. She turned about in the water and sky."
"She showed me the way… that the concept of God was wrong… both a lie, and a tool used to preserve a terrible society. God guides no one. God shows itself to no one."
It's your own turn to shudder as the blasphemy really washes over you. You realize you're gripping the edge of your bucket too tight. Thoughts of ogling Mania's body are shoved aside. All of your focus is on her eyes.
"…But the Goddess… she had shown herself to me…"
"…She was kind. She knew only kindness…"
"…Why was I starving, when there was a bounty all around me?…"
"…There were plants, fish, meat… nature itself grew these things…"
"…She would teach me charms and spells to help myself, and others… a reward for my devotion… Did she require houses, or speeches, or anything else? No…"
"…All I had to do was give, and receive back. The spirits would be appeased and I would find what I needed…"
"…That was the mercy of the Goddess's favor for following my destiny."
She stares right ahead, as if she can't see you. She sways slightly.
…It's then you're reminded she's a full-term pregnant woman and you're watching her struggle to hold her balance.
You immediately move toward her and help her back to her seat.
Your arm wraps around her thick waist as she comes to her senses and gently waddles around.
"Hehehe… thank you, sir."
She confesses, talk about the Goddess's revelation always moves her.
She cannot put the Goddess's beauty into words.
"…That's why I cannot teach anything I learn, nor would she want me to."
She stayed on that rock, dancing with the Goddess until she could dance no more.
She was able to get back to shore. And that's when she fully knew what she was… and always was.
"I was a witch."
>No choice yet. Further update coming soon.
She keeps talking, her story entering mundane travels, sprinkled with talk about rituals she performed. Spirits she appeased. How the Goddess smiled on her.
She met an old man who lived alone in the woods and tried to drive her away. Less from her being a witch and more because he craved isolation. She gave him fresh fish she had managed to grab, along with handfuls of berries. He sighed and taught her if she wished to barter, she'd need something better than that. That was where she started to learn woodcarving and was gifted her own axe and knife. After that, things became much easier for her.
"The spirits in the trees carefully guide this witch's hand."
You listen, but you reflect on what Mania has told you and the implications.
One, she definitely believes in her Goddess. The spirits as well. It's not an act to disguise her true origins. She considers herself much more of a hag than ever an aristocrat.
Two, her capacity for self-sacrifice is higher than you thought. Much beyond forsaking any coin.
Third is a question you keep wondering but don't know how to voice.
What happened to her family?
Were they at your gathering?
It… could be.
She hasn't given you any references for how much time has passed. Or locations.
At the very least, if her family was here, and they saw her, they likely wouldn't recognize her. No, you're sure they wouldn't unless someone told them or she reached out herself.
There's absolutely nothing about her that says nobility. Her living conditions, the state of her body, her pregnancy… it all speaks to someone used to living in filth.
"That was when I heard about the Faire. That there would be many people. Many people who needed blessings that could come from this hag's cups and milk. It was destiny… and now destiny has brought sir here."
Her face slowly turns towards yours.
"And… this hag… couldn't be happier."
She looks at you with tears in her eyes.
Your eyes mist as well after hearing about all her hardships.
You share a gentle embrace with her, the woman whose compassion drove her to… this. Her belly rubs against your torso and you sigh in pleasure.
…You're still not sure if it's positive. She seems happy, and you're sure she has helped people, but… if the circumstances had changed just a little, she'd be a noble lady known for her piety and generosity. Not a lonely woman who's had her mind rationalize her ostracism as some Goddess's… blessing.
It's too late. She's clearly invested all of her identity into being a witch. It'd be cruel to take that away from her.
At any rate, you can't see any reason to think she's related to, say, Dimitrie or the Chrisania siblings.
You mentioned Oana by name and heard no recognition from Mania. Dimitrie reported his father was long dead.
And none of the Chrisania siblings never mentioned another sister, nor did Mania mention anyone besides a brother.
… No wonder she wasn't surprised when you told her about the political backstabbing.
You don't feel like leaving. Not now.
Where should you take the conversation…?
>Gently try to coax more details about Mania's family from her.
>She's told you her story and you've barely talked about yourself. Offer to let her hear about what brought you to Ruhemania.
Communication goes both ways.
Option two. A two way street, indeed. Though we might want to share of the things we've told her with Tharja before too long.
>5 votes for option two, open up about your own history.
Talk about what brought you to Ruhemania.
Poll closed. Update soon.
