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The King and the Tsar

This is where all of the medieval Gawain role-plays are archived.
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JamesG
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The King and the Tsar

Post by JamesG » Tue Feb 09, 2010 1:30 am

The ships had come in the early morning, before most citizens were awake. There were five Arktik Galleons, distinguishable by their odd hull shapes and stunted looking masts, escorted by twenty Arktik Frigates. They were all bedecked with Imperial flags, banners and streamers of the Purple, Black and White, the Imperial Colours of the Arctic Islands. They had pulled into the most important looking port near Bayreuth, a commercial port called Draten, which was not totally unprepared for this apparent invasion of the town. The Guards, having been notified of the arrival of an important foreign dignitary, had cleared the main street up which the procession from the ships would be travelling. From Draten, they would head into the Gawainian countryside till they reached the country's great capital city. The guards themselves had not been told it was the Tsar himself, but it would become readily apparent to every witness of the scene who these furs represented. The ships had taken up a huge amount of berthing space, much to the unhappiness of local fishermen and merchants, whom were forced to less convenient berths, or forced to row to shore instead. Still, nobody wanted to argue with the forces that disembarked the ships. It appeared the foreign dignitary had taken his best warriors for display.

The advance guard was a division of the Imperial Infantry. Halberds in hand, they formed into a thick column, followed by the Imperial Crossbowmen. These furs were all in plate armour, with their white cloaks, each with a black two-headed stoat rampant emblazoned on the back. Following these two columns, were a group of furs that held a less regimented formation. They were trying to march smartly, but it was clear that these furs were no soldiers. They were Warriors. They were all dressed in black, with prominent religious symbols on their necklaces, wearing high fur hats with ear flaps, and short curved swords on their belts. These were Narvikish Warriors, fervently loyal only to the Tsar, regarding no rules of combat or conduct. They were the Tsar's elite, and he kept them close when travelling. However, even they were not enough protection. Surrounding the ornate golden carriage, a huge construction pulled by a team of six black horses that the Tsar had captured in Yamaha, each with a purple plume, was the Imperial Life Guard. These were huge, 6 footer or taller polar bears, in highly decorated armour, the Purple, Black and White colours featuring prominently on the plates, and their cloaks. Each was armed with a wicked looking short pike, imbued with magical energies, and large greatswords by their belts. These bears were assigned only one task in their lives; Protect the Tsar.

Behind this grand carriage, the columns were almost mirrored, with the Narvikish Warriors tailing the carriage close behind, followed by a detachment of Shamans, who seemed keen to make obscure signs with their religiously decorated necklaces at every turn, followed by more Crossbowmen, with the halberd Infantry holding the rear. As if this was not enough, the Imperial Cavalry took care of the flanks of these divisions, riding on both sides of the procession, conspicuous with their lighter chain mail, covered with purely white uniforms, and their prominent helmets, which each had a silver eagle head and wings sculpted from steel on top, as a kind of decorative spike. Of course, the very grandest in this procession of splendour was not even in public view. That was, of course, the Tsar himself. His Most Serene Imperial Majesty, the Tsar Aleksander I, Grand Duke of Slimtla, Emperor and Autocrat. The stoat was sat in his cabin, idly watching the peasants on the street watching from the sides, some of them waving happily, some of them completely clueless as to what was going on.

The Tsar smiled to himself, and gave a lazy wave. He was wearing his usual rich red robe, purple gloves and white breeches, and his best black-and gold decorated boots. Needless to say, he was looking his finest in gold lining, with a highly decorative sash holding his sword, and a fine gold pelisse over his left shoulder, held on by gold braid. The Crystals of the Arctic were prominent in his jewelry, none more obvious than the huge stone set into his crown, which rested in its safe box. It was a heavy piece of headwear, so the Tsar did not feel like wearing it. His Chief Advisor, sitting opposite him, looked less relaxed, in his darker coloured tunic and cloak. He was more concerned with the diplomatic talks that were to occur in the days ahead. They were here on a mission to establish a good trade agreement with Gawain, and the Arctic had its valuable crystals on offer. Of course, that was only one of Aleksander's objectives. He also hoped to leave a few furs behind once the agreement, or not, was reached. He hoped to leave an official ambassador to liase with the Gawainian court, an NKO member of course. He also hoped to leave a few 'unofficial' ambassadors of the Arctic, that is, more NKO agents to send regular information about Gawain back to the Tsar. He had already selected a few NKO agents to quietly slip into Gawainian life, all he really needed was to secure an official embassy for his ambassador. It was nothing particularly malicious meant against the King of Gawain, the Tsar just liked to spy on everybody. Yamaha particularly so, he had nearly a quarter of the NKO working in that Kingdom, all of whom so far had provided very useful.

"Sire?" The Advisor asked gently, wondering if His Imperial Majesty's mind was receptive to talks of politics that morning. Sometimes Aleksander was in a good mood, other times he commanded people to have themselves executed if they would not leave him alone. The Advisor definitely did not want to be ordered to throw himself out of the carriage to save the Tsar the bother of signing a death warrant, so he had to be very gentle. The unusually tall stoat looked at him, and slightly inclined his head, indicating the arctic fox could speak. Aleksander tried to do and say very little when it did not matter, to preserve a regal and dignified air. Of course, when it really mattered, he could be a real speech maker. The fox, relieved at permission to speak, continued, "Sire, might I ask what Your Imperial Majesty's commands are regarding schedule? The sooner we can organise events, the sooner the King of Gawain can accomodate them." The Advisor was very careful in his wording here. At no point should he indicate to the Tsar that the King of Gawain might have other plans regarding how the talks would be run. The Tsar thought, and the replied. "No serious discussion of the matter until I am settled. Once we are comfortable in his best guest room, and I do expect the best, Starkov, I must stretch my legs, after being on that damned cramped ship. Of course, there must be a meal also, and I despise talking matters over in between helpings of food. Perhaps after dinner, if I am not too tired. If I am, we shall speak tomorrow." With that final, imperious tone, Aleksander resumed looking out of the window. They were just leaving Draten, and with any luck, they would be in Bayreuth by the evening.
"You can't just remain a root forever. Eventually you grow and change into other things, like stems and leaves and such. Are a tree's leaves an insult to its roots?" - Sade

