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  #31  
Old 08-07-2019, 11:29 AM
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The Queen of Heliandria

The Queen of HeliandriaAs more ideas were laid before the Prince to consider, the less he appeared to react. Like an unseen balance, his mind weighed what was being presented to him, providing little in the way of approval or denial. But the more astute members of his makeshift council would know the strategy… although he was, indeed, weighing the pros and cons in silent deliberation, he was stalling. It was an open invitation for discussion, true, but it was discussion he intentionally wanted to buy him time. But given the growing chaos on the docks, hidden by only that thin veil of blue linen that served as both canopy and walls, it was unclear just what he was trying to buy time for.

But as Luvon began, targeting the Prince and his delay, Matthaios' gaze was brought up in a quiet warning. However, no retort was offered. Instead, he listened… at least for a time. For behind the chimera, there was a notable shuffle of bronze greaves against the olive wood of the deck. Seeking out the source, the Prince watched as a half-dozen royal hoplites, denoted by their veil silk cloaks dyed aquamarine, stepped onto the deck of the Atlas. At the center of their tight formation, walking in almost perfect unison with her loyal guardians, was Damaris, Queen of Heliandria. With a faint motion of her hand, her guards fanned out, providing her an open path to the table where the group waited.

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There was something that set the elf apart from all others on the island. Perhaps it was her Amaranthine heritage, yet unsettling beauty that rivaled even that of other Empyrean elves. Her silver hair, gleaming like wisps of moonlight, contrasted against her dark, nearly black irises. A soft complexion, her skin was fairer than most Heliandrians, emphasized further by the midnight black of her chiton dress, embossed with subtle geometric patterns of gold along the edges. A translucent shawl of ivory silk draped her shoulders and arms, hinting at her slim figure beneath. A remarkably simple, single gold chain adorned her neck, with a smooth, obsidian stone pendant in the shape of an arrowhead. Her hair was held back in what looked to be at least a half-dozen braids, woven together in an intricate pattern with gold leaves, resembling an ivy vine coiling through her hair. Despite her regal appearance, however, there was something more to her than just lavish elegance. There was a command.

Pausing just several feet behind Luvon, Damaris listened to the suggestion, her lips gently pursed and one finely-manicured eyebrow arched. As the chimera huffed, dramatically moving away from the table, she followed his movement to the edge of the deck. She took in a controlled breath then, turning away as he began to heave, and placed herself at the edge of the table where Luvon once stood. Ignoring the others there, she looked directly to Matthaios, lifting her chin in just the slightest.

"My Queen," Matthaios said in Celestial, placing his left arm over his chest as he bowed his head. Just behind him, Halima followed suit, bowing her own head. Lady Messene, however, offered little more than a tilt of her head.

"Where is the King?" She asked, her Celestial near perfect. "I expected him to be here by now."

Pausing, the Prince took in a smooth breath, failing to break eye contact with the Queen. "He is at the temple," he said after several moments. "Preparing a sacrifice to the Gods."

Damaris inhaled deeply, providing a slight glimmer of frustration. "Then perhaps you would be wise to send for him?" She looked to his surrounding cadre. "Your group of chimeras? Surely they could secure a safe passage for the King to the Trident?"

"He will not come," Matthaios replied flatly.

Arching her brow once more, Damaris shook her head. "I do not think sacrificing a goat will appease Belos now. He must know that," she said as she folded her arms beneath her shawl.

It was at that moment that Matthaios finally broke their gaze, looking down at the table of parchment, scrolls, and tomes. "My father does not think the Gods are angry with a goat," he said slowly. "He believes them to be angry with him." Reluctantly, he brought his sight back up to the Queen, watching her intently as his words sunk in.

At first, Damaris did not appear to fully grasp the meaning of the Prince's words. Her lips parted, prepared to offer her own retort. But before those first few syllables could be uttered, she stopped. It was as if a visible chill swept her body in that moment, breaking apart her perceived confidence and command. Decades of power and influence noticeably crumbled before her with Matthaios' choice selection of words. She blinked once, then a second time, as if suddenly forced to make a dangerous calculation that she wasn't prepared for.

"And so the burden of the throne has fallen to you?" She asked carefully.

Matthaios did not immediately react. But Messene did. With clear pride brightening her wrinkled expression, she smiled a joyless smile. "He is the Crown Prince of Heliandria," she stated slowly and cleanly.

Looking to the human woman, Damaris watched her carefully for a handful of moments before looking back to Matthaios. She was silent, unmoving… for her mind was racing, pulling in a thousand different directions. Calculating. Prioritizing.

"You are still their Queen," Matthaios said, a statement that seemed to surprise both Damaris and Messene, judging by the manner in which they both tilted their heads and narrowed their eyes.

As if relieved, albeit temporarily, by his chosen words, Damaris nodded once. "We cannot load the ships as the chimera suggested," she stated with authority, referring to Luvon's idea.

"And why not?" Matthaios asked, concealing any emotional reaction he may have had.

"Who do you think lives closest to the docks?" She asked pointedly, allowing a few seconds to pass before continuing. "The wealth of Heliandria is not just locked up in coin and silk, but our people. Load these ones first," she said as she gently motioned to the crowds gathering at the docks. "And you load the least skilled, the least educated, and the least healthy of the population. Those with valuable connections, those with wealth that extends beyond this island, those with essential skillsets, the people we need to establish a new city all live further up, away from the smell of the harbor."

She looked briefly to Melas then before returning to Matthaios. "Melas has already told me the numbers. The slaves and laborers, the vast majority of these people gathered here, will overwhelm the capacity of our fleet. I understand the sentiment of not wanting to place any one life above the value of another," she stated, though it was somewhat unclear how sincere she was. "But if Heliandria is to survive, we need our best with us. And these are not our best, no matter how grand or righteous of an argument you or anyone here can make."

Matthaios parted his lips then as if to respond, but Damaris purposefully continued.

"Loading those closest to the ships is an easy solution to an exceptionally complex and difficult situation," she said as she looked to Luvon once more. "It allows you to wipe your hands clean, giving fate and chance the power... and the blame when it all falls apart." She shook her head in clear disapproval, briefly glancing to the lone human councilor, as if aware that the original idea came from the freedman. "We need our nobility, Matthaios. We need our exemplaries, our artisans. Our shipwrights, architects, engineers, our scholars, and yes, even our poets. We need our philosophers, our teachers, and our hoplites. Do you think our priests and healers are in that crowd, desperate to abandon the city and their people?" She said, pointing again towards the near-deafening cries of the massive throng. "No. They are out there, in Sunveil, tending to the wounded and frail. They won't be here. But it is those people we must seek out and save first. If our ships are fast enough, Gods willing, we can return and save more."

Taking in a deep breath, Matthaios leaned against his spear as he looked away from Damaris. The conflict within him was evident enough, but he appeared locked in place, unwilling to shift one way or another.

"Even I am surprised to say it," came the words of Messene, breaking that momentary gap in discussion. "But I, for one, agree with the Queen. Matthaios, if you intend for us to simply be a fleet of skillless refugees, then do as these two visionaries have suggested -- save these desperate, terrified people. I'm sure the 40,000 slaves and laborers we save will stay undyingly loyal to you as we seek out a new home in a hostile world that wants to see you dead," she stated with obvious cynicism. "Surely, the Celestial nobles of Empyrea will see the value in your compassion and consider you one of their equals. Gods, the archon of Silverwall may be so inspired and touched by your kindness, that he'll ask you to guide his people and usher in a new era of prosperity?"

"You've made your point, Grandmother," Matthaios stated finally, his words soft… defeated, perhaps. But it was enough to still her. Frustrated, he closed his eyes for several seconds, only to open them moments later. There was a fire burning there now, one that had not existed before. Looking up to his council, he shook his head. "Do not choose this moment to be silent. Heliandria is not lost. Speak."

DM NotesWell... my small post turned into another monster. Ugh. Sorry, not sorry! Please note that this is just a... umm... flavor (?) post. It is not intended to move the round on or end the debate. It is my way as your DM warning you in-game about the potential ramifications of your choices.