You decide not to push Mania about her family and their possible role in your gathering.
You'd rather not hear they're one of the families that had to be confined to the dungeon. You don't think it'd give Mania any sense of closure, either. She's happy thinking she wasn't really 'born' an aristocrat.
It'll be a mystery unless something happens or Mania decides to tell you more.
At any rate…
You tell her you're happy too. To be with her. That you're still adjusting to being King…
You begin to tell her about Virilia. How your country is distant and isolated. Your father who was shrewd, but honest. Your brother who was… a conniver.
You were raised to be your Father's successor, but your ambitions were to be a King.
You were given that chance through marriage, which brought you to Ruhemania.
Facilitated by… your dedication to impregnating women.
She listens attentively, not stopping you or judging you. She doesn't question your story about all the women you've known.
You tell her everything, except how witches influenced your life. The magic of Tharja and Beatrice. You leave out the secrets of internal politics and policies as well. No need for her to know about that.
In the end, you weren't sure what kind of Kingdom Ruhemania would be. You judged your choice to come to Ruhemania both on your attraction to Tharja and what you heard about the country… but it's clear Ruhemania needs leadership. Leadership that cares.
You admit you've never done any sacrifice like Mania… but you hope you can help the poor in your own way.
"…Hehehe. Sir is not a witch. There is no shame or scorn."
… You thank her for understanding.
She presses a finger to her cheek in thought, leaving an indent in the flesh.
"Sir, a question."
All right. If it's not about… affairs of state.
She shakes her head.
"It's something you said when you talked about growing up."
…Hm? Is she going to ask how many women you've made pregnant?
"Sir describes his relationship with his Father as tough, but fair. That he knows he expects the best from him. Sir describes his Mother with lament for her loss."
"…Sir describes his brother with nothing but scorn and hatred."
She points out that every interaction you've talked about having with Albert is negative.
He is either slighting you, jeering you, plotting against you, or trying to show you up.
"You only talk about him with a smile when you recall 'putting him in his place'."
Showing you can best him at swordplay and he should dare not challenge you when you were children.
How he vacated the library when you showed up, without one word from you. What was his motivation? Was it deceit, consideration, or fear?
His final words to you at the dinner, saying 'the castle won't be the same without you'… he'd drawn laughs, but had he meant to?
Of course he had.
She looks at you, and you're caught at a loss for words.
"Sir… I know you carry the pain of losing your Mother with you. Is it possible–"
No, no no.
You see what's getting at. She's simply wrong.
Albert is just a conniving little snake.
After all, he's…
You can feel yourself trembling as Mania continues to listen to you. As you catch yourself near-ranting about your brother to this kind woman.
… You look away.
You can't help but see a new perspective.
Of course you could best Albert in swordplay. He was younger than you. There was no challenge.
Of course he deferred to you. You'd regarded him with scorn and suspicion when you interacted.
Did he really want Father's title and hope to usurp you? You can't recall him ever saying as much to Father.
You hang your head and hold it with your hands. Your face burns with shame.
You've… you've been the bully in Albert's life.
Oh, God. It's obvious.
Moreover, he never fought back.
You took it as a sign he was plotting and conspiring against you, waiting for his opportunity, but…
…It's much simpler to assume he wanted a relationship with you. That he hoped to win your consideration. That he knew that you were, deep down, a person who took justice and fairness seriously.
She's right, you admit.
You blamed Albert for it. Your first thoughts about him were 'If he didn't exist, Mother would still be alive.'
She reaches out and strokes your knee.
"It's all right, sir."
No. You've realized this too late. Virilia is too far from here. You likely will never see him again. You owe him an apology and more.
Still Mania comforts you, she moves to take you in her arms, and you gladly accept the gesture.
"It's good you realize. That you can recognize it, sir. That in itself is a kindness, even if he never knows."
You sigh as you feel the regret pulse through you. You've had a blind-spot this entire time.
Hopefully you won't have any more.
>No choice yet. Further update coming soon.
At some point, we should see if Beatrice or Tharja can whisk us away to Virilia for a day….. there are definitely some loose ends there, from what I can tell.
You sit and embrace Mania a little longer.
She freely moans into your touchings of her belly. The stroking of her soft skin around the tight round middle.
You wish you could do more for her, you say.
You don't want her to be lonely. Especially now that the Faire is ending and there's even less reason for the peasants to come by.
"There is something you can do."
She had to turn over her carving axe and knife to the castle guards when she entered. She'd like those back.