"It is easy for a statesman, whether he be in the Cabinet or the Chamber, to blow a blast with the wind of popularity on the trumpet of war, warming himself the while at his own fireside; or to thunder orations from this tribune and then to leave it to the musketeer who is bleeding to death in the snow whether his system win fame and victory or no. There is nothing easier than that; but woe to the statesman who in these days does not look around him for a reason for war which will hold water when the war is over." - Otto von Bismarck

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Post by Rackenhammer » Tue Feb 09, 2010 5:34 pm

King Gregor I of Gawain anticipated the Tsar's arrival with mixed feelings. On the one hand, he was glad to re-establish trade and diplomacy with the Arctic Islands after the... royal mess that the country had been thrown into under its previous ruler. Also, the reason the Tsar had come, to negotiate trade agreements for the shipping of the Arctic's Crystal, was one which Gregor had himself been anxious to expedite. On the other hand, the officious letter that Aleksander had sent ahead of him, simply to inform of his arrival, without bothering to ask for anything regarding permission, was impolite, and Gregor, mildly insulting. The black-footed ferret did not like uninvited guests.
So, the first preparation he made for his royal guest was to bring the bandit-hunters from search duty to patrol duty, simultaneously spreading word of the 'fantastically rich Tsar' that was coming. This had a twofold effect: one, bandit attacks went down, thus cementing the new king's popularity; two, the bandits would hang back and wait for the Tsar. Gregor had no doubt that the well-trained Arctic troops would take care of the bandits easily, thus ridding Gawain of a problem. And if his guest complained, Gregor could always say that strong measures had been taken to curb bandit activity before the Tsar's arrival, and that attacks had in fact gone down. And, if the bandits were scared off, no harm, no foul.
The dinner menu had also been set with traditional Gawainian dishes, improved by their treatment by the royal kitchens of course, but acquired tastes, all of them. Especially saurbraten*, a particular favorite of the King. If Aleksander did not like it, let that be a lesson to wait for an invitation. If he did, well, no problem, that would only make things go more smoothly.

These two plans had been worked out between Gregor and his Chancellor, who were quite fond of gambits like these. The King himself was currently dressed in the kind of austere garments that only a lot of money can buy, a shirt with a shade of brown as rich as chocolate (a delicacy he had saved for dessert that evening), a green tunic of silk, cool and smooth as a fresh maple leaf, and robes of a bluish-purple and a bit of ermine trim, a simple cut of the best material. The stoat chancellor's robes of office were in brown and grey, of lesser impressiveness but of good quality, nonetheless.
Much of the castle was decorated as such; Bayreuth city and Castle had been originally designed with defense in mind, and Gregor thought that draping it with the trapping of ostentatious luxury was... tacky. His predecessor had thought otherwise, leading to a thorough redecorating. There was much in the castle that aided comfort in every way, but almost none of it was gilt or golden. The occasional gem was used to good effect, though. All in all, Gregor preferred substance to appearances.
The King and Chancellor were currently going over a list of what they wanted to discuss. "I don't think a rigid plan is going to help us; our best bet is going to be to anticipate his transitions, and then introduce our topics."
"Sire, that may mean we will have to let him make the first move."
"Red wins just as often as white on the chessboard. I don't think we should have too much trouble, we do want pretty much the same things."
"And the inevitable spies?"
"If he lets ours, we'll let in his. After all, is not friendship improved by greater familiarity?"
Gregor did not rule by fear and force; he considered it the refuge of inferior monarchs. It meant more effort on his part, but then, it also encourage more effort from his subordinates.

Preparation for the arrival of the foreign dignitaries to Bayreuth were going as smoothly as one could expect. All the regiments were getting in dress uniform, streets being marked off for the parade of arrivals, flowers being sold to throw at the new arrivals, and merchants preparing to sell things to them. Especially the innkeepers for this last; Gawain made the best beer in Feila, much like Domus made the best wine, though it was harder to ship well.
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Post by JamesG » Wed Feb 10, 2010 4:40 am

The Tsar and the Chief Advisor were not the only dignitaries to visit Gawain. Similar processions off the ships were following in the wake of the Imperial grandeur, each heavily protected by troops, but not nearly as glamorously. This was the Imperial Household. A veritable battalion of servants, cooks, footmen, maids, and so forth tagged along behind the Tsar in carriages of their own, though these were black affairs, marked only with golden crests indicating they were Royal transports. Whilst Aleksander expected his host to have an enormous host of servants himself, there was something relaxing about bringing along the Household he was familiar with. At least he would know the faces of his own countrymen, rather than be waited upon by strangers, however well mannered the King's servants might be. Along with the Household were other advisors, most of them the Tsar's own extended family, such as the Grand Duke Feodor, whom was the Tsar's cousin. Whilst Aleksander was undoubtably the decision maker of the court, he liked to hear what furs like Feodor had to say. He considered furs such as him wise, and the court members often referred to the two cousins affectionately as 'Sandy and Feo".

The long convoy of carriages, soldiers and horsemen wound its way through the Gawainian country. There were less peasants passing by now, the odd traveller or two having to move to the side of the road to avoid the oncoming phalanx of armed men. Aleksander knew nothing of King Gregor's spreading of the word that a rich monarch was passing this way, but it is possible he would have been flattered if he had. Aleksander did not believe in being dull, and the gold of his carriage seemed to symbolise this belief. At any rate, it was plainly obvious to one bandit group which carriage held the best loot. The thieves hid amongst the trees, debating how to strike. The procession was more heavily armed than the usual pathetic traveller or merchant, and all the bandits were acutely aware of how popular they were as cannon fodder for various furs playing at being heroes or villains. It appeared that a magical attack was the best option. Hopefully, these rustic, religiously obsessed Arctic types would be frightened away by a decent display of supernatural power.

