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TFT snippet #8

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TFT snippet #8
Post by runsforcelery   » Sat Aug 18, 2018 11:11 pm

runsforcelery
First Space Lord

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.VI.

Imperial Palace,
City of Cherayth,
Empire of Charis,
North Harchong.


“I really should have come to Manchyr,” a profoundly pregnant Sharleyan Ahrmahk said as Sergeant Edwyrd Seahamper opened the private audience chamber’s door and bowed the wiry young man through it. A young woman, taller than he and with hazel eyes but the same determined chin, if in a somewhat more delicate version, followed him.

“Oh no you shouldn’t have, Empress Sharley,” the young man said with a huge smile, waving her back as she started to lever herself upright. “Not this close!”

He crossed the chamber with quick, springy strides, bent over her comfortably padded chair, put his arms around her, and kissed her cheek. She reached up and patted his cheek in reply, then sighed as she settled back into the cushions.

“I won’t pretend it wasn’t a relief when you insisted I stay here,” she admitted. “And at least Cayleb came personally to get you in the Ahlfryd. Maybe your subjects will forgive us for taking your formal investiture out of Manchyr Cathedral. I really meant for us to come to Manchyr for it. Truly I did, Daivyn, but this time. . . .”

She shook her head,

“Everyone back home understands,” Prince Daivyn Daikyn told her, settling to perch on the ottoman beside her chair. “I think they’re just fine about it.”

“I’m sure they are,” his sister, Princess Irys Aplyn-Ahrmahk, Duchess Darcos, said. “There’s not a soul in Corisande who wants you taking any chances with your health, Sharley. On the other hand, there’s no point pretending he wouldn’t have insisted even if they hadn’t felt that way,” she added, as she reached Sharleyan’s chair.

She moved rather more sedately than her brother’s habitual headlong rush, and Sharleyan shook her head.

“He is aware that I’m not the only one who’s pregnant, isn’t he?” she asked, glancing rather pointedly at Irys’ remarkably flat midsection before she opened her arms to her daughter-in-law.

“True, but I’m only two months along, Mother,” Irys said demurely. “Unlike some people, who look ready to pop any minute.”

“I’m not as big as I was with the boys!” Sharleyan protested. “And that was your fault, young lady!”

My fault?” Irys hugged her briefly, then straightened. “Unless I’m mistaken, I don’t believe I was involved in that bit of procreation at all.”

“No, but it was your twins that inspired Cayleb to emulate you and Hektor,” the Empress said severely. “There are no twins in my family, and precious few in his. But after you and Hektor got so carried away with the first pair and jumped ahead of Alahnah, he was determined to take the lead back.”

“And you didn’t have anything to do with the whole process? Do I have that right?” Irys inquired with a quizzical expression.

He does the preliminary work, I do the heavy lifting. If anybody’s going to get blamed for it, it’s going to be him. Besides, I’m pregnant. I don’t have to be logical.”

“Wonderful, isn’t it?” Irys grinned. “Mind you, the rest of it’s a nuisance. Oh, the ‘preliminary work’ is a lot of fun—and the final product is wonderful!—but I could do without the ‘heavy lifting’ bit.”

“Which is why we get to be irrational, emotional, weepy, snappish, and temperamental. Oh, and start craving all sorts of insane foods at ridiculous hours of the night and day until we drive our beloved spouses to frothing madness. It’s simply a just dispensation of nature, righting the scales after the cads do this to us.”

“You two do realize you’re giving away all your secrets, don’t you?” Daivyn looked back and forth between them. “I mean, Phylyp and Uncle Rysel keep telling me ‘forewarned is forearmed.’ If my wife—assuming we can ever find one who could put up with me—finds out the two of you ‘forewarned’ me about what to expect when she’s pregnant, I don’t think she’ll be very happy with you.”

“It would only matter if knowing would do you one bit of good, Daivy.” Irys ran a hand affectionately over his hair, the way she had when he was much younger. “It won’t. She’s going to make you just as miserable as I’ve ever made Hektor or Empress Sharley’s ever made Cayleb.”

“Actually,” the Duke of Darcos said as he and a fair-haired, immaculately dressed older man came into the room on Irys’ heels, “I don’t recall your ever actually making me miserable, love. A tad . . . impatient, once or twice, maybe. But if you’d really made me miserable, I’m sure I could’ve gotten Domynyk or Dunkyn to send me back to sea while you got on with all that ‘heavy lifting.’”