At this stage, I am not going to have NPCs make rolls to convince the Prince. Maybe eventually in the future (and maybe only if a PC has made a deal with one). But honestly, I'd rather NPCs serve as sounding boards and idea generators, rather than "voters" like the PCs.

My "main" DM post is still scheduled for Friday or Saturday where the round may move on and the debate may end. But I'm predicting it might get extended for one more week (giving everyone two new actions to take), judging on what I've seen so far. But I guess we'll see what happens!
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  #32  
Old 08-07-2019, 01:31 PM
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The Queen of Heliandria - AshayetAshayet couldn't help but wonder at Luvon's sudden lack of diplomatic finesse. He wished to establish their ultimate destination, and presumably he had strong opinions on which one should be chosen. But the manner in which he grew petulant over the rejection of the topic was astonishingly unsubtle. He was perfectly correct that the choice of destination constrained what was right to do here and now - but did he not see that this logic worked in the other direction as well, that by arguing for one or the other course of action at this point, he could constrain, if he so wished, the range of options that would appear sensible, or even possible, later on? Instead of following such a more indirect, but wiser and less resisted route, he insisted on venting his frustration at what he had probably perceived as a sleight, and decided, in conclusion, to promote an absurd position simply to protest. It was really rather unbecoming, and she wished dearly Luvon weren't making such a nuisance of himself. He would require some... treatment afterwards.

Aristides had suggested the same thing, but at least he had presented reasons. Ashayet wasn't quite sure how good they were. What was more apt to cause a panic and make people trample over each other, making the evacuation anything but orderly - that some would realise they were doomed, or that everyone would realise the had a chance if only they weren't among the slowest? It seemed to her the second, but masses of people, treated as a natural phenomenon, were not exactly an object that she could consider herself an expert on. But then, on the other hand, did it matter whether the unfortunate died under others' feet or whether they suffocated or burnt? Perhaps the man had a point. Perhaps this wasn't the right point of attack to nudge history.

And yet her knowledge of the world would not allow her to resign herself to a choice that did not recognise the differential value that individuals held for a nation, and it was not right to leave the fate of a nation to random accident. It was true that all had their value and had their place - but some of the roles in a society came with less stringent demands and were easier to replace. The wealth of a society was determined by knowledge - it was just not the knowledge in books that mattered so much as the knowledge in the heads of its most gifted people. Her own suggestion already made a great sacrifice in this regard in the interest of maintaining a simplicity that gave it some hope at practicality. It was unfortunate, though not entirely unexpected, that nobody saw the appeal in it, involving, as it did, an odd layering of priorities in such a way that reversing their order would lead to a profoundly different outcome. Perhaps she ought to have elaborated further, pointed out that humans who also happened to be free citizens were a particular asset. It was not just because they reproduced quickly - rabbits did that, and they were rather useless for building a nation as far as she knew. It was because it wasn't pure accident that chose those who could rise above the station of their ancestors, but, in some part not to be neglected, craftiness and competence.

It wasn't that these weren't hard problems that one could reasonably have divergent opinions about; they were, and Ashayet wasn't even quite sure that her own preferences were the right ones. The considerations that went into the calculus were manifold, and it was perfectly thinkable that she might have missed some. But she couldn't deny finding a discussion under time pressure in a group of people half of whom were not making sense to be a rather exasperating experience. And at the same time she found herself despairing of her ability to think it all through in time and come to a clear conclusion to present in convincing form.

The events did not stop for her to ponder, they rushed forward most fatefully. The Queen's arrival came as a relief to Ashayet, not because she expected that the elven woman's wisdom or authority would resolve the situation, but because she much preferred to have another potential source of trouble in her direct view and, one might say, sphere of influence. It was equally much of a relief to learn how little awareness the Queen herself had of the situation and, in particular, her husband's fate. It meant that her actions were not so much an assertion of power as a genuine attempt to help. In all her time in Heliandria, Ashayet had never really quite seen through Damaris, the Queen of two generations had always remained an had always remained something of an unknown risk. Ashayet had always suspected that her decision to marry Therison was an attempt to keep elves closer to power, but there were also other thinkable motivations under which such a course of action was sensible, indeed admirable, and the Queen had been quite impenetrable to any attempt to discern or elicit the truth.

Ashayet listened in silence and observed, absorbed everything, and pondered.

Then, when Matthaios exhorted them to, she spoke. "The Queen is, indeed, right", she pronounced simply, but with an air of authority. It was so simple a sentence that even those whose command of Celestial was limited would understand. Only after a short, but weighty pause did she proceed to elaborate in Lucent. The Queen's appearance had bestowed direction on the debate, and had perhaps roused Matthaios from his temporary depression, brought about by the weight of the events and the plethora of choices that was thrust upon him. Ashayet intended to make use of these favourable circumstances. "It is not alone the number of warm bodies that makes a nation.

"The soldiers among us know well that a small bunch of capable men, led wisely, can far outmatch a force superior in number, and that the largest armies are feeble when commanded ineptly. The history of our Realm is riddled with examples.

"The scholars among us, I ask to consider only block and tackle, devised by the mind of one man, and yet contributing the strength of thousands.

"And those who are experienced in the crafts are well aware that he who knows why he does a thing can multiply his force by teaching others, while those who have only ever acted on commands will continue to do so, and stand idle when none is received.

"The situation does not allow us to pick our favourites, to keep the proportions we might think ideal for a society, to count heads of every class and sort. But that is not reason to throw our hands up in the air and give up, leave the matter to chance or, worse, to man's animal nature. We should not wish to lead a nation of those who were unscrupulous enough to trample others to death beneath their feet in the storm on the harbour. And while we would be wise to take the exigencies of the circumstances into account, we are not entirely powerless. We have those who wield weapons, and make themselves into our weapon; who willingly let themselves be guided by our will for the good of the nation, and for a future they themselves are prepared never to lay eyes upon.

"I doubt we will have time to agree on a set of preferences so detailed as what dear Briaerys proposes, nor would we have the luxury of implementing it according to our will. Let us pay our tribute to the urgency of the situation, and keep things simple. Let us agree, at the very least, to prioritise our actual citizens, as is their right. May fate and luck decide among them.

"And because we can hope for better, let us add one more aspect for the betterment of our future that does little to complicate the matter, easily assessed, as it is, at a mere glance. Numbers are not everything, and they are not enough to be the solve determinant by far. But they are worth something. Those among humankind who have risen to be accepted among us as equal citizens will be our most valuable resource of all, for they will nurse their grandchildren while elvenkind still mourns our lost sons.

"I'm sure each of you will have another preference, a modification to suggest in one or the other direction, and with good reasons to support it, too, reasons that, in better circumstances, we would weigh as is due. But I beseech you to not now allow us to lose ourselves in details and intricacies that will not be preserved beyond the first contact with practical reality."

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Old 08-09-2019, 04:07 AM
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Evander
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The Queen’s arrival helped Evander break free from his apathetic, almost catatonic state like the first light of dawn breaks the darkness’ hold on the land, bringing new hope and the promise of life. The Sylvan instinctively straightened his back, turned his head towards Damaris and focused his attention on her discussion with Matthaios.

Hmm, the old King decided to sacrifice himself so that the gods will show some clemency to his people. A brave choice. Brave, but foolish I’m afraid. Still, Matthaios is twice the leader Therison was, even under these circumstances. Especially under these circumstances.

Before long it became evident to all, even those who had avoided becoming involved in Sunveil’s politics like Evander, that the King had not only lacked affection for his Queen, as his courtesans exemplified, but that he even failed to show her the minimum of respect she was due by informing her of his decision not to leave the island.

A bad King and a bad husband. To have such a woman at his side and scorn her… Truly a fool.

As the dialogue between Damaris and Matthaios continued, it became evident to Evander that the two of them had much more in common than they realized or were even willing to admit. Both were atypical candidates for the Heliandrian throne, Damaris an elf of Amaranthine descent, Matthaios mostly a human. Both loved Sunveil and wanted to preserve the city-state’s legacy, accepting the burden of command so that the people under their care might thrive -or at the very least survive. Both chose to hide their feelings behind either unapproachable regal majesty or cold, unmoving reason. They were two sides of the same coin, only they didn’t see it.