The procession was halted when the road ahead was ruptured by a blue glow, and fireball. All the men stopped, and the cavalrymen had to control their horses, whom had started at the sound. All around the procession, howls were heard, psychological warfare in order to make the soldiers lose their nerve. The Tsar opened his window, listened carefully, then waved his right paw lazily at the sorcerers behind him. With a prayer to the immortal souls that they were about to deprive of life, the magical furs began to make their incantations, and on either side of the procession, the trees burst into dark purple flames, white at their centres. The howling quickly ceased. "Drive on." the Tsar commanded, and the procession advanced. There was no other major incident on the road to Bayreuth, apart from Aleksander getting bored, and making the Chief Advisor play endless card games which the Tsar somehow kept winning. Of course, poor Starkov could not cheat as well as Aleksander, and even if he had known of the monarch's sleight of hand, accusing him of it would not have been a clever idea.

By evening, Aleksander had tired of tormenting Starkov, and was now wishing he had thought to bring some sort of portable heated swimming pool, though the physical possibility of this kept His Imperial Majesty's mind distracted for quite some time. When he concluded that making slaves carry along a pewter bathtub with some kind of portable fireplace was too impractical for travel, he noticed that they were coming into view of the city. The scene was much the same as in Draten, the peasants waving, the bandits looking at the carriage sullenly, and the guards blocking off the main street. Ahead, the Tsar could see what to him looked like a dingy, Gothic looking castle. "Kukik Above, he lives in there?" Aleksander asked, disgusted. "It looks so... squalid. Please tell me we brought our own bedding." Starkov nodded nervously. "Yes, Sire. We brought the whole bed, as you ordered. The Tsaritsa agreed to sleep in another apartment of the Palace." Aleksander nodded, still looking out the window at the castle. He would have thought there would be a little more decoration, but so long as the insides were nicer than the exterior, the Tsar did not intend to give Gregor his full opinion of the place. The carriage drew up at the entrance to the keep, and the stoat drew a deep breath. "Here it is, Starkov." The door was opened by a footman in livery, and the stairs were extended. The Tsar stepped out.
"You can't just remain a root forever. Eventually you grow and change into other things, like stems and leaves and such. Are a tree's leaves an insult to its roots?" - Sade

"It is easy for a statesman, whether he be in the Cabinet or the Chamber, to blow a blast with the wind of popularity on the trumpet of war, warming himself the while at his own fireside; or to thunder orations from this tribune and then to leave it to the musketeer who is bleeding to death in the snow whether his system win fame and victory or no. There is nothing easier than that; but woe to the statesman who in these days does not look around him for a reason for war which will hold water when the war is over." - Otto von Bismarck

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Post by Rackenhammer » Wed Feb 10, 2010 3:45 pm

On a clear day, it was possible to see for the length of a day's journey from Bayreuth, if you stood on the highest tower of the Castle. The guard there was watching the procession from the port to the Capital with interest. There was really not much else to do, all the interesting jobs were down in the city, where the preparations were being made. The upshot of this was that he saw the bandit attack, and the response. *Damn, a magical counterattack. I lose a thaler.* Betting was a fairly popular pastime among the guard, and quite a few books were being kept on the Tsar's visit.

Bayreuth was, before anything else, a defensive town. On more than one occasion, the wars between Gawain and Edwin had had a battle here. The Castle had been designed with this in mind. Going up close to it, it seemed to say to any invading army "Don't even think about it." It was a point of pride that no invader had ever before taken it. The guards in the courtyard would be the main defenders of the castle. Currently they were in the green-and-blue dress uniform that managed to look resplendent without being useless on the battlefield, a common trait among elite soldiery, as much the same could be said of Aleksander's troops.
Gregor was standing at the entrance to his palace. He was not much impressed by all the gold. He was pretty certain that the Exchequer was looking out of a window, totaling up all the wealth that went into decoration, and calculating all the useful things it could be put to. The unique political situation in Gawain did not encourage ostentation on the part of the monarch; the dukes might think he was getting "above himself." Thus, subtlety was what was called for.
One of the little subtleties was light. Almost all visitors were surprised at how well-lit the Palace was. This was partly due to the precise placement of windows, and partly due to some magical enhancement of the light that came through it. Also, all the guest beds were luxurious, but one had to lie down in one to determine that. The servants were the best Gawain could offer, and had pedigrees that rivaled many noble houses.

Thus, Gregor was less than pleased to see that he would have to play host to all of the Tsar's household servants. *He even brought along his own bedding, ye gods.* At least there would be no trouble over the shamans, Gawain had no official religion, and thus was relatively tolerant of them all, with the exception of the Church of Midas. From another window, a General was watching the shamans, and the rest of the troops the Tsar brought, looking for clues to their tactics.
When the Tsar stepped out, there was the requisite fanfare and announcements, and Gregor stepped forward to give the greeting, monarch-to-monarch. There was the slight bow at the waist, about an inch less than the standard bow between equals. "As Gregor Hapsburg von Leipzig, King of Gawain, I welcome you to our country, and to my Palace." There were very few standard forms that were agreed across all cultural bounds, but this was the most universal. The black-footed ferret awaited the Tsar's reply.
Be Humble in Yourself, but Adamant in the Truth.