“And would’ve done it, too,” Irys shook her head darkly. “But Daivy won’t have that unfair defensive weapon. He’s a prince. He has to stay home.”

“She’s got you there, Hektor,” Phylyp Ahzgood, the Earl of Coris and Prince Daivyn’s first councilor, observed. He smiled approvingly at his prince’s older sister. “She always knew how to go for the jugular!”

“Well, if I didn’t climb out of this chair for a reigning prince, I’m not climbing out of it for a mere earl or a duke,” Sharleyan declared, opening her arms to Hektor. Her adopted son leaned over her, embracing her with his functional arm. Then it was Coris’ turn, and she shook her head as he straightened.

“What?” the earl asked.

“Just thinking about how impossible to imagine this entire scene once would’ve been,” she replied. “It still sneaks up on me sometimes.”

“I don’t think any of us will ever be happy about the price we paid to get here, Sharley,” Irys said. “But I don’t think any of us would want to be anywhere else, either.”

“I know I wouldn’t.” Daivyn’s expression had gone unwontedly serious. “I miss Father, and Hektor. In fact, I miss them a lot sometimes, and it worries me when I feel their memories starting to . . . fade, I guess.” He shook his head, his brown eyes dark, then drew a deep breath. “I miss them, but I’ve still got you—and Hektor and Empress Sharley and Cayleb, Merlin and Nimue. Who else has a family like that? And my political tutors haven’t been all that bad, either. Even counting Phylyp.”

He smiled suddenly, and Coris chuckled, looking at the young man who would turn eighteen in eleven days. And on his birthday, Prince Daivyn of Corisande would reaffirm his oath of fealty to Cayleb and Sharleyan Ahrmahk and take up the crown of Corisande in his own right. There were times Coris could scarcely believe they’d made it to this point, but young Daivyn was right about his tutors. Coris himself was no slouch, but he knew even he had learned a lot watching Cayleb and Sharleyan in action. He couldn’t think of two finer examples for any young ruler who took his responsibilities seriously, and Daivyn did.

He’s going to be one of the good ones, the earl thought, smiling at the boy—no, the young man, now—who was the closest thing he’d ever had to a son. He’s got his father’s political instincts, his sister’s compassion, his brother-in-law’s sense of duty and integrity, and Cayleb and Sharleyan’s example. God, I wish his father could see him! He’s what Hektor could have been —should have been, if he hadn’t lost Raichynda so early—and I think he’d recognize that. I’m sure he’d still be pissed off over losing to them —the earl’s lips quirked ever so briefly— but he loved his kids to pieces. He’d have to approve of how well Cayleb and Sharleyan have done by Daivyn and Irys. And by Corisande as a whole, for that matte r.

“It’s good of you to be so gentle about my shortcomings, Your Highness,” he said out loud, and Daivyn chuckled.

“It is turning into rather a large family, though, isn’t it?” Hektor Aplyn-Ahrmahk buffed the fingernails of his right hand—the only one that functioned properly—on his doublet, then blew on them complacently. “I wouldn’t want to say anything about Old Charisian virility, but still—!”

He shrugged modestly, then “oofed” as Irys smacked him in the stomach.

Sharleyan chuckled, but she had to admit he had a point. One thing Crown Princess Alahnah definitely wasn’t going to lack were siblings and cousins to support her future reign. Her twin brothers, Gwylym and Braiahn, had turned three in April, about the same time she’d turned nine. Her half-Corisandian cousins, Princess Raichynda and Prince Hektor (universally known as Hektor Merlin, to avoid confusion with his father, his deceased uncle, and his deceased maternal grandfather) would be six in another four months. And her Uncle Zhan and Aunt Mahrya had provided two more cousins—Prince Haarahld Cayleb, a sturdy two and a half-year-old, and Prince Nahrmahn Merlin, who was barely two months old—while Owl had already confirmed that Irys was expecting twins yet again, even if the Pasqualate obstetricians hadn’t heard the heartbeats yet.

And that doesn’t even count all of the Breygarts, especially now that Mairah’s started popping out babies of her own! she thought.

