Marking of the Daysby Sincline Koutaishi
Another day comes and a messenger arrives as I am having morning meal with Hanta in the smaller dining room at the rear of the palace. Father used to enjoy the larger of the dining rooms—the vastness of that place could accommodate far too many politicians and military personnel for him to amuse himself with. I watch her accept the note then resume her seat. She unfolds the paper and her eyes scan the page, reading, "Fascinating..." Her lips curl into a smile.
"What is it?"
She just laughs, "Amazing..."
"What??" I lay a hand on the table, leaning forward. The amusement behind her smile is making me impatient.
"There are two things... The first will make you happy. The second will not. Which do you prefer to hear first?" Her eyes still do not leave the page.
"Make me happy first." I feel my brow furrowing at all of this stalling.
"Very well... To summarize, the news of your ascension has reached Forth. The Ministry of Information has done their job well! There are celebrations in the streets of nearly every city. Apparently your father was not quite as well liked as you had supposed. Your hero image has taken you far, my King and reclaimer of our worlds."
"Really..." I settle back in my chair and smile, very pleased at this news, "That is fascinating indeed. I would like to see this. I will have to have a look at the news feeds later... What is the second thing?" Hopefully it will not make me equally as unhappy as this first news has made me happy.
"The Ministry of Heritage is declaring Castle Galrea an Imperial Treasure. They are seeking to prevent you from destroying the castle."
"A treasure??" I frown, "How can they even vaguely classify this heap of hate and metal a treasure??" Perhaps I should not have let the Ministry of Information spread this bit of news. I should have just destroyed the place and then let the historians tell me of what a terrible creature I am afterward. Gods keep me from these civilian ministries and their musings.
"Like it or not, it is part of our people's history." She puts the paper down and shrugs at my anger, "Your father's excesses were legendary, much like your destructive tendencies and short temper."
"My short temper! Ha!... I will wipe his name from the history books." I grumble, "And this castle WILL fall by my hand!" I pound my fist on the table, sending our plates clattering. "Tell them that they can come and face me if they want to save this place from destruction. Tell them that, Hanta."
"If that is what you want to do."
"What, you do not agree?? Welcome them here then! Let them stay in the royal halls and see how long they live. This place is a deathtrap! I am surprised on a daily basis when it does not crumble in upon itself through some device of my father's making."
"I hate to say it but I do agree with you. And I see their point too. Consider at least letting them save some of the architectural elements. Were you planning just to destroy it utterly? Fixtures, furnishings and all?"
"That was the idea, yes. Return it all to the planet that it was ripped from."
"What about rebuilding?" She poses.
"Mmhh... No." How can this woman who has hated this place so much over the years even be thinking of rebuilding here? Here on this destroyed and barren world?
"What about all of the people here? There are numbers of lives that are led here. This place does not run on its own legs, sire."
"Everyone will be relocated, just like the harem. Freed from this place."
"Easy to say... But what if they do not want to go?"
"You are mad, woman... How could you think anyone would be on this rock out of their own desire?"
"I think you will find that for some this is the only home they have known. Your father's reign was long..."
I grumble again and then something snaps to my mind, "Ah!"
"Avasjans." I smirk at her, "I will rebuild. But in my own way." I toss my linen on the table over my empty plate and get up.
"Avasjans?" She looks up at me. "What are you talking about?"
"They are on the verge of the Empire—the northern borders to be exact. I have often gone to them for research over the years. They are a people whose passions are given to scientific pursuits. I remember one of their Science Masters saying something off topic regarding reclaiming technologies. They may be able to use this planet to test their skills and theories." I lean on the table toward Hanta, positively grinning. "Imagine my father's horror...To see flowers growing where his castle once stood. Have that for your eternal sleep father! I will be sure to plant as many flowers as I can in your least favorite color."
Hanta laughs, "It is good to see you smile."
"Yai yai..." I stand again and wave her off, "Gather the castle staff... Including the slaves. I want to ask them how they feel about remaining here."
"Including the slaves?" She gets up now, surprised again by my behavior.