As Matthaios once more asked the people he trusted the most for their advice, the Sylvan pondered the ideas that had been proposed so far. His own suggestion had been readily dismissed by Matthaios, who was quick to misunderstand Evander’s meaning. The warrior had suggested prioritizing the soldiers and artisans, two of the largest and the most useful groups of citizens. That didn’t mean that he had proposed that the rest should be left to horribly die on the island. Briaerys had supported him, further elaborating the benefits of the choice, but even she didn’t seem to penetrate the intangible and at the same time impenetrable wall surrounding the Prince. Marcus had spoken in great detail about the ships and the dangers of overloading them. The Sylvan had been persuaded by the veteran’s words for he truly seemed to possess a deeper understanding of naval transportation and combat. If Marcus insisted that the ships should only be lightly overloaded, Evander was willing to accept it.

Ashayet was once more the only one to present her case so very clearly, one logical argument following another. Her way of presenting her thesis reminded Evander of the fabled tiered gardens of the Stormfall Hegemony. One level resting upon another, structured, harmonious, beautiful. Even though he couldn’t agree with her point, the logic behind it was obvious. The Sylvan, perhaps as a result of his upbringing in a more egalitarian society, failed to see the fundamental differences between citizens and slaves, elves, humans and chimeras. The potential to greatness each individual had was decreed by the gods, the rigid social class system only served to promote some over others, though not necessarily according to an individual’s worth. That was not to say that an experienced warrior or a skilled artisan wasn’t more valuable to society as a whole than a laborer at the docks carrying amphorae day after day. It only meant that a slave, a free citizen and a nobleman, if given the same opportunities, more or less had the same chance to excel at a chosen field. To base such an important decision as to who will be allowed to survive on one’s race and its capacity to procreate, an individual’s birthing circumstances or one’s famed ancestors appalled Evander. In his eyes there were only two completely different groups of beings: mortals and gods.

Aristides and Luvon were in favor of letting the gods, chance and the tenacity of each individual decide who would safely board the ships. Even though the survival of the strong was something both Evander and the gods supported, he feared that those who would find a place upon the sea vessels would be the ruthless and the lucky. There was no strength in shoving or trampling a defenseless small girl to seek salvation. There was only disregard of a fellow Heliandrian and cruelty. These should not be the traits of the citizens of New Sunveil, these people could not be allowed to populate the reborn Heliandria.

Having reached a decision, Evander attempted to present his argument like Ashayet would have done: in a structured way, logically, devoid of passion. Perhaps then his words would have a greater impact on Matthaios, playing a role in the survival of the people of this doomed island.

”Matthaios, both you, our Queen and I dare say almost everyone on this ship have the very same interest at heart, the preservation of Heliandria a d ist unique identity to the greatest extent possible. To accomplish this we must look at the numbers, for as the wise claim, mathematics is the true language of the gods and the world they created. Accepting Marcus’ estimation that to lightly overload the ships will result in the survival of the greatest possible numbers of the people of Heliandria, we will need a little over 25000 rowers. In addition to this number about 10000 individuals will also be allowed to board the ships for a total of 35000 people. Who among the Heliandrians would be suited to effectively act as rowers? Those belonging to the infantry, the laborers, most artisans and some slaves. To occupy the places of rowers with noblemen, priests, scholars, merchants, painters, women and children is to greatly reduce the fleet’s speed, maneuverability and overall effectiveness. I propose that all trained soldiers, one half of the laborers, the strongest and healthiest of the slaves, sadly no more that one fifth of their total number, and the artisans most used to physical labor be used as rowers. Those belonging to the higher classes of society, meaning the nobles, the adherents and exemplaries are only about 3500 souls and it should not be a problem to secure places for them aboard the ships. The rest of the free places will be taken by the remaining artisans. Summarizing, all those belonging to the three higher social classes, the infantry and artisans are to be favored along with about one half of the laborers and about 10000 slaves. This means that 35000 Heliandrians will be allowed to survive. Furthermore, by taking along some of the laborers and slaves we make certain that we will have enough rowers for the journey, enough manpower for the future and at the same time offer those of no privilege some hope, so that your authority, Matthaios, stands a better chance of being respected. There are bound to be exceptions and deviations from the plan, but that is to be expected and cannot be helped. The final points to be considered are these: What do we do about the people, usually nobles and the wealthiest citizens of Sunveil, who seek to save some of their -possibly very valuable- belongings? What do we do about babies and children, the elderly and the infirm? What do we do about families refusing to be separated?”


 


 
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Old 08-10-2019, 01:51 PM
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The Present
Listening to Luvon's disdainful speech sparked a low burning fire in Briaerys that quickly replaced the somber state she had fallen into. It simmered gently enough to allow for the self control her training master had drilled into her over the years, yet hot enough to leave the shaken woman feeling rather indignant on her Prince's behalf. As the ambassador continued, a distant shuffling caught her attention. The rhythmic pattern was easily identifiable after more than a decade of living within the palace walls.


The quiet figure gracefully moved strategically close to the princes' table to act defensively if needed. The position allowed her to catch sight of the approaching procession at the same moment Matthaios shifted his attention.


The Queen's royal guard created a beautiful picture of military uniformity and grace. Moving in perfect unison they created an opening that allowed Heliandria's Queen to move forward while protecting her flank. Briaerys bowed along with the royal family. It was a subtle gesture that, as expected, went unnoticed. Settling down to allowed the ruling parties to exchange information Rys listened patiently to the subtle political song and dance expected between the two. As always, she listened to the conversation with one ear and the sounds around them with another. As difficult as it was she forced herself to filter out the cries of those fathered at the harbor that was slowly increasing in volume.


It wasn't until Matthaios addressed the King's absence that she turned her full attention to him. "My father does not think the Gods are angry with a goat," he said slowly. Knowing him he was deliberately allowing Queen Damaris time to absorb his words. "He believes them to be angry with him."


The world shook once more. Only the earth beneath her feet did not move. The man who had generously given her a home alongside his own children was to be sacrificed. Every selfish fiber in her being wanted to leap over the railings and run up to the temple to stay the priest's hand, but the woman who loves him also knew that if this act could appease the gods and give the people a chance then it was the right move. Again she felt like fate was desperately trying to rend her apart from the inside out. It was a pain that was becoming too familiar. No tears threatened to spill at the news. Perhaps her eyes had run dry. Or perhaps hearing Matthaios say "You are still their Queen," that held them back. What is it you are aiming for, Matthi? Always a patient strategist, he had to be saying this to ease the queen and delay any sort of power struggle, right? The passive mask she was known for managed to hide her own shock at his words.


Queen Damaris began taking down Luvon's plan bit by bit pointing out concerns that had been budding within herself. Rys listened as not only Lady Messene, and Lady Ashayet began to agree, but Evander too. It was true. They needed their skilled, their cultured and leaders in order to rebuild and then help to lead in their new home, but they would need more. Reflecting on her own words mere minutes ago, the flaws in her own oration began to find light. The plea had not been complete. It had sounded as if she were advocating leaving a specific group or groups behind in favor of the most elite in status. This would not due.


Taking a half step forward, Briaerys offered the Queen a bow much as Halima had, but offering Matthaios a slightly more reverent one. "My Prince, Queen Damaris has made very valid points. We do need our most skilled: our generals and captains and hoplites. Our teachers, healers, our masters, innovators and leaders in all areas. We need representatives of every aspect of our culture. I stand by my earlier suggestion in this. But it seems I was not clear with the intent behind my words. It was not meant to imply we take ALL of the upper citizenry over the artisans and lower classes. I realize that the chances of us having time to prioritize individuals is miniscule, but, if it is at all possible, Highness, we should select those known to be the most skilled from among them to board first. From the laborers and slaves we need not be so selective. We take as many as can fit. Perhaps prioritize families there. As well as the families of our King's loyal guards?" The last said in a rush before turning to Aristides and Luvon.