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Post by JamesG » Thu Feb 11, 2010 2:07 am

At the moment the Tsar's hind paw touched the stone of the courtyard, one of the sergeants ahead of the procession barked out an order in Diktion Arktik, and the whole procession, shamans and guards alike, turned to face the Tsar, and dropped down on one knee. The effect was magnified by the simultaneous click of their plate armour kneepads against the stone of the courtyard. The horsemen, obviously being unable to kneel, instead drew their swords simultaneously with their right paws, and made three defined motions with them. The first motion was to hold the sword in front of their chest, blade pointed straight up. Then, with the blade pointed up still, they thrust the swords forward, and then twisted their arms right, so each horseman was holding his upright sword out to the right of his horse, as a salute, and a symbolic confirmation that they were under arms. It was a courtesy as well to the King of Gawain, as Arctic tradition, like many similar Feilan traditions, dictated that the host of a visitor had the right to know if his guests were armed. The Tsar had put his crown on in the carriage, so now the great crystal in its centre glistened in what light was left. In contrast to the King's spending being watched by the Dukes, the Tsar was, of course, always right in his use of wealth, even if it could pay for something else.

The Tsar raised his right gloved paw, and the soldiers rose in unison, now all facing the Castle. Aleksander was trying to concentrate on the approach of the King, but a little voice in the back of his head told him that he simply must change hats when he got inside. The Imperial Crown weighed heavily, in a literal sense. The Tsar had a small black furred hat which was quite dignified, that he resolved to use when not in a cermeony, and this, was a ceremony, if only a short one. Aleksander held his facial features in a friendly, if dignified position, his mouth not smiling nor frowning, his muscles relaxed. He was pleased to see that the King, too, was a taller man than his peers. The king bowed slightly, and welcomed Aleksander to what the ferret apparently took for a Palace. The Tsar definitely knew this was a castle, but thought it inappropriate to point out the difference, and so made his replying gesture of greeting. The Tsar could not bow in return. Certainly, he might have wanted to, but it was simply not allowed. If the Arctic host saw him bow, they would be shocked, and dismayed. It simply was not done. Plus, there was the physical implications. Aleksander could not bow, lest the Crown slip off, which would just be embarrassing. Instead, Aleksander made the same movements his cavalry had done, drawing the jewel-encrusted sword from his side, holding it up, thrusting out, and to the side. A mark of courtesy, and respect for the King. Returning the sword to the scabbard, the Tsar replied, "Our salutations to King Gregor, King of Gawain. We extend our delight in meeting your person, with a gift from our own domain."

At this, a footman in livery stepped forward, and kneeled in front of the king of Gawain, bowing his head. He held out in his paws a rich purple cushion with gold lining and gold tassels. Seated perfectly in the centre of this cushion was a large crystal, cut to a perfect 'Brilliant' shape, in order that all its facets have great reflectivity, and hence, brilliance. It was worth a great deal, and the Tsar had selected that particular sort of gift for a good reason. The crystals were certain to be an important part of diplomatic talks here, and a taste of such wealth personally for the King, was certain to put him in a good mood, Aleksander thought. He also thought the King could do with a bit of personal wealth. The clothes were fine, but simple, at least in Aleksanders eyes, whom really was not the best judge of simplicity, given he was the only fur present wearing a gold pelisse. The cavalrymen wore deep red pelisses, contrasting very majestically against their pure white uniforms, but still, nobody topped the Tsar. Aleksander himself was now waiting to be invited inside. Chief Advisor Starkov by this time had clambered from the carriage, and did not receive any bows from the troops. Grand Duke Feodor by now had also stepped from his carriage, meriting a snappy salute from the soldiers, showing respect, but not the holy deference due the monarch. It was a salute with palms facing right out, with an exaggerated curve of the arms going up, then straight down. Feodor walked to Aleksander's right side, Starkov on his left. The servants waited, they would enter by a less grand route when the time came.

((OOC: Sorry I keep on about the various uniforms, but I keep forgetting details. 8) ))
"You can't just remain a root forever. Eventually you grow and change into other things, like stems and leaves and such. Are a tree's leaves an insult to its roots?" - Sade

"It is easy for a statesman, whether he be in the Cabinet or the Chamber, to blow a blast with the wind of popularity on the trumpet of war, warming himself the while at his own fireside; or to thunder orations from this tribune and then to leave it to the musketeer who is bleeding to death in the snow whether his system win fame and victory or no. There is nothing easier than that; but woe to the statesman who in these days does not look around him for a reason for war which will hold water when the war is over." - Otto von Bismarck

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Post by Rackenhammer » Thu Feb 11, 2010 2:49 pm

(No problem, I'm pretty much rubbish when it comes to clothes description, so please don't expect any more of it.)

Gregor was relieved that the Tsar did not bow. If that monstrosity of a crown had slipped off, he would not have been able to hold back a laugh. As it was, it took effort to stifle his amusement at Aleksander's "hat of authority." The ferret's own diadem was a simpler affair, more a band of gold and jewels, good enough for formal ceremonies, but comfortable enough for day-to-day business, and emergencies, for that matter.
*Now, let's see, all of his troops are under arms, only to be expected. I wonder if he has put it into their heads that his reign was divinely ordained. Probably. No king of Gawain could get away with that, he'd be laughed at, after the inevitable fight over which god he meant.* Not that Gregor minded all that much; it was just a cultural thing.

Gregor couldn't help but notice that the cushion itself was quite valuable in and of itself, but that was before his attention was attracted by the crystal. It truly was magnificent, no doubt about that. Even a monarch with fairly austere tastes would desire such a thing, and Gregor was no exception. Some scholars had speculated that there was an intrinsic magical property in them that provoked desire, but some scholars would say anything. They were certainly desired for magical research almost as much as for status symbols. Gawain had plenty of scholars and nobles, so demand was quite high.

