Council of Kerlile: Behind the Scenes

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Lauchenoiria
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Council of Kerlile: Behind the Scenes

Post by Lauchenoiria » Thu Jul 25, 2019 11:50 pm

OOC: The Council of Kerlile is the hereditary ruling body of the Matriarchy of Kerlile. They are the supreme authority under the Kerlian Constitution, with the ability to both appoint and recall the President, who is chosen from within the Council's membership. While the President may have more power than any individual Councillor, the Council as a whole can outvote her or depose her. Membership of the Council is inherited through the female line, no male can ever become a Councillor, and sons of Councillors are officially not raised by their mothers (though this is an often-broken law). This thread will show some of the activities of the Councillors and their families - all the things the Kerlians would never want to be public.

Contents:
1. Verdicts are Announced (25th July 2019)
2. Olympic Vote, & the Extradition of War Criminals (30th July 2019)
3. A Call About Eddington (31st July 2019)
4. A Deal is Negotiated (6th Aug 2019) - written jointly with Xiomera
5. An Invitation is Given (7th Aug 2019) - written jointly with Democratic Republic of Eiria
6. The Prison Reform Bill is Debated (18th Aug 2019)
7. The Reformists Gain a Secret Ally (4th Sept 2019)
8. Interrogators for Hire (9th Sept 2019) - written jointly with Xiomera
9. Councillor Rosemary Returns to University (12th Sept 2019)
10. Do Pardons Spell the Death of Kerlile? (22nd Sept 2019)
11. Robinson Confesses to Unintentional Treason (7th Oct 2019)
12. Councillors on a Plane to Xiomera (11th Oct 2019)
13. Disappearance of a (Former) President (6th Nov 2019)
14. Councillor Chiu Warned You, Joanna (12th Nov 2019)
15. Letitia Greenwood speaks with Carolyn about politics (16th Dec 2019)
16. Mother's Least Favourite (21st Dec 2019)
17. Betrayals and Consequences (31st Dec 2019)
18. The God-Empress discovers Xia's situation (1st Jan 2020) - written jointly with Great Shen

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Re: Council of Kerlile: Behind the Scenes

Post by Lauchenoiria » Thu Jul 25, 2019 11:50 pm

Council of Kerlile Chamber – Grapevale, Kerlile
25th July 2019 – shortly after TRC verdicts announced

There was a silence in the Council chamber. Councillor Natalia Hart, devout follower of the Goddess, had finished confirming the verdicts and sentences handed out by the Truth & Reconciliation Commission. She stood with the paper in her hand, suddenly feeling very exposed. She wasn’t entirely sure Councillor Patel wouldn’t shoot the messenger – quite literally. After all, everyone in the room was armed.

“Frankly, that went better than I expected,” a voice said. Everyone turned towards Councillor Jennifer Hale. “I thought I was going to prison. And Pauline, you’re free – bet you didn’t expect that! I can accept a travel ban, though I’m going to be pushing you all even harder to drop that warrant for Alvarez’s arrest!”

The joke fell flat, everyone in the room too nervous to react. Hale had indeed been pressuring the Council to permit Josephine Alvarez, Prime Minister of Lauchenoiria (and Jennifer Hale’s wife) to enter Kerlile, despite an incident during the war where Alvarez had been accused of trying to assassinate President Greenwood.

“There will not be any trade deal with Laeral, that is certain,” Councillor Electra Georgiou said glumly. Georgiou had been looking forward to an increase in trade between other nations and Kerlile. She remained sitting with her back straight, surveying the room, but her shoulders sagged slightly.

“Is anyone else kind of surprised that Greenwood and Pierre got off?” mused Rosemary Arnott, the newest Councillor. The 19-year-old was the daughter of President Rebecca Arnott, and wasn’t exactly thrilled to have been dragged away from her university course to take her seat.

Councillor Pierre and President Greenwood were lucky the patriarchal countries did not see fit to ruin their lives, girl. While this was unexpected, it is a result to be celebrated, and things should not have been allowed to get to this stage,” Councillor Lia Chiu said firmly. She did not like the way the young Rosemary acted; she felt it was not in keeping with the decorum expected from a Councillor of Kerlile.

Councillor Hart sat back down, and placed the papers with the TRC verdicts on the table. The Chamber fell silent for a moment longer, the Councillors all avoiding each other’s gazes. They had been anticipating this for a while, but now it was here, it felt rather surreal.

“I must admit, I am pleasantly surprised. This was not as terrible as I thought it would be,” mused Councillor Pauline Pierre. “Carmen, perhaps I will refrain from killing you after all.”

“How considerate,” Carmen Robinson said drily. Robinson had leaked the documents that Pierre had been convinced would spell her doom. Everyone in the room knew that Pierre wanted Robinson dead, and yet the pair somehow managed to sit in the same room every day. “Shame, really, I think you’d have enjoyed a Sanctarian prison.”