"You ask that our people board on a first come first serve basis. But how is that for the greater good of our people? I am sorry. A panic would ensue regardless of how we prioritize anyone. But first come first serve would have the merciless pushing and stampeding to the front. Killing and trampling anyone in their path regardless of age or station. Finding order in this nightmare is needed for the greater good. Their greater good. " Rys looked out at the growing crowd with a calmness that belied her inner torment. "You would hand them more unnecessary deaths their way. I wish we could take them all, but if our kingdom is to rebuild we will need our skilled to survive. Our masters in all trades and our teachers. Without them then we lose more than scrolls and books. We lose the means to provide for all of us, working class and upper citizenry alike. Do not think me foolish or careless. When I look in the mirror, I still see the daughter of a simple weaver. A daughter blessed by the gods to live in the palace, yes, but I have not forgotten where I came from or who I truly am under all of this fine garb. My vote is not meant to discard the people. OUR people. It is so that they have a chance to survive on foreign land. So that there is a greater likelihood of making a home for ourselves. For all of us." Praying he understood her the elevated chimera turned and walked over Kassia. Taking her hand Rys held tight as doubts about her place in the family with King Theramis' loss began to take form.
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Old 08-10-2019, 04:10 PM
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The Hoplites

The HoplitesDespite the continued offerings of ideas for the Prince to consider, Matthaios appeared no more moved than before. The balancing act his mind dared to play grew heavier with each passing word, made evident by his inability to maintain eye contact with any of the speakers. Instead, he focused on the parchment in front of him, shuffling through the series of scrolls, opening one of the tomes, and tracing his fingers over the colored map of Sunveil. And to his onlookers, both those who may have held some affection for the Prince and those who saw him as a pawn for their own power gain, it was becoming readily apparent that Matthaios was well-trained for this moment… but had never been tested to this degree. He was being too cautious, too careful. He wanted the best rational answer out of all the possibilities. But such a task may have been inherently impossible.

"My Queen?" He finally asked in Celestial after Briaerys had finished her emotional plea. With a flash of his dark eyes, he looked to the silver-haired monarch. "Your thoughts?"

Lady Messene scoffed, rolling her eyes, but otherwise remained silent.

Whether Matthaios was playing some larger political game or not, Damaris certainly seemed to be reacting as if he was. She watched him carefully, her gaze settling on him as though she were trying to gauge the lethality of his words. "Be careful, Matthaios," she slowly replied in Celestial. "The more complicated your plan…" she said as she looked to Evander then, pausing on him for a handful of moments before turning her gaze to Briaerys. "The more likely you are to fail in achieving them." The Queen held the gaze of the chimera girl for several pointed seconds longer, as if identifying a rival that needed to be removed quickly.

"Then what would you suggest?" He asked pointedly as if calling a bluff she had yet to make.

Looking back to him, she took in a long, steadying breath. "The key to all of this is our infantry," she said, her comment clearly surprising both Prince Melas and Halima, who noticeably appeared confused as if having not expected such a response from the Queen. "We have 5,000 veteran hoplites," she said, motioning subtly towards the twin lines of armored warriors holding the hoard back from overwhelming the docks. "They must remain in Sunveil."

Although Matthaios reacted with a furrowing of his brow, it was Melas who quickly interjected first. "Absolutely not," he shot back. "Those are some of our bravest, our most loyal. No matter where we go after this, we will need them!"

As if having expected the outburst, Damaris appeared to almost entirely ignore the younger prince. "We have another 5,000 reserve hoplites, peltasts, and archers. Summon them and their families, have them be the first to board the ships with their armor, weapons, and shields. Then we board the nobility, the exemplaries, adherents, artisans, and what room we have left, to an equal share of laborers and slaves. If we leave by dawn, we can reach one of our nearest neighbors within the day. Unload the other 30,000 we bring with us, along with the reserve infantry to maintain order while we return with just enough men to row. Load a second wave of refugees, including our elite infantry. If the Gods allow it, perhaps even a third wave of rescues could be organized." She paused then, maintaining her gaze with Matthaios exclusively. "The veteran hoplites must stay for this to work. If our people see the fleet sailing away without the hoplites, they will know that we intend to return… and Androdamos willing, they will remain orderly until then."

Lady Messene sliced her hand out in front of her then. "This is absurd," she said with a mirthless laugh. "The kingless Queen seems to think she can predict the will of the Gods," she mocked. "Belos may have all of Heliandria covered in ash and fire before we are able to return for our veteran hoplites. Then where are we?" She asked dramatically, holding up both of her palms. "With one of the largest fleets in the Lucent Sea with no hoplites to put on it."

Damaris did not look to Messene, almost appearing entirely unfazed by her words. "Over two centuries ago, the crater of Cratinus on the southern shores of the Astrimano peninsula erupted not so differently from Belos. Seven miles from the crater was the city of Cteatus, home to over 30,000 people," she paused then, pointedly looking to Messene. "All of them were able to leave before the volcano consumed their city with ash and fire almost nine days later." Looking back to Matthaios, she shook her head softly once. "Sunveil is nine miles from the peak of Belos. I understand the terror that has been unleashed upon us," she said gently. "But we cannot let it command our hand. There may be enough time to get all of our people off the island."

Matthaios watched Damaris just as carefully as she did him, before turning to look at Melas, a question in his eyes.

The younger prince shook his head. "I do not know if it is worth the gambit, Matthaios. If we're wrong…" he trailed off, shaking his head once again. "Or foul weather slows us down?" He held up both hands, palms facing up. "We lose the heart and spine of our entire military."


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Old 08-10-2019, 10:44 PM
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What is the worth of a man? - Kassia
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Kassia wasn't surprised so much by Matthaois' decision as she was by the reaction two of the people closest to her had at her suggestion, especially Evander. Ashayet looked at her disapprovingly, though she couldn't begin to guess what the woman was thinking beneath the calm demeanor. She hadn't always agreed with her teacher and mentor in the past though and it had never permanently altered their relationship. Evander though... Evander's pleading had hurt her, but not nearly as much as the defeated look she saw on his face when she looked back at him. She wanted to say something, to apologize, but now was not the time nor the place. Instead, she followed closely behind the others down to the dock.

It was then that she saw Nara scurrying by, back towards the palace. Kassia stepped aside and called to her, "Nara!" The young woman was barely recognizable, and she didn't respond at first - leading Kassia to wonder if she'd made a mistake. "Nara!" she called again, louder and this time the young woman turned towards her before running over.

"What's happening?" Nara asked, terrified. It was scarcely 3 months ago that she'd fled to Heliandria to escape slavery, eventually finding her way into Kassia's employ. Now the poor girl was facing a disaster unlike any they'd ever known.

"There's no time," Kassia said, gently grabbing the young woman by both arms. "It'll be okay. I need you to do something for me though, for all of us. Please?" Kassia asked, her voice conveying the importance of the task she set on her.

Nara nodded, tears running down her cheeks.

Kassia nodded in return. "I need you to go to the library. There will be archivists there, I'm sure of it. Tell them that we don't have room for anything more than they can carry. Ask them to gather only the most important things related to survival. Irrigation, botany and farming, medicine."

Nara's eyes grew wider as Kassia spoke, the fear sinking in even deeper. Kassia continued, "tell them to hurry and to leave quickly. No one is to risk their lives. Tell them I'm asking them, they know me well enough."

"Repeat it to me," Kassia said to the girl staring wide-eyed at her, "Nara, say it back to me, we don't have much time!"

Nara cleared her throat and repeated it with a shaky voice.

Kassia nodded and squeezed the girls arms reassuringly. "Hurry there and then head to the docks. Quickly, okay? Tell them you're looking for me if anyone asks."

A bit of relief flooded through the girl's eyes as she realized that she wasn't being sent off to be forgotten about. She nodded and quickly ran off towards the library. Kassia hurried to catch up with the others.

The walk was longer than any that she'd ever experienced. She'd been trying to turn her attention away from the cries and the screams, but as they got closer they became louder and the ashen faces streaked with dark streaks from tears could be seen pushing their way forward as everyone desperately searched for safety. 6 Radiant DamageHer stomach turned and she turned her head from them as they boarded the boat, unable to look longer knowing that many wouldn't survive what was to come.