"And We thank you for this most generous gift." Gregor placed a slight emphasis on the royal 'we.' "If you will please enter, the Chamberlain will show you to your rooms. Your troops my rest in the barracks courtyard, or with your permission, enjoy the hospitality offered by Our fair city." Gregor stepped back to open the entryway, and to reveal the Chamberlain, a slightly fussy-looking rabbit that nevertheless looked genuinely pleased to have guests of such import in his domestic domain.
"If you will will step this way, your Majesty and lordships. After you have settled in, the gong will be rung when it is time to dress for dinner."
"Indeed." The king rejoined. "We do hope you will enjoy the offerings of our royal kitchens."
Be Humble in Yourself, but Adamant in the Truth.

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Post by JamesG » Fri Feb 12, 2010 3:01 am

Aleksander, Feodor and Starkov stepped forward, along with Grand Duke Felix, one of Aleksander's brothers, whom had been travelling in a separate carriage. Following them came two Imperial Life Guards, who were under instructions to stick to the Tsar unless expressly ordered away by the Tsar himself. Aleksander looked from side to side slowly as they entered the castle, once again careful not to dislodge the Crown. It was brighter than he expected from a castle which he classified as squalid, and his suspicions of the richness of the castle were soon confirmed by his observations of the interior. There was chiefly a lack of gold in the design, but the Tsar was momentarily distracted by the Chamberlain, and the King. Starkov, at this point, spoke up, though respectfully bowing his head first. "His Imperial Majesty has many items of furniture which the servants are dealing with. If they might also receive directions to the rooms, we would be very grateful." Starkov also spoke Gawainian, as the Arctic host highly doubted anyone in Gawain was tutored in the odd, rough dialect of their islands. However, it was apparent to everyone that Starkov, whilst taught Gawainian, did not quite have the right pronunciation as Aleksander, Feodor and Felix did.

Speaking of which, the two Grand Dukes now felt it an appropriate time to introduce themselves to the King, given that they would be helping with the Tsar's work. Feodor was not burdened with a crown, instead wearing a small black furred hat with a white tassel and crest of a two-headed stoat rampant on the front, as was Felix. Thus, he bowed, and then gave a salute to the King. Starkov quickly interjected, "This is Grand Duke Feodor, cousin of the Tsar, Your Majesty" He spoke, as it was Arctic custom for the Advisor or announcer to introduce dignitaries. The stoat Duke smiled. Unlike Aleksander's pure white head of hair, Feodor's was a light blonde, and he had an elegant moustache, which seemed to emphasise the act of smiling. "I am honoured, Your Majesty" he said amicably. Felix was next, that younger brother of Aleksander, giving a short bow, salute and a grin. Starkov introduced him as "Grand Duke Felix, brother of the Tsar, Your Majesty". There was an ever so slight tone of distaste in Starkov's tone; the two of them did not get on too well. "Delighted, an honour, Your Majesty!" Felix said. It was clear he was the youngest of the four furs from the Arctic, and he was quite shorter than his brother, and shorter than Feodor, whom was 6'3". Starkov was in fact ever so slightly taller than Felix, but with all the bowing the Arctic Fox did, it was hard to tell.

Meanwhile, outside, the sergeant barked out another order, turning the troops left, and marching onwards to the barracks courtyard. The Tsar had expressly ordered the troops beforehand that they were not to step one paw into the city of Bayreuth whilst off-duty. One thing that would ruin an amicable relationship with the King, would be to allow a horde of scoundrels like the soldiers to run wild in the Gawainian capital. The servants stayed with the carriages to unload the Tsar's belongings. There was the bed, the wardrobe and its contents, a few pieces of jewellery Aleksander thought he would wear for special occasions, the jewels he wore on normal occasions, the armour he wore when on campaign, the captured sword he had claimed in a Yamahan campaign, which he thought gave him good luck, all the icons of the pantheon of Arctic Gods and Saints, a large, heavy gold Shamanic symbol, which was a cross with one vertical line, one short horizontal line at the top, one long line crossing the middle, and a diagonal line that crossed near the bottom. These, Aleksander used in prayer, as was Arctic tradition, along with the candles, a stool for him to kneel on one knee before Kukik, and a few rugs, just in case the Tsar did not like the carpet in his room. Of course, now Aleksander was not even sure if the King of Gawain bothered with carpets at all. The man seemed to live without any form of comfort, or at least none that Aleksander could discern so far. The Tsar felt a bit sorry for Gregor. He was used to monarchs being treated with a bit more reverence, but it seemed to the stoat that Gregor's nation was trying to make him live like he was broke.
"You can't just remain a root forever. Eventually you grow and change into other things, like stems and leaves and such. Are a tree's leaves an insult to its roots?" - Sade

"It is easy for a statesman, whether he be in the Cabinet or the Chamber, to blow a blast with the wind of popularity on the trumpet of war, warming himself the while at his own fireside; or to thunder orations from this tribune and then to leave it to the musketeer who is bleeding to death in the snow whether his system win fame and victory or no. There is nothing easier than that; but woe to the statesman who in these days does not look around him for a reason for war which will hold water when the war is over." - Otto von Bismarck

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Post by Rackenhammer » Sat Feb 13, 2010 4:46 pm

The Chamberlain looked to the King after Starkov, and reassured by Gregor's nod, he clapped his hands, bringing a half-dozen servants out. "Do show the Tsar's servants to their master's rooms." With a nod, the well trained servants led the groups to the vairous guest rooms that were housed in the Palace. It was a mark of their good training that their faces, bearing, and voices did not betray their ire. Bringing one's own furniture and domestic staff amounted to a near-insult of the host's servants, to them anyway.

Meanwhile, the greetings and introductions had not ended. Gregor returned each of the Duke's greetings in turn, reflecting on how one word could mean two different things in two different cultures. *Here, the Dukes are the representatives of the land, and the foundation of government. It seems that in the Arctik, the title is a nepotistic one.* He was nevertheless pleased to see that all three had made an effort to polish their language skills, though Gregor was used to dealing with all kinds of accents. Quite apart from the foreign visitors, Gawain itself had many mutually intelligible dialects. "The pleasure is Ours, to be hosting you and your retinue."