"That, and if I could be allowed to leave the castle and then return, I could find wood to carve."
The peasants will treat her a little kinder once she has more of a presence for bartering with them. She can't let pregnancy or childbirth slow her down.
It'll be done, you swear.
You hate to personally run errands and be 'royal messenger,' but in this case you'll make an exception and retrieve Mania's things for her.
Mania looks up at you, her lips parted in surprise.
She shudders in a soft blush.
"Aha… sir really is too kind."
… You trail and stroke her belly from the sides and underneath.
No, it's as Mania says, isn't it? Kindness brings kindness.
And Mania is perhaps the kindest person in this castle, if not the country.
Mania's blush turns even deeper, mixing in with the hormonal mask of pregnancy on her face, and you hear her start to cry.
There's nothing more to say. Not with words.
So instead you just hold her, for a few more minutes.
You walk from Mania's cart to your castle walls.
–You make a decision.
You're not going to lament that Mania could have been a fine, proper noble woman.
It's an insult to her character. To her choices. To her courage, compassion, and determination.
She's a beautiful person, exactly as she is.
On a personal level on how you'll be relying on her, the revelation is also welcome.
Mania has education. Mania has perspective.
You're more confident that you can trust her advice on helping the lives of the commoners. That it will be sound suggestions based on good reasoning and not just spiritual babble from an insane woman.
…Ah, yes. 'An insane woman'. Beatrice's immediate and honest appraisal of Mania.
Oh well, you don't need Mania and Beatrice to get along. You'll just let that thought leave your head.
You reach the guards stationed at your drawbridge and find the one in charge of the collection of weapons.
It's not hard to collect Mania's things: they're meant to be used on wood, not on people. They stand out among the few weapons left.
"There's something else I should let you know, Your Majesty."
The free folk, also known as 'Varillo's Gang,' made their exit.
As instructed, they were all returned their machetes, as labeled and kept for each individual.
"He… had a message."
The guard is hesitant to repeat Varillo's exact words, but it was something to the effect of 'We spent money, had a good time. Have another Faire so we can spend more money and have a better time. Or hire us and give us money.'
Sounds like Varillo, you suppose.
You also inform the guard, and this can be passed throughout the entire watch. Inform General Robin as well:
There is a witch living in the castle. She has your permission to enter and leave the castle as she chooses. Open and close the drawbridge as necessary.
And don't anyone dare, don't anyone, even, dare… to try to close the drawbridge behind her after she leaves and not open it when she comes back.
If that happens, you will become very cross. Angry. Furious.
…According to the new law, witches are simply superstitious women and to be treated as any other traveler. This is a traveler you're allowing to enter and exit the castle as she asks.
"A-Aye, Your Majesty."
He swears he will follow your word and make sure everyone understands. You describe Mania… well, just as a dirty looking woman with long hair, grown wild. She'll gladly respond to 'hag'.
You also mention she's somewhere shy of 40 weeks pregnant, so he may see her with a newborn being carried with her.
You return to Mania with her tools.
She's sitting on her bucket, rolling back and forth on the edges, bouncing herself in the dirt a bit. You think she's trying to relieve some pressure on her back.
"Thank you, sir."
You put them aside. They're hers, she can decide what to do with them.
… It's getting to be midday.
You're not hungry, not after Mania's milk fed you.
Neither are you that eager to leave.
You tell Mania you've given instructions to the guards. They'll lower the drawbridge by your request, both to go out, and to come in.
And if you visit her cart and discover they've shut her out of the castle, you'll skin them alive.
You say it jokingly at least.
"…Hehehe. Sir will have to… visit often."
It's been worth it, you tell her.
–And not just to indulge your own tastes.
She raises her hands to you.
"Will you take the last cup? I hoped sir would finally take it."
In her hands she holds out the last cup with her milk from the counter.
>Take it, then pay her, as first agreed.
>Take it, and thank her.
>Take it, and drink from it.
>Refuse… not because you don't want it, but as an indirect promise that you'll come back.
Write in a combination of options 3 and 1: Drink her milk and provide payment. Just in case it helps her barter for something within the castle.
Option 4, Edward isn’t that hungry to take anymore as that’d be gluttony on his part and just taking it without consuming it in front of her means her gift isn’t that important to him(Edward always consumed Mania’s milk immediately)
Rather, considering how romantically attached they are right now, I think the concept of using the gift as an indirect promise to return matches the atmosphere of the situation quite nicely.