Relief flooded over her as she boarded the boat and saw Melas pouring over scrolls. Even more when she heard that his mother was on board and safe as well. 'One less family member to worry about,' she thought, guilt instantly washing over her as the realization hit that many at the docks were worried about the same things. The only thing that separated their circumstance was luck and birth. She shook the thought from her head, raising one hand to her temple as her head began to throb. She could only hope that she proved worthy of her position.

"Cousin," she said quietly, nodding to Melas once she regained herself, a smile finally reappearing on her lips.

She listened as the others discussed who to leave behind, translating whenever someone spoke in Celestial. Of course, the conversation was structured as who would be saved, but as usual, the things left unsaid held more weight than those voiced in the open. This was in fact a decision about who to let die a truly horrific death.

She couldn't bring herself to chime in. She found herself wondering how much it would matter and how they would enforce such decisions long before the question was spoken. Still, the more the people believed there was a plan, the more likely they were to be patient and orderly.

Evander left the room and Kassia thought to follow after before realizing that she hadn't the luxury. Instead, she watched as Rys checked on him, raising an eyebrow at the surprising turn of events. Instead, she focused on the confusing amount of suggestions being offered up. She was glad that she wasn't the one who had to make the final decision, though she knew the toll that making the final call would make on Matthaios. It wasn't until her two friends returned and Rys grabbed her hand that she gave the young woman a silent and questioning look.

It wasn't until the Queen spoke up that Kassia chimed in. Surprisingly, she took a stance that was fairly similar to Evanders, with the notable change of leaving their best trained infantry behind. Kassia balked at first at the idea, but one common theme among all the concerns was trampling masses and chaos. That would certainly be one way of handling it, though the thought of leaving those best equipped to defend them behind still seemed rash.

She looked to Marcus, knowing that he would have a unique view of that particular suggestion. "I'd like to hear your opinion on leaving soldiers behind to help maintain order," she said, "though, I wonder if we could accomplish the same with the reserves staying behind for the first trip."

As she waited for the warrior's response, she squeezed Rys' hand let go as she moved closer to Melas. "Have you heard from Philip? My mother? Did they make it on board yet?" she asked in hushed tones.


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Old 08-10-2019, 11:17 PM
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Round 2 Ships and PrioritiesListening to Queen Damaris speak bothered Rys for some reason. She didn't like the idea of leaving the most skilled of the hoplites behind on the off chance that there would be time to come back for more. It sounded like it would leave the first round of survivors vulnerable. Shaking her head back and forth the council woman couldn't figure out why she would suggest such a thing. It didn't help that the sounds of fear and all of the frightened people were pulling her attention from the situation at hand.

From beneath the safety of her himation her fingers rubbed at tightness in her chest. Rubbing slow circles they bumped against the edge of something. It was a 2 inch wide round pin. Using a thumb she ran it across the smoothness surface. It had once had a hammered finish, but had undergone refinishing before she had received it. That had been a pleasant surprise having seen it in its prototype form. The lines etched into it reminded her of why she was here. It was her job to make sure to give the best guidance possible to Prince Matthaios.

"Our least skilled hoplites and all of the nobles first? At the risk of ostracizing myself, this is not the best course of action. If we are faced with an angry force when we find land our reservists will have neither the skills nor the experience to protect us. And not all of the nobles are necessarily about to look out for the people's best interest. Or yours, Highness. There are those who have inherited or even bought their way into their positions. I do not speak of the nobles alone. That is a truth that many do not speak of, but it would be a detriment to us all if we ignored that now.

Maybe it's also true that we need some more experienced hoplites here to help control the crowds, but that can be handled with a few strategically placed volunteers. Those without families perhaps? Can it not? What's more there is No guarantee whatsoever that what happened before will happen here with Mt. Belos. We don't know how deep the fires run. We have No way of knowing how angry the gods may be. We risk far more lives assuming we will be able to return. We need to get our people out quickly. Our most skilled and loyal first from among each group. If there is time to return we do. No question of that. But we plan as if this were our only guaranteed trip. Do not risk more lives than necessary. Please.

No, I stand by my previous statement, Prince Matthaios. Select the most skilled and loyal from each group starting with the infantry. Do not risk lives on vague possibility."
Taking the top edge of her shawl Rys tried to rub away the frustration of the situation, but wiped at the ash and drying tears instead.
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Old 08-11-2019, 04:58 AM
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Evander
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Queen Damaris’ words took Evander completely by surprise and it took him every bit of self-control to not openly gawk at her like a fool.

Why would the Queen suggest that our best people be left behind to “secure order”? She knows their value, their loss would leave the survivors completely at the mercy of foreign powers. She, being of Amaranthine descent, should know better. Unless she truly believes we have sufficient time and wants to save as many of the people of this island as possible. If the god of Mount Belos stays his anger for several days, this could indeed change everything. Not only much more people stand a chance of being saved, we would also have sufficient time to prepare ourselves much better.

With a nod of respect the Sylvan directly addressed Queen Damaris in celestial, at the same time taking several quick glances at Matthaios, trying to estimate his reaction to his proposed plan.

”My Queen, the desire to save as many Heliandrians as possible honors you and is to be expected from someone who has been devoted to the people’s well-being for so long as you have. There are however the necessary logistics to be considered, first of all the need of able bodied men to act as rowers. Should 5000 of our strongest men be left behind to secure, as you say, order, it would mean that we will have to look for replacements among the laborers and slaves, reducing the military might of Heliandria should the gods prove fickle and cruel and not give us sufficient time to evacuate a second group of people. Then there is the question of time. If the isle of Magnos is our destination it would take about 32 hours before a second group of Heliandrians could board the ships. Eight hours for the ships to reach the island, eight hours of rest for the rowers, eight hours to return to Heliandria and another eight hours of rest. As Marcus has explained, rowing is extremely hard work, especially at full speed, and even those men that surpass all others in endurance cannot be expected to row more than eight hours without sufficient rest. If Cragholde is to be our destination this would take even more time, probably 40 hours to save 9000 more individuals.”

Making a sufficiently long pause to let his words and especially the numbers sink in, Evander continued in lucent.

”I do however have a suggestion that could possibly ensure the survival of more people than we initially thought possible. Why do we need so many experienced warriors to secure order among the people waiting for the ships to return? First of all, if there are no more vessels to be boarded there is no reason to expect a riot. Secondly, one person of sufficient authority, aided by a small group of about 20 hardened warriors should be sufficient to ensure order. This person would have to be charismatic, experienced, courageous, able to withstand stress and… of royal blood. Since Heliandria could ill afford to lose a second King within a few days and Prince Melas is in charge of the fleet, it seems our Queen would make an ideal candidate. Respected by all, her auctoritas should be sufficient to keep the people from succumbing to their basest instincts. Consider the possible benefits. We could create simple tents and masks to protect the people from the rain of ash, secure water, food supplies and necessary tools, send messengers to the villages of the island to gather the people living outside Sunveil, tend to the wounded and the sick and finally divide the people into groups to be boarded once the ships return. Of course our Queen is not expected to accomplish all this by herself, she will need able aides. I will gladly stay behind to ensure the Queen’s safety and take care of most practical matters. In this I would welcome the assistance of Ashayet, who has proven to be most pragmatic and has the greatest theoretical and practical knowledge of us all. If someone can predict the volcano’s eruption by observing its behavior, it would be her. We would also need a person with a close connection to the gods and the skills of a healer. Who is better suited to this task than Imendjeref? The Hierophant could take care of the wounded, ensure order and tranquility among the populace and commune with the gods, possibly giving us sufficient warning before Mount Belos covers the whole island under a blanket of fire, molten rock and ash.”

Evander carefully looked at the Queen’s beautiful face, wondering if she would be offended or glad to be possibly offered such a dangerous, but also important mission. She would after all, in Matthaios’ absence, be the highest authority on the island. Gods willing, for a few days she would reign supreme, not having to consider the opinion of her husband or one of the Princes. Turning his face to look Matthaios in the eyes, Evander kept on explaining his plan.

