Tales around Mirateia 25

The room was lit up by three chandeliers that provided some much-needed light in a room that would otherwise have been close to completely dark. The light fell onto a long and large table in the middle of the room. Around the table were Azran, Ira, some of the province's ministers, and the city's elder.   "Minister, how are the finances coming along?" Azran said, looking at the minister in charge of the province's finances sitting to his left side of the table.   "My lord, the taxes have almost finished being collected. We still need the taxes from the southern section, but I have been informed that those will arrive by the end of the week." the minister answered.   "Good; what about you, elder? Any things of note happening in the city?" Azran asked, looking at the city's elder.   "Generally, the city is doing well, my lord. There have only been a handful of cases with crimes being conducted, and they have all been handled by the administrators of the city districts." the elder answered.   "Good," Azran said and continued to the person sitting opposite the elder. "How about our military? How are they doing?" Azran asked the military minister.   "Well, the number of people that wants to join has slowed down, but our city guard has around 50 recruits, and if I may my lord, I suspect the low number of criminal cases is partly due to the increase in recruits, but I think the main reason is the Imperial Guards you brought with you from the capital, I think that the thieves have been scared a bit with those around, not to mention that having the Imperials guarding around the manor allowed us to free up several guards to other places. Likewise, the people wanting to join our auxiliaries have increased so that we could field a third cohort if we get permission from the emperor." the minister said.   "I will send a request to the emperor asking for the needed permission," Azran said, nodding. Throwing a quick gaze towards Ira, who had been unusually quiet during the meeting, he could see that her attention was focused on a small piece of paper. Judging from the type of paper, it was a letter brought to her by her Carrier Falcon Victricia, he had not seen the bird the last few days.   "Well, I guess that this is all for today. Thank you for coming,", Azran said, where the council members all rose and, one by one, left the room, leaving Ira and Azran alone. When the door closed, Azran got up and went to a small table next to one of the windows, poured some wine into a small glass, picked up a bunch of grapes, and returned to the table where Ira was still sitting. He placed the glass in front of her. Still, she didn't react to it, so after sitting in his chair again, he picked a grape, rolled it between his fingers while looking at it and threw it at Ira, hitting her right on the nose.   "Hey, what was that?" Ira said, shaking her head and rubbing her nose.   "Bullseye," Azran said, chuckling. "What has gotten you so occupied that you missed an entire meeting?" Azran said.   Ira looked at the paper once more before handing it over to Azran, who took it and leaned back in his chair before reading it.  
Im surprised to learn that father have assigned you to a province. Im doing a tour of the empire and thought that I would pass by to see what backwater province you have been given.
Prince Osril.
"Who does he think he is? Saying that he is surprised a... and... Does he not even know that it's not my province? It's yours, for Mara's sake. It just irritates me that he acts like this. He thinks he is better than everyone, especially me, and I fear he might not abide by our father's decision," Ira said, frustrated.   "Well, this might be a problem. I must admit that I don't know much about the prince, not outside of stories and other gossips, but judging from your reaction, I can assume that your relationship is not the best. Also, what decision by the emperor?" Azran said, placing the paper back on the table.   "The emperor, my fathers, decided to make me the heir to the empire, not him. As you know, the emperor can freely choose who of his children should follow in his footstep and for reasons he has not told me, but I suspect that this might have something to do with it," Ira said, pulling in a tot of hair between two fingers.   "I guess we must make the best out of his visit. Do you know when he will arrive?" Azran asked while picking up a grape.   "Well, as you saw, the idiot didn't say when he would expect to be here, typically him. But some of my scouts tell me that he and his party are about three days from the city, so to be safe, I will say we have about two days to be ready," Ira said before finishing the glass of wine.   The following two days were busy with some servants in the manor cleaning the building from top to bottom. In the meantime, other servants were out in the city and the surrounding farms and villages buying fresh meat and vegetables for the feast when Prince Osril arrived. The city's main streets were cleaned and repaired as much as possible. From time to time, Ira went around saying that people were putting too much effort into it and that her brother didn't deserve this much effort, to which Azran just answered that it's better that they placed this much effort into it because if stories were true, they could be in problems if they angered the prince too much as he did have a significant support base and that it, therefore, would be unwise to anger him.   