Hauwerd Breygart, the Earl of Hanth and now Duke of Thesmar, and his first wife had produced five children. His second wife, Mairah, was seven years older than Sharleyan. She’d started late and been delayed by the minor fact that he’d been off fighting a war for the first three years of their marriage, but she’d been making up for it since. She’d already produced a son and daughter of her own, and she was due to deliver her third child in October.

All in all, Alahnah could count on a veritable phalanx of support when the time came, including her new baby sister. Princess Nynian Zhorzhet was due any day now, which explained why Father Ohmahr Arthmyn had made the trip to Chisholm with them this year. Arthmyn trusted Sister Fahnycis Sawyairm, who’d midwifed all of Sharleyan’s children, implicitly and it might be only eleven days from Tellesberg to Port Royal aboard HMS Ahlfryd Hyndry k, the Imperial family’s twenty-three-knot yacht, but this pregnancy truly had been harder than the others. That was the reason Arthmyn hadn’t been going to let her out of his sight that far from any properly equipped hospital for two full five-days. It was also the reason Sharleyan was secretly so grateful for Daivyn’s insistence she stay seated and for his insistence on coming to Cherayth rather than subjecting her to the trip to Manchyr, even aboard Ahlfryd Hyhndryk.

“Yes, it is turning into a large family,” she said now, with the soft smile of an only-child princess who’d lost her own father when she was barely twelve. “And I’m glad. But speaking of large families, Hektor, what did you do with the patriarch?”

Patriarch!” Hektor hooted. “Oh, wait till I tell your ancient and decrepit husband you dropped that one on him! Especially when you’re two years more ancient—or would that be ancienter?—than he is!”

Sharleyan’s lips twitched. It was true that at thirty-three (only thirty in the years of long-dead Terra) Cayleb was scarcely an antique. On the other hand, he was approaching patriarch status, given the enthusiastic manner in which his family and its allies had embraced the admonition to be fruitful and multiply.

“Don’t try to change the subject!” She shook a severe finger at him. “Just be a dutiful son and tell me what you did with your father!”

“He’ll be along shortly,” Hektor said without pointing out that everyone in the room—except Daivyn—already knew precisely where Cayleb was, thanks to the Self-Navigating Autonomous Reconnaissance and Communications platforms of an artificial intelligence named Owl. “He and Dunkyn and Admiral Tartarian had a matter they urgently needed to discuss. I believe it had something to do with Glynfych or Seijin Kohdy’s Blend.”

“Well,” Sharleyan said philosophically, “at least he’s considerate enough not to drink the good stuff in front of me now that I’m pregnant again.”

“I think the word you want is ‘prudent,’ not ‘considerate,’” Irys said thoughtfully. “It took Hektor a while to acquire the same degree of prudence.”

“I’m not surprised.” Sharleyan shook her head. Then she squared her shoulders, gripped the arms of her chair and pushed herself steadily—if a bit ponderously—to her feet.

Daivyn popped to his own feet, offering her his arm, and she took it gratefully. This pregnancy really was taking more out of her than the earlier ones had, and she was grateful they’d been in Chisholm, with its cooler climate, for the last three months. Her Chisholmians were, too. In their opinion, it was past time for one of their Empress’ children to be born on their soil for a change.

She smiled at the thought, but then the smile faded as she reflected on all the other reasons it was fortunate she and Cayleb had moved back to the kingdom of her own birth for the half-year mandated by the imperial constitution.

“I think it’s time we went and disturbed those reprobates who are currently enjoying some of the finer things in life denied to the pregnant mothers of their children. Well, not Dunkyn’s children, perhaps, but still. And then the cooks can go ahead and serve, now that the lot of you have finally arrived from Manchyr.” She smiled warmly at all of them. “It’s good to see you,” she said with simple sincerity, “and we have a lot of catching up to do.”

* * * * * * * * * *

Much later that evening, Sharleyan leaned back in the huge armchair beside her bed with her bare feet in her husband’s lap and stretched like a pregnant cat-lizard as his strong fingers worked on her aching ankles and weary calves.

“You really do that very well,” she sighed. “I think I’ll keep you.”

“I’m flattered,” he replied, “but I think you’re drifting a little from the point of this gathering, dear.”

“And if you think any of us are going to argue with her, you have another think coming,” a deep voice said over the invisible plug in his ear. “Some things are more important than others.”

“Or more likely to get us thumped if we say they aren’t, at least,” a voice which sounded suspiciously like Hektor Aplyn-Ahrmahk’s added.