”To trust only in the benevolence of Mount Belos and unnecessarily endanger our Queen would be of course folly and ill advice. One of the triremes should stay behind and be ready to bring the Queen to safety should an eruption be imminent. The ship’s presence would sow discontent among the populace however, so it should remain hidden behind an islet or in a small cove and wait for a signal – one I would gladly provide.”

Offering a quick smile to the Queen, the Sylvan addressed Matthaios once more.

”If we indeed have a few days before Heliandria is completely destroyed, we should also seek the aid of our neighbors. Andias’ location makes it ideal to assist us by providing sea vessels better suited to the transport of people, also food, medicinal and other supplies and above all else water, since there is none to be found on the isle of Magnos. Perhaps other cities could be visited as well, even the Amaranthine Republic. Our most able diplomat, with clear connections to one of the greatest Celestial city-states, Empyrea, aided by an experienced commander of the army should be able to persuade, one way or another, the various kingdoms surrounding us that helping us would be in their best interest.”

Evander’s gaze rested first upon Luvon, then Marcus, making it abundantly clear to all, whom he considered ideal for the job.

”The rest, led by the Prince, should concentrate their efforts in organizing the survivors and planing for the future. The small barren island will certainly not be able to support the populace of Heliandria for long, a permanent solution must be found. Or we could just stick to the old plan. It will be safer, though more people will be sacrificed to the volcano’s fury. Matthaios this is your decision. What say the rest of you?”


 


 


 
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Old 08-11-2019, 06:23 AM
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The Queen of Heliandria - AshayetAshayet couldn't quite believe her ears when she heard the Queen speak who only a moment ago had appeared as a voice of reason and now seemed to be losing her mind. Surely the experienced elf could not have been so stupid as to misunderstand history so profoundly - to believe that it was acceptable and reasonable to take gambles with existential risk, simply because the world was full of people who had done so and survived, extinguishing the memory of the many more who had not. It was almost unthinkable, but it was even more unthinkable that out of sudden spite the Queen now wished to extinguish Sunveil's legacy. And Ashayet found herself unable to think of another explanation on the spot. And the mockery of the Queen's beginning by an exhortation to find a simple plan was not lost on the sage, either. Perhaps the situation was simply causing people to go insane - a dangerous prospect indeed.

The notion that there was much of an order to be preserved under the circumstances struck Ashayet as rather far-fetched and perhaps idealistic. Possibly, the Queen was simply reciting a cached pattern of thoughts, the notion that wherever there was a mass of people, they were inherently disposed to be disorderly, and necessarily needed to be kept in order by soldiers - which now, transported into this highly unusual context, appeared somewhat ridiculous. Or was she adopting the perspective of an Aurelian embalmer, who had professional reasons to be concerned with the orderliness of that which would be buried? It would be an exceedingly odd attitude to take towards the remains of a city.

She was pulled from her spiral of thoughts when Evander spoke, not without sense, to lay out his view of the possibilities at length. At this moment, she regretted, for no substantive reason, that in all her life she had not found time to study the language of his kin. She could approve of the manner in which he dissected the matter according to its practical aspects, thinking on a worldly level that she herself would have found difficult to adopt - not to speak of the fact that she knew little of the practicalities of rowing. And through some sort of conceptual miracle, he even succeeded in giving a semblance of meaning to the Queen's notion of preserving order, recasting it as the systematic provision of basic necessities for the hours of waiting.

For some reason, she thought the way in which Evander proposed a role for everyone according to their expertise was reminiscent of the way in which he might have gathered a hunting party, paying, as it did, little attention to the intricacies of politics. It was fitting - and she wished he were more right than he was about her areas of expertise. Her interest had always been people, and there were so many of them, in such variety, that it posed no difficulty to fill even centuries of life with the study of them and their creations, to the neglect of the phenomena of the natural world. Still, it was not the time to bring up the objection, to be vain in modesty. She had read descriptions of the event that Damaris referred to, and of others. Given time to recall them, something useful might be gleaned from them. Her gaze trailed off into the distance, in the direction of the fateful mountain. Who ever thought it was a good idea to build a city there in the first place? But then, the land had been fertile, perhaps because of, rather than despite, this ever-present threat.

She looked into the grey clouds tired, distracted, lost in thought, and said nothing.

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Old 08-11-2019, 02:22 PM
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Harsh realities, part II
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Having made his point to the best of his abilities, Marcus contented himself with listening to the others weigh in on the other matter in Lucent and the translations still provided by Kassia. In theory, he was with Briaerys; a distribution of classes and abilities was best. In practicality, Aristides with the curious support of Luzon was, he believed, the only real course of action. There would be no orderly filtering of people of any kind when the time came to do so. How would one even call for one class to come forward through the mob? It was that fatalism that kept his mouth sealed. Time and confusion would only ensue if he voiced his own belief. The reality of the situation would be the ultimate decider of this dilemma.

Then the Queen arrived.

Marcus had seen her many times before at dinners hosted at the palace. He was familiar with her appearance and the solid presence she exuded. Yet despite that, he could not seem to avoid watching her. This was royalty. Her Amaranthine features made him always think of his father. If Flavius had ever deigned to take a partner or view any person, man or woman, to be an equal, Damaris was it. It was difficult to hear the soft translation in his ear with his attention split the way it was. That is, until the import of the words began to come clear. Then his full focus was on Kassia, and he watched her lips as the words came to him. Maybe it was that sudden attention that made her ask the council for his opinion. Or, as she had shown many times before, she was looking for expertise to make her own decision. Wisdom. It was another of her virtues.

Before he could answer, however, Briaerys again made the soundest argument. But Evander’s idea brought a bemused grin to his face. He and the Sylvan were the outsiders here. Even more than the feral chimera the King had brought back as a ward. He wondered if the warrior was using that position to cast doubt on the Queen’s words. Evander’s plan, laid out in great detail and with heroic sacrifice on his part was well in keeping with the man he had gotten to know. If there were time for multiple evacuations, that was the way to go about it. But the Queen would not agree to it, casting doubt on her own assertion that there would be time. It was clever, if that was his ploy. He looked over at Luzon briefly. But where Ashayet’s attention was drawn skyward, Marcus’s was eventually focused on the docks.

His resolve now girded in bronze, Marcus looked with dispassionate calm at the chaos and anguish of the tragedy as a problem to be solved, like divisions and brigades and legions on a map. "Unless we get better control of this area, we have no choice but to agree with Queen Damaris. If the hoplites break formation to take to the ships, there will be nothing to stop the flood of refugees of any sort from swamping the ‘remes. The crowd must be pushed back to the streets so that any of your plans can be accomplished. A street can be controlled with fewer shields allowing tighter control over who is allowed passage and to allow the other hoplites to be loaded. They must, otherwise remain to keep those who do not make it on the ships to be held back. After that, they have no purpose here. As Evander rightfully points out, what order is to be maintained once the fleet has left? Looting of houses that may not survive? Conflict among those who are fated to die? My estimation is grimer than Evander’s. Even if we found the water to give our rowers for a return trip, only the deck space is available for less than 4000. And we would risk tens of thousands of rowers and the fleet itself to Belos by coming back for those few. I will say that these ships have been designed for so many oars so that they can be oared by untrained effort. Sunveil has known peace for some time so many new to fleets may not know, but even in times of war, they are manned by citizens and slaves for sea battles, not soldiers. Marines are for boarding after ramming, not rowing.

For every Cratinus, there is a Rheesius that so violently exploded that the people of Voi were buried before they could rouse from sleeping. There can be no returning, at least not while the mountain erupts. If Belos calms itself, the remaining people will make do with the King’s leadership and those priests who are dutifully tending to them until we can all return. I have made my opinions clear on where we should go and the importance of your hoplites to that end, so I will say no more on that. For the rowers, remember that Sunveil exists so harmoniously because of the proportion of all of its citizens as they exist on the island now. To take only one group or another because you feel they are so worthy is folly. What are nobles without their slaves to care for them? What are exemplaries without artisans to support them? What are soldiers without any of them to do the work of civilization they are meant to protect? If you wish to maintain Sunveil as it once was, you must have them all in their current ratios, and no amount of gold loaded could repurchase the slaves required if you could even find them all to buy or retrain them if captured.