As the soldiers gathered in the courtyard, the local merchants came in by ones and twos, along with gawkers, children, and ladies of negotiable affection. Soldiers or not, they had coin, and it would be a heartless NCO indeed who would deny the men at least some of the city's pleasures.

Gregor slightly raised an eyebrow at everything that was being carted in, but otherwise restrained his amusement. Monarchs never traveled light, but the King felt that this was going just a little overboard. If the ferret had found out about Aleksander's pity, he would have both laughed and been puzzled. It was not that he was constrained in his royal purse, he just did not like having all things covered in gold frippery. He didn't have to prove to anyone that he was king of a powerful nation, people knew, and more importantly, he knew. Also, not being so ostentatious helped in his duties. As it was said, "Die Herzöge der Regel das Land, aber der König den Regeln das Volk." (The Dukes rule the land, but the king rules the people.) Among other duties, Gregor was the court of last appeal for any commoner that had a dispute with any of the Nobility, and the lack of obvious luxury tended to calm the commoners. this was important, since this position was a key one in checking the power of the Dukes. In addition, most of Gregor's personal power base came from the royal charters, for guilds, merchants, and towns, all domains of the burghers. It helped to at least show outward solidarity.

That is not to say that he didn't enjoy luxury, far from it. All the residential rooms were covered in wood paneling, even the floor in some cases. Other times, the floor was marble. As for the wood, much of it was exquisitely carved in fine detail. The furniture, too, was of the best quality that Gawain's craftsfurs could make, and they were arguably the best in the world. There were rugs, imported from Kahun and Yamaha, placed in the guest bedrooms, along with heather-stuffed beds. Gregor always maintained that it made the best stuffing for cushions. All in all, Gregor liked it, which meant it was fit for a King. *Though I'm not sure he will think it is fit for a Tsar.* Gregor thought. "I will leave you to settle in for now. Should you desire, before or after dinner, I can give you a guided tour. Until then, good afternoon."
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Post by JamesG » Mon Feb 15, 2010 2:03 am

Aleksander nodded politely, and allowed himself to be led to his room. The Grand Dukes followed suite, along with the Chief Advisor. He entered the room, where the servants he recognised were positioning the furniture neatly as close to the Tsar's Arctic bedroom as possible. The Tsar stood in the centre of the room, where little activity was happening, so as not to get in the way. Of course, unknowingly, he was impeding his servant's progress, because every time they entered or exited the room, they had to bow low. As there was a lot of furniture and decorations to bring into the room , every time the servants brought a new painting, mirror, table or chair, they had to set it down at the doorway, bow deferentially, then pick up the item to carry on. On leaving to get the next item, they would need to do the same. This drew out the process, but eventually, Aleksander stood alone, in the furnished room. The wood panelled walls now hung a few Arctic tapestries, the wooden floor with several inches thick of fur rugs. The Grand Dukes had not bothered with their own furniture, as they just lived in the Palace at Shiya anyway.

The stoat's paws clenched, then unclenched a few times. He walked to one wall, and then turned around to walk to the opposite wall. Aleksander looked tense. Feodor knocked, and the Tsar said, "Enter." The two Grand Dukes entered, hats off now they were inside proper. They went on either side of the Tsar, Feodor holding the crown's box. Felix carefully lifted the crown off his brother's head, and gently put it in the box. It was also Arctic doctrine that the monarch never remove his own crown. With the heavy jewels off his head, Aleksander resumed pacing anxiously. Feodor watched him carefully, and asked aloud, now back in Diktion Arktik, "Is the room to your satisfaction?" At which point Aleksander turned and said in a frustrated voice, "It's too small!" Felix looked about the room. "Sandy, it can't be much smaller than your room in the Palace!" Being family, and in private, the two of them could call Aleksander by his nickname. The Tsar shook his head. "No, Felix! It is tiny! Why is it so small?" To which Feodor replied, "Sandy, you had the walls to the adjacent room in the Palace knocked down. You live in two bedrooms, not one. We cannot do any better." Aleksander growled to himself, and began pacing again.

Eventually, Felix piped up, "Sandy, perhaps we could find the King and have a look around the castle?" The stoat Tsar looked at him, and nodded. "Good thinking, Felix. Maybe we can find a bigger room!" With that, the Tsar briskly strode from the room, Feodor and Felix trailing after him, Felix mumbling to himself, "That's not what I meant...". The three Royals proceeded down the corridor, Aleksander following the same route as had led them there. Down a flight of stairs, and into the entrance hall. The Tsar could not see Gregor, and so determinedly stalking off to the passage on their left. Starkov, huffing and puffing to catch up with the trio, quickly fell in step with Feodor, and gave him a questioning glance. Feodor shook his head. There were times when you told Sandy your opinion, and there were times that you kept silent, family or not. Starkov winced, as he realised this was one of those times. Unlike the Tsar, he was not fond of physical exertion, Aleksander himself being the sort of stoat that needed space to move.
"You can't just remain a root forever. Eventually you grow and change into other things, like stems and leaves and such. Are a tree's leaves an insult to its roots?" - Sade

"It is easy for a statesman, whether he be in the Cabinet or the Chamber, to blow a blast with the wind of popularity on the trumpet of war, warming himself the while at his own fireside; or to thunder orations from this tribune and then to leave it to the musketeer who is bleeding to death in the snow whether his system win fame and victory or no. There is nothing easier than that; but woe to the statesman who in these days does not look around him for a reason for war which will hold water when the war is over." - Otto von Bismarck

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Post by Rackenhammer » Mon Feb 15, 2010 5:38 pm

When his visitors had gone out of sight in front of the huge train of servants bringing in... well, pretty much all of the Tsar's bedroom furniture, with the possible exception of the privy door, Gregor permitted himself a sigh between amusement and exasperation. Making a mental note to inquire later from his butler what rumors and jokes were passing below stairs about the Arctic visitors, he retreated to his office to finish off part of the endless little tasks that always seemed to accompany situations like this. *After all, the citizens of Gawain do not cease in their affairs simply because I have visitors.* He left instructions to be told when Aleksander and his relatives came out of their rooms.