“I don’t understand why everyone is so concerned about my temper,” Sharleyan said a bit plaintively.

“‘Everyone’ isn’t worried about your temper.” Cayleb Ahrmahk leaned forward to kiss her forehead. “Just those of us in range of it.”

“Which I’m not,” Trahvys Ohlsyn put in from far distant Tellesberg. The Earl of Pine Hollow sat gazing out his Tellesberg Palace office window across the sunlit roofs of the Old Charisian capital. “And I’m afraid Cayleb’s right about staying focused in my case, Sharleyan. I’m truly sorry to say that, but I have a Council meeting in about two hours.”

“I know,” Sharleyan admitted. “I think I’m trying to waste time because of how much I really don’t want to think about any of this right now.” She inhaled deeply and looked at Cayleb almost apologetically. “You know I get disgustingly weepy in the last month or so.”

“Love, this is enough to make anybody cry,” Cayleb replied. “Not that Trahvys doesn’t have a point about time marching on. So, does anyone have anything to add to Nahrmahn’s observations?”

There was silence over the heavily stealthed com network connecting the members of the inner circle. It lingered for several moments, and then the deep voice spoke again.

“I don’t think I have anything to add to Nahrmahn’s observations,” Merlin Athrawes said. “He and Owl called this from the beginning, and thanks to the remotes, we even know who the main players are . . . at least for now. But I have to say I don’t like the consequences I see coming one bit.” Cayleb and Sharleyan’s contacts showed his image as he shook his head, his expression grim. “I was afraid all along that the Jihad would make something like this inevitable, but then those idiots in Shang-mi did every damned thing they could to make sure it did! And now that it’s finally happened, it’s going to be even worse than it might have because they managed to keep the lid on it, more or less, for so long.” He shook his head again. “If everyone involved was as organized as Syngpu amd Husan I might be less concerned, but they’ve lit a fire that’s going to be a hell of a lot worse than the one that killed Winter Glory and all his men. I’ll be surprised if Nahrmahn’s not right about this killing at least as many people as the Sword of Schueler did, once the real ‘grassroots’ rebellion starts.”

The slender woman sitting comfortably beside him on the couch in their quarters with her feet tucked up under her lifted her head from his shoulder to look at him.

“You are not going to add this to your ‘Things I Am Responsible For’ list,” she told him severely. “Harchong—especially North Harchong—was a catastrophe waiting to happen before anyone on this planet, aside from you and Nimue, was ever born! Yes, the Jihad finally pushed it over the edge, but this was bound to happen anyway—later, if not sooner—and you know it.”

“You’re right, love.” He smiled crookedly. “And I promise not to beat myself up over it. Not much, anyway. Doesn’t change how bad it’s going to be, though.”

“No, it doesn’t,” Nynian Athrawes acknowledged, and her magnificent eyes darkened. Very few humans in history had ever been tougher minded than Nynian Rychtair Athrawes, but she hadn’t been able to bring herself to watch the unspeakable atrocities being inflicted in Harchong.

“I can’t disagree, either,” Maikel Staynair said from Tellesberg. The Archbishop of Charis’ voice was as powerful as ever, his eye as clear, but the grief in his expression was profound. “I know it’s foolish of me, but I can’t help wishing that anyone who’s suffered as much as Harchongese serfs have would show at least a little compassion!”

“Some of them—a handful of them— have shown compassion, Your Eminence,” Sir Koryn Gahrvai said heavily. “Expecting more than that—?”

His image shrugged on the others’ contact lenses, and the slender, red-haired woman sitting on the other side of his desk nodded somberly.

“I wish we had a magic wand that could make it all stop, but we don’t.” Her eyes—the same deep sapphire as Merlin’s—were dark. “And I know a lot of the people this is happening to, especially the children, don’t deserve it. But some of them do, Maikel.” Her face tightened. “Some of them deserve every damned second of it.”

“Of course they do, but it’s not about ‘just deserts,’ Nimue.” Staynair shook his head sadly. “The fact that some of them don’t deserve it is terrible, but I pray as much for the people torturing and murdering them as I do for the innocent victims. Nothing else in this world can damn and destroy souls as effectively as our need to inflict vengeance and call it justice.”