Also, didn't Mania say she was 8 months pregnant, not 40 weeks?
I think Edward's developing a "type," beyond just the pregnancy fetish. Slightly crazy and supernaturally-inclined?
Mania didn't say anything regarding how far along she was, but the narrative did say Edward's first meeting with her made him think "8-9 months, but hasn't dropped." He could have his own motivations for telling the guard "40 weeks."
Please continue to vote.
Option 4. We've indulged a bit too much already, no need to make ourselves sick doing so. :P And we'll be back anyway, because I know people are going to keep voting to see her until she's had her baby and is pregnant by us again.
>1 vote for option one, take it, then pay her, as originally agree.
>4 votes for option four, decline the cup as an indirect promise to come back.
>1 vote for write in, take the cup, pay her, and drink from it.
Refuse the cup.
Poll closed, update soon.
…Not just yet.
You can't take the cup, yet.
Because You have no place worthy of holding such a splendid cup.
Mania blinks up at you.
You tell Mania you've seen it.
The cup shines brighter each time you visit.
That's why… you need to come back.
And you'll keep coming back.
You're sure the cup will shine brighter each time… as well as her.
One of her hands goes to rub her face as emotions pass through her. You see her blushing, tears at the corners of her eyes, and eventually a smile.
"Aha… this hag will have to fill it with many more blessings for sir, until then."
You move closer and kiss her one last time. Sweet, to her lips. You remind her not to be alarmed if the medicus comes by, too. If he does something wrong, she can rely on you to fix it.
She gives a little nod.
"Then… until sir comes back…"
You return to the castle and eventually call on Beatrice to your tower. You have something you want to discuss.
Something you want.
Beatrice sits opposite you. Alone in your room. Her pipe between her fingers and her legs playfully crossed. A wicked grin on her face.
"Name it, King."
You want Beatrice to come with you.
Not now, but eventually.
You want to go around Ruhemania and actually see it. Not just burgs, but lowly peasant settlements.
You want to see their conditions and help them.
–Obviously dumping a pile of gold at their feet isn't going to help.
But Beatrice's magic…
You know she can create things. You've watched her produce delicious food and apples in her hand from nothing.
For those areas that need it, could she improve the peasants' land, even just a little bit?
Not something to make it otherworldly, but something to make the yield a little better. To ensure they have enough to eat after their Lord takes his fair share.
Improve the soil. Ensure enough seeds grow. That sort of thing.
You don't think you're asking for a lot. But, will she?
Beatrice looks at you with outright disgust.
… You wish she'd reconsider.
You hear her give a very tense exhale of breath, you see her face tight.
"I will never reconsider my refusal."
… Can you ask why?
You know she has the power for that.
Beatrice twists her face in a darkly grim expression. Baring teeth in her stretched grin.
"Whyyyyyy~? Because I am an evil, heartless, vicious witch, of course! I care nothing for the peasants! Less so on making their lives 'easier'! Weren't you paying attentiooo~on? Didn't Daniella say something like 'oh, the commoners suffered because of those evil, evil witches'?"
Her chest rises and falls with a sharp intake of breath.
"As a matter of fact, I'd like to remind you of your obligation to me, King! Eventually, I will have that tower. Eventually, I will pursue my magical experiments. And I will absolutely need bodies to work with. These are things you've allowed me to have, King. I never said I was willing to wait forever for people to die."
Beatrice is showing you a very stark side of herself, you say.
You thought your relationship was better than this. Better than that she has to frighten you with promises of bringing death to your peasants, who you, as King, must protect.
Her face softens.
"It is. And we are. But you're making it very difficult for me, King. It's already too much to ask me to limit my magical experiments. …I simply won't travel the countryside, resting my head on some gross rock as a pillow, all for the sake of trying to work such lowly magic. What you ask is the equivalent of asking the finest warrior to chop wood with his sword."
She takes a puff of smoke and exhales, casting a side glance at you, face considering something.
"I see… that woman in the cart is capable of some witchcraft, isn't she?"
Mania is making you hyper-aware of the needs of the peasants.
Beatrice makes a little sigh.
"King, rule your country as you like. But taking it upon yourself to visit and bestow a magical boon on every last peasant… even if I were willing to go along with this, don't you think it's a little foolhardy? Responsibility for every individual peasant truly is hubris. An impossible fool's errand to attempt. What will happen to the rest of the country, King?"
Now it's your turn to sigh. Beatrice is right.