Regardless, I ask your leave, Prince Matthaios, to rally your veterans on the dock to push back this tide so that whatever route you decide, we may execute it."
" Queen Damaris, your guards would be useful in this effort if you would give them over to me." Marcus replaced his helm over his features and he became just another hoplite.

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Old 08-13-2019, 04:22 AM
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Aristides
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Aristides nodded at Luvon, appreciative of his support. The ambassador appeared to be the only person that was convinced by his argument. He thought he could get Prince Ximanteus’ support as well, but the religious man has mysteriously kept quiet since they boarded the Atlas.

Queen Damaris’ arrival complicated things. Aristides only really knew her by reputation. He had seen her many times when he was a child and when he started living in the palace again, but he had never really interacted with her. Still, it was no surprise to him that she wanted things done her way, and her way sounded just as complex as that of the ward’s and the northerner’s. The idea to leave some of the soldiers behind was clever, but Aristides couldn’t support her proposal of sorting the people first. Frustration bubbled up in him, as the list of suggestions kept getting longer. He couldn’t picture any of them working. Not with the way things were. Ashayet’s proposal was less complicated, but it still didn’t sound feasible enough.

"What we need right now is simplicity," he said, as loudly and as clearly as he can, without sounding angry.

"We do not have enough manpower to segregate our people before letting them come aboard. As I have said earlier, the evacuees severely outnumber the soldiers. Look out there. Can any of you really imagine these people arranging themselves into neat little chunks before we start letting them in? It’s borderline impossible to find and maintain order like that amidst this disaster. I find it naive to even hope that this is achievable. Do not let your judgment be clouded by wishful thinking. The time for that passed when Mount Belos blew its peak off."

"Put yourselves in the sandals of these ash-covered people. What would you do if you figure out that you are going to get left behind in favor of those that society has deemed more valuable than yourself? Would you not try to get into one of the ships? Could you honestly say that your will to live will not overcome your discipline? Some of us might, like Marcus here, sure, but not all, and certainly not the vast majority. It is only a matter of time before these people stop following instructions. Soon, they’ll succumb to mob mentality. We need to delay that chaos as long as we can."

"Am I overestimating how terribly the masses would react? Am I underestimating how well the hoplites can maintain order? Gods... I hope so. For if I am right, and we start letting people in by their perceived value, rather than just doing it in the most efficient way possible, then we’d save a lot less people than what we are capable of doing."


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Old 08-13-2019, 08:58 PM
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NoAs Kassia boarded, Melas offered her a dampened smile, hesitantly taking a step to the side, as if intending to move around the table and embrace her. Between the two brothers, Melas had always been the one to show more open affection to their cousin. But given the alarmingly circumstances they found themselves in, Melas steadied himself as she approached the table, offering her that pitiful smile and a nod of his head. Eye contact, though, was not given until she asked her question regarding the rest of her family. Replying in a soft tone to keep their conversation from becoming a focal point of the table, he nodded once. "I had them both put on the Trident," he confirmed softly.

Beyond Melas and Kassia, though, Evander's shocking suggestion continued to grow larger and larger, as if it were its own entity. While Matthaios appeared to be listening to the sylvan's suggestion, possibly even entertaining the possibility, it was the Queen who grew visibly irritated. At first, it was a quirk of her brow, a purse of her lips. But the time the sylvan hunter finished with his idea, she had rolled her eyes several times over, readjusting in her stance twice. "Enough," she stated firmly in Celestial. "I have no interest in serving as the gilded centerpiece to your heroic fantasy," she said dismissively.

"The idea does have merit, though, my Queen," Matthaios interrupted, though the move was perhaps more to ease the sudden tension than anything else.

"A convenient way to remove me from being part of any decisions about the future of Heliandria," she replied cooly as she looked from Evander to Matthaios.

Although it appeared Matthaios was readying a respond, as Marcus interjected with his own ideas, he calmly shifted focus to the Amaranthine warrior. While Matthaios listened to the soldier, the shifting of his gaze gave away his thoughts -- he was unmoved. Perhaps he had more faith in the hoplites than the others or, maybe, was forcefully staying optimistic, for all the good it would do for him now.

But as Marcus shifted his focus to the Queen, asking for her guards, she looked at him with a narrowed look of disgust. "No," she said plainly, ignoring his Amaranthine and replying in Celestial.

Matthaios, on the other hand, nodded his head once. "I know it may be impossible," he began in Lucent. "But I'd rather not hear about the spilling of blood in an effort to secure order."

Melas, at that point, leaned forward. "Find Antaeus," he said in Lucent. "He has been in charge of the hoplites since the quakes."

At that point, Aristides captured the attention of the group, laying out a relatively convincing argument for simplicity. While Matthaios and Melas both appeared to be considering the words of the well-known human, the Queen appeared just as unimpressed as before. And it was she who spoke first. "Our best are not here," she said with clear force, refusing to speak in Lucent. "We will have to gather them. And they will need escorts." She pointed back towards the Palace, almost entirely obscured now in the smoke. "Use the Prophet's Steps as our backdoor to the city and the Palace as our fortified holding area. Bring our most valuable to the harbor first and secure them on the ships. Then board these," she said in reference to those gathered. "With what room we have left."

DM NotesFlavor/RP post. Just trying to keep the NPCs involved in case anyone was waiting on them!
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Old 08-13-2019, 10:00 PM
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What is the worth of a man? - Kassia
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Kassia nodded to Melas and smiled. "Thank you," she whispered and touched his hand that set upon the table for a moment before clasping them before her once more. Knowing that her own family was safe, she felt a bit better equipped to deal with the task at hand.

The others spoke ardently and convincingly, each odd their views having its own merits. While they each had their own strengths and weaknesses, none on the council were fools. The somewhat unfortunate side effect of that was too many ideas being thrown around, making the conversation complicated and difficult to navigate. It felt as if they were further from a decision than they had been when they boarded. She sighed loudly, her headache intensifying.

Evander was valiant as ever and his plan offered the best potential for keeping the people left behind calm and optimistic. However, there was no guarantee the mountain would wait long enough to quench its wrath, possibly leaving Matthaios with even less allies than before.

Marcus spoke up as well, stressing order, albeit in a different manner more aligned with the queen. The longer the others spoke, the more it became clear to her that overloading the boats wasn't the risk worth taking, a second trip was. Even as she was about to chime in, the Queen opened her mouth.

It wasn't until she spoke that Kassia cringed. It was no surprise that the Queen had no interest in putting herself at risk, even for the good of her people.

Kassia looked out the side of the boat to the throngs of people waiting on the shore. Children were screaming, mothers were crying, fathers were yelling as others tried to push their way through. She felt light headed and almost fell, grabbing the railing just in time to prop herself up. She closed her eyes but couldn't erase the faces that she'd seen. She doubted that she ever would.

"I'll stay," she said quietly, still trying to keep her head from spinning. She pulled her gaze from the people and turned back to the table. Then spoke louder, repeating as if she'd just decided that it was safe to say outloud. "I'll stay. The queen isn't the only one the people know, nor is she the only one with royal blood. I'm the least valuable from our family here," she said, not with pity but with resolve and harsh realism. She turned to Matthaios, offering him a small smile. "It is no secret that we are close. The people would never think you'd leave me behind for dead. It would placate them, for a time. More importantly, it would give them hope."

She sighed and folded her arms defensively, moving back next to the prince. "Finding and escorting people will take time," she said solemnly, "time we don't have. Aristedes is right, we need simplicity and a semblance of order - for as long as it can last. The others are right that we need expertise and citizens as well, and we owe them our allegiance. If some of us stay behind, we can accomplish both. Load those who are here now and leave, quickly. While you find a safe place, we will gather the rest in the palace and have them ready to leave when you return, loading whatever room is left with those waiting on the docks."