“You’re probably right,” Earl Coris acknowledged, “but I don’t see any way to change human nature, Maikel. So I suppose the question is whether or not there’s anything we can do to minimize its consequences. If we can’t stop it, is there some way we can at least limit the carnage?”

“Not one I can see yet.” Cayleb cocked an eyebrow at Sharleyan, but his wife only shook her head in sorrowful agreement.

“Officially, we still only have rumors of what’s going on,” the Emperor continued, refocusing his attention on the rest of the group. “I know confirmation’s on the way, and we’re going to have to formulate an official policy of some sort when it gets here, but until it does, there’s nothing we could do even if we could think of something to do.”


"Oh, bother!" said Pooh, as Piglet came back from the dead.
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Re: TFT snippet #8
Post by ksandgren   » Sat Aug 18, 2018 11:42 pm

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Thank You for another outstanding snippet, RFC. 4 and a half months.
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Re: TFT snippet #8
Post by TangoLima   » Sun Aug 19, 2018 12:18 am

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Commander

Posts: 241
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Daivin is almost eighteen,
That makes is an eight or nine year gap.
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Re: TFT snippet #8
Post by Kael Posavatz   » Sun Aug 19, 2018 1:07 am

Kael Posavatz
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Ahlfryd Hyndryk?! :shock:

They named the yacht for Seamount?

I know Charis has that thing about not naming ships for living people. The whole business with HMS Empress of Charis was Cayleb doing a run-around on tradition by naming it for the office.

Please tell me this is Sharley getting her way and not a case of Seamount dying between snippets. Waiting to see what he's going to make explode next is always so amusing.
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Re: TFT snippet #8
Post by Eagleeye   » Sun Aug 19, 2018 1:54 am

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Imperial Palace,
City of Cherayth,
Empire of Charis,
North Harchong.

"North Harchong????" I thought, Cherayth was the Capital of Chisholm ...

But thank you nonetheless, for the new snippet, RFC!
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Re: TFT snippet #8
Post by Donnachaidh   » Sun Aug 19, 2018 2:50 am

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The commas do get a little complicated (too bad it seems odd to separate lists with things like semi-colons when the elements of the list have commas in them). I believe the intent was:

Imperial Place, City of Cherayth, Empire of Charis
AND
North Harchong

(we just haven't gotten the North Harchong portion yet).

Eagleeye wrote:Imperial Palace,
City of Cherayth,
Empire of Charis,
North Harchong.

"North Harchong????" I thought, Cherayth was the Capital of Chisholm ...

But thank you nonetheless, for the new snippet, RFC!
_____________________________________________________
"Sometimes I wonder if the world is run by smart people who are putting us on or by imbeciles who really mean it." - Mark Twain
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Re: TFT snippet #8
Post by thanatos   » Sun Aug 19, 2018 3:15 am

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Kael Posavatz wrote:Ahlfryd Hyndryk?! :shock:

They named the yacht for Seamount?

I know Charis has that thing about not naming ships for living people. The whole business with HMS Empress of Charis was Cayleb doing a run-around on tradition by naming it for the office.

Please tell me this is Sharley getting her way and not a case of Seamount dying between snippets. Waiting to see what he's going to make explode next is always so amusing.


There is another possibility. Given Ahlfryd's proclivities, it is possible that he agreed to officially "die" and spend his time the Cave working on rebuilding the advanced tech base they need. I'm equally sure there's an army base named for Eastshare as well (though in his case, the matter was not up to him).
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Re: TFT snippet #8
Post by zyffyr   » Sun Aug 19, 2018 3:28 am

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The single most important phrase in the whole thing....
runsforcelery wrote:Nynian Rychtair Athrawes
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Re: TFT snippet #8
Post by PeterZ   » Sun Aug 19, 2018 6:35 am

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zyffyr wrote:The single most important phrase in the whole thing....
runsforcelery wrote:Nynian Rychtair Athrawes

Although this was not the least bit surprising.
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Re: TFT snippet #8
Post by jlrice54   » Sun Aug 19, 2018 9:15 am

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zyffyr wrote:The single most important phrase in the whole thing....
runsforcelery wrote:Nynian Rychtair Athrawes


I actually am not a bit surprised about that one. Nor about the number of offspring from the royals. I do hope Seamount is still around and didn’t blow himself up testing a new toy.

Four and a half months.....less one second, and another. Going to be a long wait!
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