"Yes. I have asked one, now I will ask the rest... The humans from the harem must be especially curious as to what I will do with them now that I have sent them from their unfortunate home to the slave quarters. Hurry up about it. I will meet them in the throne room."
"Very well." She gets up from the remains of her meal, bows slightly to me and goes on her way.
I follow her out shortly after pulling on my topcoat, accompanied again by guard as I walk the halls toward the throne room. It will be good to be back on Forth, where I can wander the halls of the palace freely and alone. I am already tired of having people look at me all of the time. And shortly there will be more.
The 10 members of the castle guard that have followed me arrange themselves on the steps to my new throne and I settle there, waiting as the hall fills again. I see human faces in amongst my own people who are assembling below. They group together for comfort in this strange situation. Perhaps they are worried that I may call an end to their lives. It would, of course, be easier than having to relocate them all.
Hanta arrives at last and comes forward to the foot of the steps, bowing to me. I gesture for her to join me and she makes her way up to where I sit. "This is the whole of the group save for a few staff members who are essential to operations." She speaks quietly and bows again then she is standing just behind me and to the right as usual.
"Staff and slaves of Castle Galrea..." I begin and the enormous group quiets themselves, "This castle will shortly be no more and so I have choices to offer you to make. Choices as to what your lives will be after this place is gone... Staff members, some of you have been here since you were very young. Commander of the guard... You have been here long before I was born. What will you have of your life? I offer you land and retirement if you will have it."
He is taken by surprise it seems from his expression, "Sire... I am not yet ready to retire." He bows. I frown at the unexpected rejection and he backs away, bowing his head once again, "Forgive me, sire. It is not that I am ungrateful..."
"Do not worry yourself. I am simply surprised by this... I am thinking that once this place is destroyed we may rebuild somewhat. Would you prefer to return to your post here once that has happened? Or perhaps be a part of the rebuilding?"
"I would like to remain and work on the rebuilding, sire. Thank you."
"Very well... The rest of you have the same choice to face. To stay, to leave, to be relocated until this place is rebuilt..." I look across them, my eyes coming to the humans that we have taken over the years as I finish addressing the castle staff. "Let your will be known to the Commander of the guard and I will see that things are arranged for you... Will you take that responsibility?" I look back to the Commander.
"Yes sire." The Commander of the guard smiles, apparently quite happy with this. Hanta was correct after all. I can almost feel her smiling where she stands just behind me. I change language for the humans.
"And now... Slaves of Castle Galrea... We have taken your people over the years to serve us as your people have taken ours... The border wars are now over. I have called an end to our advance into your human territory and closed our borders to your people... Many of you have grown up here. It has been a long while since this all began. And so I offer you a choice. You may remain here to work with those who will be rebuilding this place. You may wish to be moved until the rebuilding is complete and then return here for your work. You may choose to be relocated within Imperial territory and live your lives out on land of your own." Such a rush of voices came then. They were astonished that I would say such things. The guard advanced upon the group of humans to warn them to be silent and a hush fell across the room, "If you have any questions voice them in an orderly manner at this time."
"Nothing??" I scowl, "Guard... Step back." They resume their positions on the steps and I rise from my seat, heading down toward the crowd.
The group of humans recedes from me like a tide washing out from shore and I stop before their numbers, looking over their worried faces.
"There is nothing you wish to inquire??" Do they think I am playing a game with them?
One of their children falls forward, seeming to have been squeezed out of the crowd. The mother gathers him up quickly, trying to fade back into the group and away from me.
"You..." I approach her. She turns with a gasp, looking up at me, clutching her child to her. "Say what it is that you think of this."
"Are you saying that we are free?" She urges out, shaking before me.
I do my best to soften my expression so that I can get less shaking and more response from her, "You are free as much as I can free you for I cannot return you to human territory at this time... What would you like to do with your life?"
"I... I don't know." She frowned. "If we stayed in your territory... Where would we go?"
"A good question... I was thinking of sending you all to Forth. There is a large colony of human slaves there that will also be freed. You could join with them."
"What is it like there?"