And as King, you recognize she's right. The only way you could do anything else would be to start living like Mania. And that's not what a King needs to do to be King. But after all the talk with Mania… your heart weeps.
"King, my suggestion is to concentrate on what you can actually do within your own context of powers. You once asked me what I was capable of, and I told you I wouldn't tell you. What about you?"
… She has a point. It's not like you aren't King around here.
You could talk to Ricardo about taxation or some other thing, perhaps.
Another project after the tower is built…
Yes, you understand.
All right. It was a rather brutal way to make her point, but you thank Beatrice for the insight.
She gives you a healthy cackle, at that.
"Ahahaha~! –Boasts and bluster aside, King, I will eventually need material. When my tower is complete."
–Yes, yes, you understand, already.
It's a shame the dungeon needed to be cleared out, you suppose.
Though at this rate, there will likely be more rebellious subjects in them before too long.
You wonder if the priest is still here.
You could make one last visit and see.
Not that you're feeling pious, but…
If you were to send a message to Virilia, to your brother Albert, through the Church would be a worthy way of sending it.
Though you're not sure how Albert would take it after all this time. Should you save the apology? Maybe for some sort of visit, or for when Father died and you'd need to discuss the state of your new titles in Virilia…
At any rate, you make your decision as you decline the stairs with Beatrice.
>Visit the priest. Ask him if he'll pass on a message to Virilia addressed to your brother, Albert.
>The circumstances aren't right. He'll be suspicious of the sudden reversal, and you just got done coming back from the nomads again. Let it go, for now.
Option two, too early to be doing this now.
Option one. Though I don't think the priest is inclined on doing us any favors, I would hope he would help reconcile a pair of brothers. And we need to take opportunities when they present themselves.
Option 1. Mea culpa!
The add. text of the choice basically and flatly lays out why this very well could be a bad choice at the present moment.
Option 1. Presumably the message would be private, so why would the priest think anything of it? You're King, you've decided to contact home. I don't really see a lot of incinerated political points with the Church here.
>4 votes for option one, visit the priest, write the note apologizing to your brother.
>3 votes for option two, delay the letter for another time.
Write to Albert.
Poll closed. Update soon.
No, it's better to do it now.
While it's still fresh in your mind and you can still sympathize properly.
You depart from Beatrice, from the guard standing watch, and go to where the priest is staying.
You greet the Father and tell him you're sorry for the suddenness, but you have a request for him that the Church could perhaps fulfill.
You want a message passed on to your brother, in Virilia.
"Well, that's within our power, of course. Is it about the affairs of God?"
…In a way. It involves your soul, at least.
At that, the priest raises his eyebrows, surely piqued by your assertion. He arranges one of his attendants to fetch a parchment and quill to write with.
He asks if you mind dictating and the attendant will record it.
You tell him you don't mind. Any message sent through the Church would never be private.
Dearest Albert, my only brother on this Earth.
Please forgive the suddenness of this message.
I write to apologize.
Not for one specific action, but my entire relationship with you.
I've held you accountable for things that are not your fault. I've looked at you with scorn when you deserved kindness and the sort of encouragement a younger brother deserves of the elder.
I'll say it plainly: I held you guilty for the death of Mother. The grief of her loss tore at my heart and rather than find a way to cope with it, I inflicted that misery on you.
The priest and the attendants perk up, but what you're saying doesn't involve them. You continue:
I regret only in a state that untold miles separate us both that I've been led to an epiphany of how twisted and monstrous I've treated you. That I've been unjust. Unfair. Unkind.
I've been the bully, and you have every right to hate me.
I only hope you can find it in your heart to forgive me. I offer you my remorse for every single wrong I've committed. The beating I gave you when we both practiced swordplay. The dismissal I offered you when you merely wanted to show interest in what I was interested in. The humiliation I inflicted on you when you attempted to join my circle of friends.
That I squandered and spurned the opportunity to have a genuine relationship with you in our youth will fill me with sorrow for the rest of my days.
There's nothing I can do but regret and repent those sins.
God may forgive me, but I understand if you cannot.
You have all my best wishes and my hopes that the days without me present have been easier for you. I hope Father is treating you kindly. Please give him my regards as King Edward of Ruhemania.
Your brother, Edward.
There's a long silence before the attendant meekly tells you that he's recorded every word, as you've spoken. You give it a glance to confirm and nod.
The priest for his part looks at you perhaps with the most sympathy he's ever shown you.