Three days later, Prince Osril would arrive, and the city guards would line the main street as he rode in and, to many of the onlookers, the whole thing could have led their minds towards a triumph through one of the larger cities back in history that they might have heard stories about. The temperature was unusually low despite being in the middle of the summer season. Despite the cold weather, many of the city's people had come out to watch, and it wasn't every day that their relatively small city would host two royals simultaneously. Some people found it quite fascinating that such significant events had found their way to their city, while others were not so happy and thought that all this would come crashing down on them now that their city had been put on the map.   Watching the possession come closer to the manor, Ira and Azran stood, waiting for the prince to reach them.   "That's a lot of soldiers, more than I expected", Ira whispered, leaning towards Azran.   "Looks to be around one and a half to two full cohorts", Azran answered, and Ira could feel the tenseness in his voice.   "How many do we have in or around the city?" she asked.   "with the Imperial Guard and the city guard? Not enough," Azran said.   Their conversation was cut short as Prince Osril entered the gate to the manor, with only what was assumed to be his bodyguards following him through the gate, with the rest of the escort staying outside.   "Greetings, Prince Osril; it is an honour to have you visit our humble city," Azran said with a humble and formal voice, giving the greeting typical of an Imperial Guard. Ira was holding herself in a royal pose to his right, but her facial expression didn't leave much to the imagination; it was a mixture of anger and disappointment, anger from her brothers' actions and disappointment from him going against the wishes of their father. Azran expected her to say something, but Ira stood there staring at her brother.   Greetings to you, lord Azran, and to you, dear sister." Prince Osril said, looking first at Azran with a typical royal gaze of superiority only made more prominent by his mind. Still, when he shifted his gaze to Ira, there was a short war of the wills before Prince Osril lowered his gaze, clearly having lost the fight.   With the greetings over, some short negotiations were done, consisting of Prince Osril asking for housing for his escort within the grounds of the manor, but Azran refused his saying that the prince had nothing to fear and that the guards of the manor and city would protect him. Still, Prince Osril insisted, and it was agreed that one-third of the troops could stay in and around the training grounds, but the rest would have to set up camp outside the city.   Later that evening, during the feast that had been prepared in honour of the prince. Some of the more prominent people from the province were at the table, like some ministers. Still, a prominent merchant was also present alongside the leader of the Imperial Guards section in the province, plus some of the officers from prince Osrils' troops escorting him. Azran was placed at the end of the table, with Ira placed to his right side and prince Osril at the other end.   "I must say I didn't expect this from a commoner," Prince Osril said, directed at Azran but meant for everyone to pay attention to it.   "If I may, my lord, what is it that you weren't expecting?" Azran answered calmly and subtly lifted his right hand, stopping Ira from answering.   "Oh, everything really, from this dinner, I must admit that the food is quite delicious. From what I have observed and what my sources have told me, this province is doing quite well for such a backwater area. However, I suspect that it must be my dear sister doing as a commoner like you clearly would not have the skills to run this place as effectively as it seems to be. Prince Osril answered before taking a sip of his wine.   "Im honoured that you enjoy the food; we made sure to source only the best products, my lord. and I'm honoured by the comments of the state of the province, and princess Ira has indeed been a great source of knowledge and advice that such a humble commoner like myself could draw upon when I was tossed into this crazy world of governing." Azran said before nodding towards Prince Osril. "Now, if you would excuse me, I believe it's quite late so I will retire for the night. Please continue to enjoy the evening and the wine," Azran continued before standing up, giving a respectful nod towards the other guests and one directed towards the prince.   Once the door closed, Azran released a breath he didn't know he had been holding. Leaning out of one of the open windows, he heard the door to the dining room open and closed again shortly after. He felt someone lean against him with their arms around him.   "I'm impressed, although knowing you, I probably shouldn't be," Ira said in a low soft voice.   "What for?" Azran asked.   "He was trying to get you to do or say something he could use against you, trying to provoke you", she answered.   "Oh, he did provoke me, Ira, but the thing is," Azran said, giving a small chuckle ", You won't get far in the legions if you can't deal with idiotic superiors."   "I guess you are right," Ira said, laughing.   They stood there looking out of the open window, looking out over Nicia and listening to the sounds of a city that was half asleep. They stood like this for some time before Ira got up and told Azran she was returning to her room while ruffling his hair.   The following day Azran woke up early and, after grabbing some breakfast from the kitchen and surprising the kitchen staff who were working on making fresh bread, after a short conversation, making sure that the staff and their families were doing alright, Azran walked to his office trying to get a headstart on some work and working on the letter to the emperor asking for permission to raise another cohort of auxiliaries. A letter he had been putting off for the last couple of days. After a few hours of attempting to formulate the letter, he gave up for now, although he was somewhat proud of the title of the letter he had written. Probably his prettiest handwriting to date, he thought. Afterwards, he picked up a book he had been reading and opened it to the page he had reached. He got through a chapter before the door opened, and Prince Osril walked in, followed by two of his guards, closely followed by two of Azrans Imperial Guards.   "Sorry, my lord, we were unable to stop them," one of the Imperials said to which Azran nodded understanding.   "What can I help you with, my lord?" Azran asked with a slight hint of annoyance in his voice.   "I wanted to ask you about something important in private", Prince Osril said, looking back towards the Imperials.   "They stay as long as yours are here, and if I may, your highness, you don't seem like the sort of person that would go anywhere without your guards," Azran said firmly.   "Very well" Prince Osril walked over to the bookshelf and began to inspect the books. "As you know, my father is not getting any younger, and soon, a new emperor will sit on the throne, so as a lord, no matter how lowly one might be, there will come a day were you will have to pledge loyalty to the new emperor," Prince Osril said.   For a minute, Azran stood there stirring at the prince, and the Imperial Guards stood there shocked over what they had just heard.   "Your highness, you realize what you are talking about is damm near treason? Yes, the emperor is getting old, but from what I Know about your people, he still has several decades left of good rule," Azran said, walking towards the prince standing next to him "and for my loyalty? My loyalty is to the legitimate heir to the throne, the one chosen by the emperor himself" he continued while rearranging two books.   "What? You can't mean that you would rather have her as your empress? she is complete... hmf" Prince Osril was cut off when his head was pressed into the bookshelf by a pissed-off Azran. When Osril opened his eyes and looked into Azrans, he saw an amount of rage he had never seen before. Around them, Prince Osrils guards were trying to come to help but were stopped by the Imperial Guards, placing themself between the two guards and Azran and the prince.   "Let me make myself perfectly clear. My loyalty is to princess Ira and the empire! If you decide to go against that, be sure that I will fight against you in every way possible" Azran paused, letting what he said sink in during this. Prince Osril looked deep in thought until he looked back at Azran, who was less than a hands length away, with open eyes. "yes, I see you came to the same fact, even if it means I have to raise my banner towards you." Azran said before letting go of the prince and taking a few steps back, adjusting his clothes.   After having returned to his senses, Prince Osril turned, himself now angry after having been treated like this, to face Azran and was about to say something when he saw the situation of his guards being held back by the Imperials, who had not even drawn their weapons but it was the expression on Azrans face that made him decide it probably wasn't the best trying to say something at the moment. Instead, he adjusted his clothes and, without a word, walked out of the room, followed by his guards.   "One of you, go get the princess," Azran said.   It didn't take long before the doors to the office flew open again, but this time the person that came through the doors was a lot more welcome than some of the recent persons that had left the room.   "Do you mind telling me what just happened, why Osril came storming and disturbing my training, claiming that you shoved him into the bookshelf after he had asked you some questions about the province?" Ira came walking in and began speaking.   "heh, I'm sorry I shouldn't laugh as it's an important matter, but what you said was more or less true, but the questions he asked weren't about the province," Azran said, sitting on the edge of the table.   "Well, what did he say then?" Ira asked.   Azran then told about his encounter with Prince Osril, how the prince wanted the two Imperial Guards to leave the room and didn't indicate that his guards would also leave, and how he had indirectly hinted at his plan to claim the throne when the emperor died going against the wishes of the emperor.   "My loyalty would be to you, Ira." Azran finished. In the meantime, Ira had moved from the door to stand in front of Azran.   "You don't have to say more. I can imagine what my brother said when he heard that, and I'm not surprised by your reaction," Ira said, taking Azran's head in her hands and pressing her forehead against his.   They stood there for some time before Ira let go and said that she better talk to her brother, making sure he wasn't going to do something stupid. Maybe it was because of the previous events, or the break had done him well; Azran finished the letter to the emperor asking permission to raise new auxiliaries. However, instead of the one extra cohort, he had asked for permission to raise two, it was a gamble, but it would either pay off, or he would have something to negotiate with down the line. He then called for a servant to bring the letter to the Falconer , so it could be sent to Pearlhal.   Some hours later, he heard that the prince and his escort had left Nicia , saying that they had to get on the road again so they could reach their next target within a reasonable timeframe.

Cover image: by Gayle Porter Hoskins


Please Login in order to comment!
21 Feb, 2023 17:07

What a lovely brother!
Also silly question, choose between me, or my sister (who is also trying to be your girlfriend). How did he expect Azran to choose for him? XD

21 Feb, 2023 17:45

Nobody ever claimed he was the sharpest tool in the box XD But I would think that he knew Azran was unlikely to accept him as ruler but he wanted to have it confirmed :)