For Glory, For Empire
Word Arrives at the Zalamiri Court
Westgate“It works!” the young clerk exclaimed. The Transmitive Exchange Book had been sitting on her desk idle for more than 10 weeks, waiting for some activity on the part of Gael Tovash in possession of the companion book thousands of miles away.
Burtraind Pongoy, the sweaty and hirsute Secretary of Communications for Colonies, Outposts, and Missions, marched out of his office, glowered down at the arcane tome, and muttered, “About time,” holding out his hand.
The shiny young clerk, Fatima Virtel, snapped out of her reverie, opened the TEB, grabbed the lone sheet of paper within, and handed it over to Secretary Pongoy in stride on his way out the door.
“I will be in an important meeting. Do not mention this to anyone.” Snapped Pongoy as he snapped the door shut behind himself.
The two other clerks in the room pretended not to notice that anything at all occurred, but their work had ceased as they both knew the significance that came from the new artifice book.
Secretary Pongoy took the message directly across the hall to the serious and golden-haired Yuliana Roff, High Secretary of Communications, Internal. He tried not to notice her look of distaste as he walked in. She still recalled his unwanted advances when she was his underling in Communications, Unsecured, External, Non-Urgent. She hated his lack of ambition almost as much as his odor and his invasions of her space.
She read the message and snapped, “Come with me.”
High Secretary Roff’s purposeful attack on the stairs parted the waves of clerks and messengers, with Secretary Pongoy failing to follow too close behind.
The well coiffured Zambrose Koimp, Vice Minister of Affairs, Domestic Expansion, was just setting down to mid-morning tea on his office balcony with his newest paramour, the intoxicatingly beautiful Leila Farouzan, Vice Minister of Resources, Arcane, when his paramour, High Secretary Roff, and that toadying Secretary Pongoy, interrupted.
“Pardon us, Zaaa…” High Secretary Yuliana Roff was brought up short seeing the woman she suspected Zambrose of seeing on the side. Collecting herself, she continued. “Zalamiri Internal communication,” she held out the paper to Vice Minister Koimp, in such a way that Vice Minister Farouzan could not see.
“Ah, yes, thank you, Yuliana,” Koimp answered, with a glance far too familiar. He eyed the paper, then handed it to his tea companion. Sensing the oncoming objection from both of his underlings, he simply raised his other hand to stifle them.
“They made it,” Vice Minister Farouzan said with relief. She stood gracefully while handing the paper back. “High Minister Hiltz will want to know at once.”
The two Vice Ministers stared down the Secretaries as they tried to follow, and then continued on together up the Ministerial Stair to one of the seven offices on the top floor.
High Minister Leelund Hiltz was pleased to see the two Vice Ministers enter together. It was his wife’s matchmaking that put them together. “Two rising stars rising together,” was how she put it.
“The two of you look quite satisfied,” the High Minister began. “Is this official, or have you set a date?”
Vice Minister Koimp seized up like a malfunctioning clockwork, dropping the paper, and ceasing all forward motion. Vice Minister Farouzan ignored him and scooped up the crucial piece of paper. Hiltz chuckled at the young man’s discomfort.
“Come, Uncle Leelund, that was cruel,” Vice Minister Farouzan chided him while handing over the paper.
Vice Minister Koimp was able to move once again once the High Minister’s attention was on the paper and not himself. The High Minister’s face fell as he read it, then stood quickly and marched his spare frame rapidly toward the skywalk to the palace.
“Wait here,” was all he said before he was out of site.
High Minister Leelund Hiltz was one of the few allowed free passage throughout most of the Imperial Palace, but even he could not enter the Imperial Bedchambers without being escorted and announced. Outside the chambers of Empress Aliyeh, he hesitated noticeably before nodding to the guards outside her door. The larger Azkaderra guard on his right slipped through the servant’s entrance. That meant the slightly built guard on his left that he was not familiar with was the more dangerous. He smiled at her nervously. She returned his smile knowingly, without feeling, inspecting him up and down.
“Get in here, Uncle Leelund,” came a call through the main doors, and the guard pivoted and opened the door without taking her eyes off him in a graceful, practiced manner.
High Minister Hiltz shuddered slightly as he walked past. "Your sister has brought me a message from… " as he just noticed the others in the room. Two Ministers, and the Emperor himself were in the chamber, all finishing their tea.
Vanik Zalamir, the Fourth Zalamiri Emperor of that name, smiled slyly at the unflappable High Minister being off balance. He was a rakishly handsome, with a perpetual look of mischief. His dressing robe was open casually to the waist. His Imperial Majesty’s third (and favorite) bride, Aliyeh Farouzan Zalamir, was dressed similarly, as if they came straight from bed to the table for tea.
The two Ministers across from them were the two youngest, one with the least, and one with the most, responsibilities. Donval Danoush, Minister Unranked for Sport, was tall, muscular, and a bit dim. He was a notable bagshaw player before too many blows to the head. Tobianta Wyndierion, Minister Exceptional for Tumkayal Affairs represented the interests of the Azkaderra from the Vale of Suwesyin in the name of her aunt, the ruling mater of the Vale.
“Your Majesties,” Hiltz began, bowing low. “Ministers,” he continued with a lesser bow. Tobianta stood and fold-bowed herself until her head was nearly on the floor, most deferential, even raising a bemused eyebrow from the Emperor. Hiltz was glad to have done many favors for the Tumkayal and their mater over the years. He reaped respect within court every time one of them did that.
Donval Danoush had not moved by the time the bow was done, and the Azkaderra practically had to lift him from his chair before he got the hint that he should leave. He at least gave a simple bow to everyone from the doorway.
Hiltz checked the room once more for prying ears before crossing to the table and holding the paper out to be read or taken. Empress Aliyeh was possibly even more beautiful than her sister, but Hlitz still thought he had married the best of the Farouzan women 19 years ago.
She took the letter and read it first, a broad smile on her face. She had always liked tales of exotic places like Areiyistis as a child. Vanik read it last, and he surprisingly got a little misty-eyed. “Gael. I recognize his hand. He lives.”
Composing himself. “Send them what they require, no later than tomorrow night’s tide. Tell the House only about the disposition of their ships.”
To His Imperial Majesty, Vanik IV Zalamir
Reliant arrived 13 days ago intact some illness among them after arrival.
Steadfast arrived yesterday after being caught in storm, then running aground in shallows 4 days south at another bay; possibly workable for further colonies. Numerous sick, injured and dead, including Captain Rehan Beiruni being poisoned.
Whereabouts of Constant unknown; known fire and storm damage, plus Flenouwaye pirates in the area.
Dense vegetation on both sides of river, but south side of mouth most workable for first settlement. Clearing and exploration will begin as soon as supplies and shelter are secured.
Only sign of others is an abandoned dugout.
Reliant will return once crew have recovered and more supplies gathered, no more than two weeks hence. Steadfast needs extensive repairs before undergoing an ocean voyage, and is currently lacking crew.
Please send FM as soon as possible. Medical supplies, draft animals, and master leather craftsman requested to be added.
—Carmen Duellos, Viceroy to His Imperial Majesty Vanik IV, New Salam Colony