"That was… a great display of humility, Your Majesty. I will pass this through the Church's network and do my best to ensure it reaches your dear brother in Virilia."
You're feeling more than a little emotional. Part of which is left over from the meeting with Mania and the confrontation with Beatrice.
… This was the right thing to do.
Hopefully Albert will do more than throw it in the fire.
The priest smacks his lips.
"If appropriate, I may also offer you some penance… in the name of God."
… You would appreciate it, you tell the priest.
You actually do feel some catharsis after saying the penance, but it's more from writing the letter and getting it off your chest than the actual motions and the thought that God has forgiven you for those sins.
Ah, it's sunset.
Perhaps the embrace of your wife will also help.
>No choice yet. Further update coming soon.
Tharja is in a mood to be sexy, but unfortunately you're still recovering emotionally.
You instead spend the time sharing your experiences with her.
She listens with a sympathetic ear, and a warm embrace to comfort you.
"I'm so sorry, Edward. About your mother… your brother. I never knew."
It's all right. You suppose you never really talked to Tharja about your family. You had to share and come to terms with your reputation. Then you became focused on learning the ins and outs of the castle and day-to-day living.
Then the revelation about magic overshadowed everything else. As well as you becoming King.
She kisses you, and you kiss back.
You urge her. Does she have any of her own regrets?
The last time she really spoke to King Vlad was to request your wedding ring. He listened, but he was most interested in hearing if you had both had already had sex, and it made the talk very awkward.
You nod. You remember that.
It's likely why he agreed, looking back. Especially when he gave you your own reward later. The promise of a horse that became the arrival of Eclipse and Malon.
She was never really taught to know anything about politics. She was encouraged to pursue silent little hobbies, which became reading.
Unfortunately, it brought her into conflict with Lorenzo, who similarly had his stake in the library.
"I suppose we were alike in a lot of ways, except…"
Lorenzo wanted more freedom. But Tharja was more content to do what King Vlad wanted.
So, he gave her a little more privilege. Like her room close to the library, which made it much easier to take advantage of it.
"And that passage inside it."
Right. The one behind her bed.
…Did she use it often?
Tharja… sort of twirls her hair.
"Well, no… not until I became a witch."
It was hard to light the way. And it smelled terrible. Becoming a witch solved those problems, and she was able to practice with the skeletons.
You suppose you owe him a debt of gratitude.
On the one hand, he was dastardly and an attempted murderer. On the other hand, if he hadn't died, Tharja wouldn't have become a witch. You never would have had her as an option for a bride. And you never would have had your curse lifted.
Tharja goes on to admit it's hard to reconcile the father she remembers with the King Vlad who killed so many witches.
"I can see him doing it, but at the same time… I want to blame people like Daniella. For serving him. Enabling him."
You hold her a little tighter. It seems there is a part of her that laments her relationship with King Vlad.
"…I know it's silly. But I want to think I could have talked him into reason. That if his daughter was a witch… maybe he could see they weren't all bad?"
That's a dangerous idea.
She nods and tells you she knows.
Daniella never would've agreed, or likely listened to King Vlad even if it had happened and he had been persuaded. And Beatrice's pain couldn't be ignored.
"It'll always be a 'what if'."
You really don't know what to say. It sounds like pure folly.
But if you remember Daniella's words: King Vlad refused to even consider the possibility that Tharja had become a witch. To the point he ordered her never to investigate.
–Though if he'd known how women become witches and remembered Lorenzo's death, he may have had less reservations.
Well, there's nothing you can say.
You don't want to betray Ricardo's confidence and tell her about how he was taken for granted. It's not your story to tell, and the circumstances are different, besides.
…The mood is much too sour.
You tell Tharja you don't want to end their time together with sorrow. Your time with Tharja is so precious it's a waste to fill it with maudlin thoughts.
So… tenderness instead.
You kiss, and more. A lot more. Until you're both satisfied.
Robin begs for your judgment next morning.
"This'll be the last time I bother you about prisoners, Your Majesty. God willing."
The very small number of nobles who outright told you to your face that you have no right to be King have cracked. They wish to swear fealty and beg forgiveness.
"This does not include Oana, of course."
What is the situation with Oana, you ask?
She's being held in chains and gagged, only for it to be taken off so she can eat and drink. She shows no signs of remorse, but she's not aggressively antagonizing the guards, saying, or doing much of anything.
"She seems resigned to her fate in the dungeon. My suggestion is to keep her there unless something calls for an execution."