"Do not overload the boats, or do so minimally. We need to take less risk if we know there are those coming back. You'll also move faster with less weight," she looked back out to the crowds, "whatever we decide, it needs to be done sooner rather than later. The faster we move the more people we save."


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Old 08-14-2019, 03:12 PM
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Evander
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The gilded centerpiece to my heroic fantasy?

The Sylvan couldn’t suppress a grin of pure amusement at the Queen’s reception of his idea, knowing at the same time that it would probably enrage her even more. The thing was, the Queen wasn’t entirely wrong in her estimation of Evander’s motives. The warrior truly wanted to save more people, if at all possible, and had attempted to add some pragmatism and logic to Damaris’ original idea, but he had also considered that to risk a volcano’s fury so that others could be saved certainly was worthy of a rhapsode’s time, more so if he had the majestic Queen of Heliandria at his side.

Her words were harsh, but Evander found it hard to be actually offended by them. The Queen was so beautiful when she grew angry, her eyes so shiny and full of passion that he felt completely disarmed. And yet he would rather prefer it had been another to become the target of her ire. Not that she seemed to have a better opinion of poor Marcus, despite his attempt to placate her, no doubt, in their native tongue.

The Queen is as fierce and beautiful as a storm, I must be careful not to be struck by the lightning of her fury. Perhaps now is the time for some diplomacy.

Evander was ready to offer some kind of apology to the Queen, when Kassia spoke, unexpectedly supporting his idea of leaving some behind to prepare the ground for more people to evacuate the island. Well perhaps not so unexpectedly for she always put the well-being of others whether Matthaios, her family or the people of Heliandria, before her own.

My sweet, brave Kassia, ready to risk your precious life for people that don’t even know you exist, people that will never thank you for it or ask the gods to bless you for your willingness to sacrifice yourself for them.

The problem of course was exactly that. The Queen was known and respected by all. The Princes were loved by the commoners of the island for they had over the years watched them grow and become men ready to shed their blood for Heliandria. Who knew who Kassia was? The nobles, certainly, all those working in the palace, the highest ranking priests, the scholars. What about the myriad of house slaves, laborers at the docks, fishermen, proprietors of small shops, humble artisans, those working the fields? For them she was a young girl born to a life of privilege. She lacked both their respect and their admiration. It wasn’t merely a matter of royal blood. In fact Queen Damaris didn’t have a single drop of royal blood of the Alexandros line. It was a matter of prestige and authority and Kassia just wasn’t the Queen’s equal in that, her words just didn’t carry so much weight, at least not yet. Damaris’ star would set and Kassia’s rise, but it would take many years for the young woman to truly shine and dominate the sky, perhaps as a Queen of some other Celestial kingdom. Or perhaps circumstances would make her grow much faster than Evander foresaw.

He would however not share these thoughts with Kassia. Their last exchange of words of had left him vulnerable. He didn’t want to make matters worse. After all, there was a good chance that Matthaios wouldn’t support the idea of leaving someone behind anyway. Should he however grant Kassia’s wish and allow her to stay behind, Evander would be proud to serve -and perhaps even die- at her side. Perhaps not the best story for a rhapsode to sing about, but a nice death nonetheless.


 


 
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Old 08-14-2019, 04:04 PM
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After seeing the body of the child, weighing the burden of their task and the resulting consequences left Briaerys without the energy or the heart to address Kassia's unspoken question. So, she remained silent and tried her best to remain attentive. Anything else would have been a disservice to the people whose lives they were weighing and assigning some sort of value. 'Is this what the gods did once upon a time? Is this what it is like for them now?' A gentle squeeze to her hand once again brought Briaerys out of her reverie. She couldn't seem to keep herself focused tonight. It wouldn't do. 'They expect you to fail. The Queen, Lady Messene, everyone. You mustn't. You were asked to be here for a reason. Don't give Matthaios a reason to regret his choice. Focus.' Briaerys tried to stay in the conversation while Kassia remained in quiet conversation with Melas by the table.

She listened as everyone continued the debate. Ashayet continued to champion her own cause. A very pragmatic woman who always did what she felt was right. The only problem Rys ever found with the elder was her inability to recognize the flaws in her own views while pointing out the flaws in others'. More often than not Rys found herself silently disagreeing with one or two points within the woman's arguments on certain topics, but always kept her silence. Right now it was her former teacher who was silent while others spoke. Each one more and more fervent in their speeches.

Evander's suggestions shocked her and impressed her at the same time. To volunteer himself in such a way and then try to rally Ashayet, Imendjeref and Marcus to his cause? Then he suggested that Queen Damaris herself stay so her presence could help calm the people until their return. Briaerys nearly laughed aloud at the idea. The Queen stay where there is danger? Never. But asking that half of Matthi's hetairoi remain behind? It was…'Is their a word for such a man? Insane, perhaps. Brave? Suicidal? Gutsy? Stupid? Honorable?' Perhaps it was a combination of all of those things. Perhaps it was none. It didn't matter because soon Marcus was agreeing to stay behind. And the Queen? She predictably refused.

The feral chimera was grateful for the cacophony of noise coming from the crowds as it covered up the bitter scoff that had escaped her. Dawn was fast approaching and they needed to hurry and start loading the ships. They needed to get things resolved soon. Wishing desperately she was able to offer up aide in organizing the people Rys was unprepared to hear the words of the next council member.

"I'll stay." A brief pause gave the other woman the chance to slowly drag her full focus on the lovely features of her dearest friend. "I'll stay. The queen isn't the only one the people know, nor is she the only one with royal blood. I'm the least valuable from our family here," the words were spoken with matter of fact honesty that they felt like a slap in the face. She watched her friend turn to their Prince with a sad little smile. "It is no secret that we are close. The people would never think you'd leave me behind for dead. It would placate them, for a time. More importantly, it would give them hope."

The shock and horror of the moment struck the orphaned girl hard enough to render her breathless. Round eyes screamed surprise, confusion and horror. Mouth agape as she struggled to maintain what was left of her dignity. The lips trying desperately to form a single word, "No", and failing.

With an audible click the woman closed her mouth against the words that wanted to rip themselves from her throat. Feral. It's what they called the humans she was descended from. Fire and passion and unbridled in their emotions. Unequalled by any other humankind. Mirrors of what pure humans had once been long ago tempting those ages gone elves to try and harness those strengths, but only managing to render the traits they once admired unrecognizable. That is who she felt like now. Only it was worse than the horror she had imagined as child, afraid of her own blood and clinging to the elven side for sanity. Now she felt like she was her own prison. Caging in the protective beast inside with her drive to fulfill her duties here with dignity and grace. Her body trembled as she held the wild beast as it railed against the cages of her own heart.

'No! Nonononono!! Look at me Kassi! LOOK at me! WHY? Why?! Look at me and tell me why! You are not least to me. Not to me! You'll die here. Please don't leave me. Don't leave me, Kassi...please. I don't have anyone left, please, please, please, don't, please.' Panicked eyes darted from Kassia, who had become her sister and family, to Matthaios and back. Neither seeing her desperate expression as the cousins conversed. For a brief moment she did catch Melas' eye and tried pleading with him silently, but he couldn't maintain the contact. His own expression better schooled than her own still spoke of his own surprise. That's whenthe fear and panic gave way to a sullen acceptance.

There was nothing she could do. The beast continued to claw from within leaving a burning pain in her chest to keep the sense of impotency company.

There was no changing her mind. Once Lady Kassia Nefeli Angelis set her mind to a task there was no stopping her. Especially when it came to helping others. The difference between this moment and all others was that today Royal Ward Briaerys Daefyr could not walk at her side. And it devastated her. Only one other time, before today, had that feeling found her before, long ago, when her mother had died. The world had tilted and all she could do was hang on until Matthaios had found her and the world had a chance to right itself. Today it had happened thrice. Once with the explosion of Mt. Belos, again with the news of Therison' s decision, a man she had loved like a father and now with this.

The beast growled. Rys blinked and found herself staring at the sylvan elf who had proposed this endeavour. 'You did this. Oh, hunter. How have I ever harmed you?'
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