Long ago, someone had found out that the chimney that serviced the various guest rooms allowed for eavesdropping when the fires were not lit. The more luxurious rooms were, of course, on the upper floor, with the servants more or less having free reign in the lower ones when they were unoccupied. Indeed, they served at various times to accommodate the higher servants of visiting royalty/nobility. While a group of servants were ostensibly in the room below Aleksander's, cleaning, one seemed to be busy cleaning out the chimney...
Later, when the conversation heard was related to the other servants, there was much joking, with a somewhat bitter tinge; hearing the upper class complain about what was out of their reach provoked both humor and resentment. It was quite unfortunate that any nicknames had been mentioned, because now and forever, the Tsar of the Arctic Islands was "Sandy" below stairs.

The servant bid to watch the visitors had been nearly outpaced by his charges. By the time Gregor straightened himself out, they had left the main room. The King met them in the corridor. "Ah, good afternoon. I trust arrangements are to your satisfaction? Dinner will not be ready for some few hours hence, so I may begin the tour now, if you wish."
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Post by JamesG » Fri Feb 19, 2010 3:46 pm

((Sorry I took a long time, inspiration failed.

Also, how did the servants understand the conversation in Diktion Arktik?))

Aleksander, in keeping with his title, gave every appearance of being serene, though inside he was wondering if the King would really mind if he demanded a bigger room. The Tsar, whilst used to being given practically anything when he demanded these days, was not so cloistered in his own Palace that he thought this state of affairs was the norm across the world. Besides, it was not as if Aleksander intended to spend very long actually in that room. He was a stoat of near constant movement, always needing to do something, usually physical work. This meant that Aleksander hoped to see a lot more of Gawain than the inside of the King's home. He assumed the King had some plan to show him the grandeur and power of the great city of Bayreuth. No monarch, however frugal, could resist showing off the best of their kingdom, the Tsar believed. Certainly, he enjoyed giving foreign dignitaries such treatment, unless they were his enemies. So, Aleksander decided to leave the issue, and just try and be calm about the room. He replied in a relaxed tone, "We have found the room to our satisfaction. We will be delighted to see the rest of this building". Starkov smiled and nodded sycophantically, the two Grand Dukes listened passively. Aleksander sounded quite sincere for a fur that had complained to them in private not five minutes ago.

The title of Grand Duke in the Arctic was not actually a rank attainable by a noble. The title was granted the Tsar's brothers, cousins, sons and uncles, and likewise, his sisters, though Aleksander had none, female cousins and aunts were Grand Duchesses. The reason for this was because Aleksander himself had despised the failings of the previous system of the islands, where the Barons held too much power for his liking, and so wished no association between the Royal titles of years ago, and the Imperial titles of today. Thus, there were no Barons, but instead, the leading noble of each principality, was, appropriately, titled with 'Prince'. The noble's families take on titles such as Duke for his male relatives, and Duchess for the female. As opposed to the Gawainian system of the Dukes being representative of their particular land, the Princes were strictly representatives of the Tsar's will, and could do only so much without Imperial prerogative. The Grand Dukes in turn represented their Tsar, and could issue Imperial Ukase, a word in Diktion Arktik here meaning 'Decrees', laws set in force by the Tsar, on the advice of the Imperial Family. The Tsar was alo able to make decrees on the advice of the Nobility, if the Ukase related to the local affairs of the noble's principality.

At this time, it was Aleksander's other brother, the Grand Duke Kolya whom was looking after the Arctic Islands for the Tsar. Though he intended to write frequently, letters would take a long time to reach anywhere, even if assisted by messengers with wings. Whilst technically the Tsaritsa, Maria, was in charge whilst her husband was away, Aleksander knew Kolya had a better grasp of the workings of the islands, and so would do much of the actual administration. The islands were quite stable these days, otherwise Aleksander would not have thought it prudent to leave them for any amount of time, divinely ordained to rule or not. Whilst the King might have noticed the Holy reverence bestowed upon his guest by his subordinates, it was not the last cultural difference he might witness. Aleksander had brought, both out of courtesy, and for the purposes of not getting too homesick, the evening's entertainment, that being a troupe of traditional Andalsnik dancers, as well as their musicians. Not that he did not think the King could provide his own entertainment, far from it, the Tsar trusted that the Arctic performers would complement the Gawainian traditions, not replace them.
"You can't just remain a root forever. Eventually you grow and change into other things, like stems and leaves and such. Are a tree's leaves an insult to its roots?" - Sade

"It is easy for a statesman, whether he be in the Cabinet or the Chamber, to blow a blast with the wind of popularity on the trumpet of war, warming himself the while at his own fireside; or to thunder orations from this tribune and then to leave it to the musketeer who is bleeding to death in the snow whether his system win fame and victory or no. There is nothing easier than that; but woe to the statesman who in these days does not look around him for a reason for war which will hold water when the war is over." - Otto von Bismarck

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Post by Rackenhammer » Sun Feb 21, 2010 5:03 pm

(You know how a lot of characters come from the Arctic Islands, but never RP there? The country bled immigrants during Niklaus' rule. Not all of them were fighters; a few were servants. Should have mentioned that, sorry.
And don't worry about the lack of inspiration, I've been afflicted with that myself from time to time.)