"Very wide and open... Perhaps if I were to show you?" She nods and I beckon to Hanta. She comes and gives me my Comm. I connect it to the video in the room and show them some of the vistas of Forth where the slave colony is. At least my father's joy at seeing the games broadcast where ever he might be has been serving me well for there are video screens in almost every room of this place. I make a mental note to have them removed for reuse. All human eyes are on the images that flash across the screen along with mine. I find myself looking forward to seeing these things again with my own eyes... Soon.
I break my stare at the screen and look down upon the woman, "Yes?"
"Would we be safe there? Is there any fighting?"
"Ah, no. It is too far into our territory for there to be fighting even if we were still at war. You would all be quite safe. I assure you."
"Why are you doing this?"
Many reasons, some of which I will not say... "It is not my wish to keep those who do not wish to be kept. If you would like to remain here you are welcome to. Reparations for your captivity will be made and hopefully you will find a place of comfort amongst our people... When you have made your decision, please let the Commander of the guard know... This castle will be gone in the period of 30 suns so do put your minds to it." I turn away from them and head back toward Hanta who is waiting by my throne, just barely containing an enormous smile. "Stop that and go hail the Ministry of Heritage." I mutter to her.
"Yes, highness." She bows and disappears down the hall behind the throne.
I turn back to the waiting crowd, "Off with you all. Make your decisions." With that, I leave them there to disperse at their own speed. The castle guard takes after me again much to my chagrin. It is unfortunate that I cannot return these people to their own territory, yet I cannot afford to have them spread the news of my new title or what I have planned.
The Ministry of Heritage is waiting for me on the video screens upon my return to my chambers. They argue with me about destroying the castle for a good while until I tell them that it will be done regardless of their concerns. Hanta cringes at my tone with them and shakes her head so I try to settle out a bit.
"You may feel free to come and claim any of the architectural elements if you wish. I advise against it as this place is filled with traps that we discover daily. Upon the next dawn I will have my troops begin to remove the furnishings and fixtures for transportation to Forth and offsite storage here for the next installation that will be erected. I have stated that this place will be gone in 30 days, so you have until then to make any motions you wish to. There will be no changes to this timeframe. Mark it. This ends our conversation." It is as much patience as I can muster. Off goes the communication. "Done!" I throw up my hands. "Are you satisfied?"
Hanta laughs at my drama, "You are quite astounding, my King."
"You are proud of me in some small way." I nod and settle down into a chair by the fire.
"Of course I am. I am amazed that you are releasing your slaves." She brings me a glass of wine. Perhaps a reward for my patience, Hanta? I raise an eyebrow at her then set the glass aside on the table to my right, causing a look of surprise to come to her face at my less than immediate consumption of its contents. I hope to surprise her more.
"They are not mine. They were my father's. Granted I brought him many of them... Now they are their own. I will provide them with land and shelter if they wish it, and the rest will be up to them."
"Wonderful... One bit of advice for you if you will hear it?"
"If I must."
She comes and settles in the chair across from mine, fixing her skirts as she tries to think about the best way to phrase what she has to say to me. This stall lets me know that her words will not please me and so I begin feeling annoyance before she even speaks. I am surprised she has not learned this by now.
"You should find a bit more patience with the civil ministries and you should also begin to pay closer attention to civil matters." She notices my expression darkening and seeks to settle me, "Sire... Calm and listen. Your hopes are for the success and renewal of the empire, yes?"
"Your father neglected civil matters highly over the years. You have not seen the truth of this as your focus has been military, much as was his. I urge you to look into the truth of what I am saying as soon as possible. Your people will bring the empire to success. Civilian people... Your military might will keep your people and your empire safe while it heals from within... Stop looking at me like that." She winces and I break out of my stare at her.
"I am simply taking in what you are saying, Hanta. No need to have nerves about it."
"Your look is just eating through me..."
"Saich..." I sigh, shaking the hordes of thoughts from my mind that her suggestion has brought, "I will turn my attention in the direction you suggest soon. I will admit to you that the civilian ministries are not familiar to me. I have dealt with them over the years but only in passing and every time they have vexed me. I am used to my orders being followed. They always seem to think that my commands are subject to interpretation and they ask questions rather than immediately carrying out my will... I will require your assistance with them."
"And I will give it to you gladly." She smiles.
