“Vassa” mopped his brow with a handkerchief. Two brawny soldiers stood at the bottom of the gangplank.They wore orichalcum breastplate, gauntlet, and greaves over cotton tunics. Their hair was braided with red and yellow feathers, and each held a heavy orichlcum pole-axe easily in one hand. They watched the old man impassively.
“How much longer?” he asked, exasperated.
One of the soldiers shrugged. Neither spoke.
Looking back along the quay, Vassa could make out a small knot of people. Four soldiers, a präst of the assembly of Courage. And what looked suspiciously like a … surely not.
His heart fell. This was bad, very bad indeed. Even form Zemeh.
Vassa could see that the soldiers formed a tight square around a woman he recognised. She looked bruised, and her hands were shackled. Olivia Burano di Sarvos, barely off the boat six months.
As the group approached, Vassa’s initial suspicion was confirmed. The two figure in emerald and green robes was a Representative - effectively a Senator, one of the representative body that ruled Sumaah in the name of the people. The reality of course was more complex - the House of the People did little without the support an approval of the präster. Yet they maintained the division between their two houses fiercely. Religiously, almost. As always, when in a tight spot, Vassa found it hard to avoid making little jokes in his head.
He discarded his early assessment of very bad, and replaced it with exceptionally bad.
The knot of figures stopped at the bottom of the gangplank. The soldiers stepped aside, forming a semicircle around Olivia, and two of them persuaded her to climb the gangplank with their spears. She had little difficulty making the climb with her wrists manacled - she had a dancer’s grace - and when she reached the top she turned called back demanding fluently that the manacles be removed. The courageous präst snapped back that the manacles would not be removed until they were out of sight of land and if she tried to swim back then she would be food for the mososari and it would serve her right. Vassa noted with interest that the präst had a black eye, and a recent one at that. She did not look happy.
“Go below.” he snapped to Olivia, who looked set to start shouting back. She turned to Vassa and opened her mouth to argue but he met her gaze and growled low in his throat “I am not in the mood, di Sarvos. Go. Below.”
The younger woman shut her mouth, and stalked across the deck. He ignored her.
He turned his attention back to the Sumaah on the quayside. The soldiers had stepped back, allowing Representative Puala to stand at the very bottom of the gangplank, gazing up at him. At her side coiled a vicious looking lizard the size of a dog, its brightly coloured scales polished to almost mirror sheen. He had encountered such nasty little brutes before - they were capable of delivering a painful bite, and while their venom was not lethal it could cause nasty hallucinations. That Puala favoured one as a companion did not surprise him. She was a savvy, dangerous woman who knew the value of making a powerful impression. She could smile while delivering the most egregious insults, and Vassa respected that.
She was not smiling now.
She spoke quickly, fluidly. Her voice was steady but her words were full of suppressed anger.
“You are all hereby exiled from Zemeh, and from Sumaah. If you attempt to return, you will be tried as the agents of a hostile power, a criminal offense for which you can be hanged. The assembly of Vigilance as permitted you to remain so long only because there was nothing that you could learn that would harm our people. Do not believe that courtesy will be extended to you again.”
He nodded his understanding. He was a little surprised at how thorough the Censors had been. Every Regarrio agent he know of in Zemeh had been rounded up and put on this ship. He had known that they had recognised him years ago - had enjoyed the lazy tolerance with which he was treated by the Vigilant präster. He would miss the heated debates about the nature of virtue, and the threat of Asavea. He had not realised the entire network - such as it was - had been compromised and wondered idly if there was a traitor among them.
“Furthermore, you are to tell your Imperial masters that as of sunset today a state of war exists between the Republic of Sumaah and the Empire. Any attempt by Imperial ships to enter our territorial waters will be treated as an act of piracy and dealt with appropriately under the law. Likewise, any of your vessels encountered in the waters of the Archipelago by our warships will be treated as Asavean vessels.”
“You have treated us with contempt. Our requests of fair conduct have been ignored. You have insulted us again and again, and even in the face of our final warning you still refused to give us the same respect you show to the tyrants of Asavea. You have refused to acknowledge that we seek the same virtuous life that you claim to seek. You have sought to trample our pride, and that will not stand.”
“Furthermore, you have made an inhuman creature an exemplar of the faith, demeaning the Way, placing one who does not possess a soul in the company of the exalted. You have befouled all those who should be treated with respect, and you have ignored our pleas to engage in discourse regarding this decision.”
“We - who should have been united by faith - are now at war.”
“We are not the allies of your enemies, nor the enemies of your allies. We will not come to your benighted lands as conquerers because that is not our Way. Yet whatever friendship might have existed between us is over.”
“We cannot overlook the crimes you have committed against out shared faith. Our assemblies are in agreement. They denounce your entire Synod as heretical. We do not doubt that your people will ignore our judgement for they are lead in their faith by hyenas. Yet we issue this warning. We will not keep our judgement quiet. Within the month, every other nation will know that you mock the faith you claim to hold. We shall ensure that all those who look to the seven virtues for guidance are aware that you are insincere in your beliefs. You may consider this a little thing, but believe me when I say that it is not. Our faith is without question. Yours is without substance.”
“Go now, and return to your Empire. When your actions demonstrate that you have repented your unvirtuous deeds, and finally deign to speak to us as equals, we will send an ambassador. Until such time no Sumaah citizen will come to your Empire. These are the words of the House of the People.”
“You may go now.”
Before Vassa could do anything more than open his mouth, Representative Puala had turned on her heel and was already striding back up the quayside towards Zemeh. Her companions hung back for a few moments, talking in quiet voices; then the präst raised her voice and called to the captain, telling him to cast off and not return until his cargo had been delivered.
Vassa lent on the railings as the ship began to glide down the river towards the ocean. He chewed his beard for a few minutes, as he thought through the implications of what the Representative had said, the implications for the Regario Dossier - and the implications of several weeks at sea with an angry Olivia Burano di Sarvos.
“Well, bugger.” he said, with some feeling.
And then he turned and went below to explain to the others that they had some bad news for the Empire.
Trade winds roundup! You can learn more about international affairs that will be of especial interest to fleet captains here → profounddecisions.co.uk/empi … prosperity
To summarise in a TL;DR that will miss all the nuances:
SUMAAH - Declaration of war, denounce Synod as heretics and promise to tell everyone
COMMONWEALTH - Getting irritated with the lack of embassy, selling artisans oil to everyone else
PRINCIPALITIES OF JARM - All sorts of shennanigans, but mostly at the moment waiting for some formal apology letters. Also something about a thousand slaves who don’t speak any Imperial turning up on the docks in three months looking for somewhere to live. Probably nothing.
ASAVEAN ARCHIPELAGO - if the Empire doesn’t want their white granite they know someone who does, apparently
SARCOPHAN DELVES - just doing their thang
#Ithinivesolenthispicturefromconan, #itsallgo, #withtheselittlegoldenballsambassadoryouarereallyspoilingus