Hm… Oana does, through Ricardo, know a bit about your finances, but she never wielded a literal weapon against you. You also feel a bit of distaste at executing an aging woman, even if she is treacherous and without remorse.
The Old Guard meanwhile was guilty of much greater crimes. They violated their oath to serve you and Ruhemania. They may well have taken up literal arms if it weren't for the quick thinking of Robin. Furthermore, releasing them would have created a potential threat to your security.
You can't think Oana is such a significant threat that she would warrant execution, at the moment. Her greatest threat would be indirectly on Dimitrie, and they will never again meet.
Oana can be left alone. Keeping her alive down in the dungeon is likely more of a punishment, as Robin has said before.
"But what about the other nobles, Your Majesty?"
Robin's suggestion there?
She gives a shrug.
"They're recanting because of the terrible conditions. You've confiscated their property they're holding. You could banish them. Their estate will go to their next of kin."
She does say holding them is an option, if you would rather just not hear about them again. With the Old Guard gone, there are more free cells.
You don't need to ask about pardoning them or executing them.
For those nobles who told you to your face that they opposed you because you're a foreigner…
>Execute them. They could continue to spread disgusting prejudice against you if they live.
>Banish them. They don't need to die, but they do need to leave.
>Pardon them, with an oath of fealty and loyalty and recognizing you are the one legitimate Monarch.
>Leave them in the dungeon. They insulted you personally. There's no need to do anything until you need room.
Write-in: "Banish" them and tell Beatrice that she can have them for research material. Maybe ask Beatrice how many bodies she needs.
This time, I don't think mercy is the way to go. They've had ample opportunity. They're only asking for it, because they can no longer take being imprisoned. Once we set them free in any shape or form, they will betray us again.
Their ultimate judgement is not hastened as we have not yet reached the point of having a full dungeon to warrant such an order if we're rolling for option 1. Options 2-3 might seem logical but we've already established banishing them is quite risky and giving them early pardons would damage our image of being firm. There will be plenty of time to tackle this again, but this is not the day.
If the objective is to make them research material for Beatrice, it should be option 4 to keep them in the dungeon until she's ready. She won't start experimenting with bodies until she has her private space in the tower.
Please continue to vote.
I also agree with either 'executing' or 'banishing' them if they are to be given to Beatrice. But if that is unfeasible, then just execution is my vote.
In that light, Option 4
In that case, I change my vote to option four.
They had their chance, they used it to spit in our faces. Let 'em rot.
Hmm… Option 4. 2 and 3 aren't effective, and Beatrice did remind us that she'll want subjects, so there we go.
>1 votes for option one, execute them.
>7 votes for option four, let them remain in the dungeon.
Let them rot in the dungeon. Perhaps Beatrice can use them some day.
Poll closed. Update soon.
[Last 50 Posts]
Their rebellion was egregious. You won't pardon or otherwise give freedom to nobles who personally disrespect you and the crown. That admitted to openly taking part in conspiracy because they honestly believed they were in the right.
They may stay in the dungeon. You'll only reconsider their fate if the dungeon becomes full and needs space. And even then… execution may await them. Or Beatrice.
"The dungeons aren't nearly as crowded as they were before the execution of the Old Guard. You're at less than even half capacity."
Still, you may want to consider remodeling.
"Not that I want to argue the dungeons aren't comfortable enough, but they do make passing in food complicated."
It's a small issue. One that will have to wait until after the tower is built. Not before.
Besides that, Robin reports that after some campaigning, a number of new recruits have come to swear to serve you. Including women.
You'll gladly hear their oaths, you tell her.
You come back to the armory with a bit of mixed feelings.
Some of the women were so slight they truly weren't in any shape to contribute to your army. Training would have ruined them.
After some gentle coaxing, they were dissuaded.
It was the compassionate thing to do. You don't want to have to deal with any woman having trouble because they can't handle the training. Even if it'd mean you'd be close to them.
Still, there are a few women who actually do look strong enough to train.
You have them say their oaths, and a few more men are added to your army.
Aside in the armory, Robin tells you that it will still take more recruiting to replenish the Old Guard's ranks, but for now there is a good base, and the newbies won't outnumber the 'veterans' as it is.
"I'm going to create a chain of command built on merit so that a situation akin to the Old Guard never happens again."
It sounds like Robin knows what she's doing.
…How is Robin getting along?
What does her day look like, you ask?
She sleeps in the room given to her as an aristocrat. It's simply too much to sleep in the actual barracks.