When a speaker is above a certain rank, it is wise not to take all they say at face value. Still, Gregor was glad that that Aleksander could be polite if not sincere. "Excellent. I shall have to show you the North-Central tower; not only is it an architectural masterwork, but it provides a gorgeous view of the city and surrounding lands."

The first corridors they passed through were the king's work-quarters; utilitarian, not without decoration, but passed over lightly. The first real work worth showing was the Ballroom, located behind the throne room, used for any Royal event for the upper class (Commoners were hosted outdoors). Not only was there a chandelier of actual crystal glass, a gift from the King of Domus some centuries ago, but the polished wood floor was an incredibly detailed mosaic, placed in different colors of wood, smoothed by generations of dancers. The walls were trimmed in the elegant carvings the the King favored, and the walls were covered in murals, the East side depicting war, and the West scenes from peacetime. Gold was not much in sight, and where it was found, it was a part of the design that did not stand out, but artfully enhanced it.

Gregor grew more enthusiastic as the tour went on. A door exited towards the North-central tower. This was a late addition to the castle, after the border had been secured enough that Bayreuth could ease up on being prepared for a siege. The stone was smooth and fresh, like a new-built cathedral. In fact, also like a cathedral, there were large, stained glass windows. Each wall had a distinct kind of window, celtic knots to the South, maritime scenes to the North, war scenes to the South, and religious to the West. The religious tended to the abstract, though there was a preponderance of Mazan symbology, regardless of the subject. "It is said that when the tower was built, a new king had arisen in Maze. He is reported to have said to my far predecessor that he could offer nothing but the labor of his people for a gift. The King of Gawain at the time was the first not to laugh in his face and demand gold and silver. In return, we have these."

It was a little time before the party emerged the the roof. The sentry posted bowed, and then saluted. Gregor acknowledged the respect, and for a while just stood, taking in the view. Sunset was just beginning, and in the West, the Dresden mountains were being outlined in relief. Bayreuth was built on a hill, one of the few substantial hills in the plains of north-eastern Gawain. Almost all of Weimar-Sachs was in view, and it was a good view. Closer to the castle, the whole City of Bayreuth could be seen, mansions, slums, shops, temples and other places of worship. One couldn't say Bayreuth was a perfect city, but all of the inhabitants, including Gregor, would argue that it was the best. It was certainly was one of the biggest.
"This, gentlemen, is my country, or part of it. Is it not a grand sight?"
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Post by JamesG » Wed Feb 24, 2010 5:02 am

The Ballroom quickly became Aleksander's favourite room. The Tsar was not averse to dance, in fact it was quite regular in the Arctic. The only difference would be the style of dance, which would no doubt be unusual to Gawain. The Domish chandelier was particularly noted by the stoat, not only as a reminder of his own happy times in dancing, but as a sign of the king's wealth. The Tsar was starting to pick up on the subtleties of this castle. Not overly gilded, but certainly a King's home, and it pleased the Tsar. Aleksander was beginning to warm to these lodgings, now that he was seeing its best features. Felix, Feodor and Starkov trailed after them, followed by the two Life Guards that were soundlessly keeping in sight of the Tsar at all times. The party entered the tower, with its cathedralesque windows. Stained glass was more of a Southern art rather than an Arctic one, so the group was impressed by this coloured display of artwork. The Tsar nodded politely as he listened.

Aleksander now stood next to the King. He had not realised how far it was possible to see in this country. The palace at Shiya alone employed servants to clear its hundreds of windows of snow, and on a good day, the Tsar could go out onto his balcony, and see the lights of Shiya. However, the city was rather well known for poor visibility, with fogs, snowstorms and sleet in the warmer months always making the view hard to catch. Not only that, but the Castle of Bayreuth was considerably taller than the Palace at Shiya, which tended to be build wider and lower. Given the blizzard conditions frequenting the area, it was best not to build anything too tall. So the view Aleksander was welcomed with on the top of the battlements was an impressive one to the stoat. Sunsets too were a bit ponderous for the Arctic, being blacked out in darkness for half the year, the sun circling overhead the other half, so the effect of the orange light being cast against the mountains as the sun set was particularly dramatic to the Arctic party.

"B-Beautiful!" Starkov stuttered in response to the King's question. Felix eyed the Advisor with a slight sneer, before adding, "Grand!" Feodor, looking at his tall cousin, replied, "Most excellent." The Tsar, whom had not noticed the others, replied in a truly serene voice, "Majestic." For Bayreuth was a majestic sight from here, all its streets and buildings in plain view. Aleksander could pick out the larger, more important looking buildings, their definitive architecture marking them out as religious buildings, and stately homes. He wondered if all Bayreuth knew he was here now. The stoat had not lingered long on thoughts of the bandits he had encountered in the forest, for he had felt safe with his troops, and had more pressing matters at hand. But if that was the sort of response a well-guarded convoy could expect from highwaymen, Aleksander certainly had no intention of allowing his family to wander about the city unguarded, should they have time to see Bayreuth firsthand. The stoat was peculiarly protective of people and things that he cared about, which could come off as somewhat intrusive to furs that did not know Aleksander. Fortunately, Feodor was used to his cousin's worrying over such things. Felix was also familiar with it, but he resented his brother's concerns for his safety, and looked forward very much to seeing more of the city, with or without the Tsar's consent.
"You can't just remain a root forever. Eventually you grow and change into other things, like stems and leaves and such. Are a tree's leaves an insult to its roots?" - Sade

"It is easy for a statesman, whether he be in the Cabinet or the Chamber, to blow a blast with the wind of popularity on the trumpet of war, warming himself the while at his own fireside; or to thunder orations from this tribune and then to leave it to the musketeer who is bleeding to death in the snow whether his system win fame and victory or no. There is nothing easier than that; but woe to the statesman who in these days does not look around him for a reason for war which will hold water when the war is over." - Otto von Bismarck

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