I look away from Hanta toward the fire, feeling my face tighten as the thoughts come rushing back again. My mind is working hard on all of the pieces to this grand puzzle that has been laid out before me. My patience is running long, that much is certain. A season before this, I would never have given half a care to show any measure of tolerance towards the Ministry of Heritage. I would have told them to keep their tongues still lest I cut them out.
"Mmh..." I set my teeth.
I am a different creature indeed. I feel as though all of what makes me has been thrown up in the air and then come crashing to ground in pieces that are still trying to find their places in my rearranged mind. I have no one to blame for this internal confusion other than myself. I set these wheels in motion at the end of the previous season. Now I must live with the consequences. Action and consequence...
"What is wrong?" Hanta breaks my struggle with myself and I turn my eyes toward her.
"I am trying to think things through." I look back to the warmth of the fire, "Freeing the slaves from the colony on Forth will not be so difficult. I simply have to make the statement of it. Sorting out what to do with them all being free is another issue. It will be a strange thing for them and for our people who have come to depend on the relationship as it is. I believe that I should speak with the Ministry of Agriculture about working their production into the economy. We will have to compensate them for their work rather than just providing them with minimal food and shelter. From what I remember of the place it is not horrible yet it could use a good deal of improvement. New residences will need to be built... It will need to become a proper community rather than a factory-like environment."
"The problems will come when removing the slaves that the Diyas have taken."
"Are you sure you want to do that?"
I look back to her now, "Why would I not? I have freed these slaves. Why not the rest? It makes no sense to do this thing half way."
"They will not be pleased with you. And that is putting things mildly."
"They will need to learn to do things on their own, to hire servants instead of enslaving them. The Diyas have grown fat and lazy on their success during this war. They need to get back to the business of honor... I will not enjoy telling them that they must give up their slaves however. They will protest, of course." I rake my fingers through my hair, "And then there is the matter of the slave colonies on Mycenea and elsewhere abroad."
"Ahhlll... That will be horrible."
"Yes... After the extreme bloodshed there, those people feel the right to keep human slaves—especially after having been enslaved themselves. It is understandable. They are still pained by what happened there. We all are. I will have to go there myself to speak to the local governments and persuade them to release the slaves. It will be hard for them to hear that the wars are over, I suspect. It may be a relief. I cannot guess." I shrug, crossing my legs and laying my arm over my lap.
"I will do what I can to help you with this work."
She smiles gently at me, "Where has my angry little Prince gone?" She asks. "He went away last season and never returned."
I feel a smile take my mouth and I laugh at her. "Your angry little Prince is now your angry King... Only a bit different."
"Very different." She says, "Where did you go? You fought a winning battle against your father's troops and then disappeared."
"I am sorry for leaving you behind. I did not think that things would ever come to what they did."
"I should have thought better of staying when the fighting began. I could have just gone back to Forth." She offers. She wants to steer me back to the question of where I went, I can see it all in her face. She finally comes back to it directly, "Where did you go?"
"I will not say. I will say why I left however."
"That will be a good start to satisfy my curiosity."
"I meant to return and remove the throne from my father. I was not ready yet, however. There were things I needed to do. And so I did them. It was a pleasant surprise to find that my father was dying upon my return and that I did not need to fight for the throne. It was mine with little effort. Had he been healthy I would have fought him and I would have won."
"That I believe."
"And you realize that had I not killed Namden, it could have plunged us into a civil war. It would have been perceived as weakness and the other Diyas would have risen up and sought to take the throne for themselves. As it is, I have heard nothing of challenge. I have had the communications staff searching for such signs and Banrek is minding for such things from the Ministry of Information... I have learned much over the past season, Hanta. Watch me." I smile neatly and take up my wineglass at last, "To the success of our people."
"Gods help us to this end." She bows her head for a moment. "I will begin gathering those I need to in order to get things started with the slave colony on Forth. Excuse me."
"Excused. Gods keep you." I say for the first time in a long time and watch her smile at me approvingly as she departs.
I have to keep my focus and get some work done this afternoon. I look at the wine for a moment and then set it down again, taking up my Comm instead and setting my mind to business.On to 9