"That said, I make a point of going to the barracks to eat."
She waits in line and makes sure everyone gets a fair portion. –Noi's portion is much bigger than anyone else's.
You nod. It's good Robin recognizes the necessity of comradery.
Robin sort of looks guilty.
"I do, but it's also an easy way to avoid being poisoned."
After that, she's hearing reports. Assigning guard schedules. Inspecting the troops. Etc.
"I'm anxious to start examining the old battle plans that are mothballed and analyze the layout of the castle, but I haven't had time, yet."
She tells you she'll create multiple strategies to fit every situation so you, and Ruhemania, can be prepared.
"I'd like permission to create a survey of how many peasants of fighting age can be pressed into service if necessary from the surrounding territories, but that will have to wait."
You nod. You can't accuse Robin of being lazy.
You thank her for the update. Speaking of food, you have yet to eat yours, so you excuse yourself.
You meet with Ricardo, or really, Ricardo and Camilla.
Camilla is giving you an update on the treasury situation herself Ricardo simply sits by and lets her talk. You do your best to concentrate on her words and not her figure.
"The Faire has been a resounding success. At least, economically speaking. Commissions and fees from the merchants have helped us recover some of what was spent in holding it."
"Unfortunately we weren't able to recover all coin used in the sabotage of Oana's scheme. We'll have to be satisfied with a few more useless luxury items being placed in the backroom, which you're free to inspect at any time."
"The work on the tower is going to continue. The architect has reported there's been no problems other than the slight delay of schedule. Some of the workers abandoned the job and did not return. Since the decision was made to import labor, that was always a risk. Fortunately, it's not been enough to delay the project. He expects it to be completed before the start of winter. And 'completed' means that it's ready to be furnished and moved into."
The treasury is two-tenths full.
"At current taxation, and accounting for the contribution of Kervuva's burgmeister, it will be half-full by the time the year ends."
"That would be enough to sustain Castle Valachia until summer of next year if it was entirely run at a deficit without any further taxes."
"All in all, the policies of the Faire of strict regulation of the affairs of the merchants was a success. We regulated where they could set their stands, when they could sell, how much they could sell, and how much we would take as a form of commission. Though there were some merchants disappointed with the policy, it worked very well for us."
"The spending of the free folk also helped spur trade."
"We maximized profits by providing small amounts of money to those most likely to spend, and taxing those that weren't."
"However, this was the first Faire ever held."
"If you intend to hold these annually, it might be worthwhile to revisit this policy."
"Now that merchants know what to expect, they will likely take measures to circumvent the regulation."
You nod… you think you understand, but at the very least you'll act like you do.
What sort of measures, you ask?
"Bribery. Creating a black market. Deliberately creating a lack of supply to raise prices."
–Well, you'll keep that in mind.
What about the nomads, didn't they help spending too?
Camilla and Ricardo exchange glances.
"Actually, the opposite. They operated as performers, who were not charged commissions or taxed. Furthermore, reports are that they kept that coin to themselves. The net result is they took money from others that otherwise would've been spent in the Faire, negatively affecting spending and the resulting profit."
Well, you appreciated having them there. You're sure whoever spared coin for Mara and Nara enjoyed it as well. –Mara especially.
Overall, a success, and the treasury is in healthy shape.
Excellent. You thank them for the report.
It seems Camilla is getting used to her role quickly. The sooner the better. You don't know how long Ricardo will stick around.
He may have inherited King Vlad's longevity, but who knows for certain, you muse?
You go back to meet Mania.
You can tell from how she looks and how her belly hangs.
You ask her if the medicus treated her kindly.
"…Hehehe. As well as this hag can be treated."
He took one look at her, asked if she was in labor, and she told him no. He left and said he'd be by again.
…You were hoping for something more than that.
Mania only shrugs.
Her delivery date is ticking down.
You wonder if you should really attempt to see it.
You decide to spend more time with her. You gently stroke her belly as she holds your hand over it.
You realize the messages you both wrote in the dirt are still there, and you can't help but feel your cheeks burn a little red.
…Her babe truly knows how to kick, you muse.
"Mm… sometimes it's hard to sleep."
You'd think lying on the dirt, with a bag or not would be harder than anything else.
…You ask her the meaning of the sigils she's drawn around the inside of her cart.
At your question she perks up, showing enthusiasm.
"Ah, sir has grown interested in my wards… hehehe."
>No choice yet. Further update coming soon.