“Look, I think we can all agree that the trade restrictions are… unfortunate. But honestly? Only one of us is going to prison and that…” Hale trailed off, glancing around the Chamber. “Where did Anita go?”

The other Councillors looked at the empty seat engraved with the Patel family seal that Anita Patel’s grandmother had designed. Hale knew fine well that the founding mothers of Kerlile had designed family seals for the sole purpose of appearing pretentious and rich, though the rest of the Council tended to abide by the ceremonial traditions of Kerlile for no reason other than to, well, appear pretentious and rich.

“We’re going to have to find her,” said Rosemary Arnott, stating the obvious.

“She will spend the rest of her life in prison,” noted Hart. “If it was me, I would run.”

*

Outskirts of Grapevale, Kerlile
10 minutes later

Councillor Anita Patel was more afraid than she had ever been in her life. She had spent her life causing misery and destruction. By her own hand, she had killed dozens, and by her orders, hundreds if not more. She had always considered herself above the law – she was, after all, a Councillor of Kerlile.

Yet, it seemed like her crimes had finally caught up with her. When she had first read the Haven Accords, it had occurred to her that she ought to murder Jennifer Hale the moment an heir was born. Fortunately for Jennifer, by the time Amelia had been born, Patel had figured out that without a time machine, the death of Jennfier Hale would not solve her problems.

When the Council had outright refused to defy the Sanctarians, and had instead opted to cooperate fully with the Accords and all their constituent parts (including cooperating with the TRC), Anita Patel had been furious. She had taken it out on her staff – one of her servants ended up with two broken arms – much to their horror. Anita Patel was not a good person, that much everyone knew.

When she had heard her sentence of 20 years, she had slipped out of the Council Chamber, in the hope of escaping before they could extradite her to Sanctaria. She was presently in a car, being escorted by security loyal to her, rather than the government as a whole, to a hidden location in which nobody would be able to find her.

She had almost started to relax when her car was brought to a sudden halt. Dread crawled up her spine as she heard gunshots. She went for the door, but she opened it to find a police officer pointing a gun at her head.

“I am a Councillor of Kerlile! You will let me go immediately!” commanded Patel.

“The President has ordered you arrested, Councillor,” said the officer. She looked familiar. It was only upon closer examination that Patel noticed the similarities to Councillor Arnott. This officer was clearly some kind of cousin.

“I will have your head on a silver platter,” snarled Patel at the officer as she was forced from her vehicle. The officer impassively took out handcuffs, and grabbed one of Patel’s wrists. Patel looked down in horror as she was handcuffed and taken to a police vehicle. She was shoved inside, despite yelling and screaming at the officers.

“You’ll all end up in the Restricted Region! I’ll see to it that none of you live another year! Get your hands off me, if you want to keep them!”

She continued to yell as the car drove off, her cries becoming increasingly desperate. Soon the words trailed off and Patel realised she was sobbing. The tears rolled desperately down her cheeks as they travelled back to the city centre.

“Please, I don’t want to die in a cell,” she sobbed, but her captors didn’t listen to her. “Please!”

*

Arnott Residence in Grapevale, Kerlile

“We have Councillor Patel in custody, Madam President,” said a woman whose name President Rebecca Arnott couldn’t quite remember.

“Thank you for the information. That will be all,” responded Arnott. The woman bowed her head and left.

“You know, I think this will be good for us both,” mused Joanna Greenwood. She had arrived at the Arnott residence shortly after the verdicts had been announced, and invited herself in. Arnott had decided that refusing her predecessor would be a mistake – especially since said predecessor would not be spending the next couple of decades in prison.

“How so?” asked Arnott, pouring another glass of wine. She couldn’t cope with the company of the smug, condescending Joanna Greenwood without a little assistance.

“Well, I am, of course, not going to prison,” began Greenwood. Arnott suppressed a grimace. She had secretly looked forward to the day Greenwood was behind bars, not that she’d admit it to anyone. “Which is always a positive. And for you, you get to blame the Sanctarians when your trade policy is a disaster. Which, let us be honest, was always going to happen.”

“I resent that implication.”

“You know I speak the truth.”

The two presidents, current and former, sat in silence for a moment, then Greenwood stood and placed her glass back on the table.

“Well, thank you for the drink, Rebecca. I will be sure to call again soon, see if you need any assistance,” said Greenwood.

“There is really no need, I am quite capable of carrying out my duties,” replied Arnott sourly.

“No, no, I insist. I will see you tomorrow. Good day, Rebecca.”

“Good day, Joanna,” said Arnott, relieved that the older woman was leaving – at least for now.

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Re: Council of Kerlile: Behind the Scenes

Post by Lauchenoiria » Tue Jul 30, 2019 5:27 pm

Council of Kerlile Chamber, Grapevale, Kerlile
30th July 2019 – morning

The Council Chamber was half-empty. Councillor Robinson had refrained from attending any sessions since the TRC verdicts. She had been looking forward to Pierre’s incarceration, everyone knew, and was disappointed in the verdict. So, she avoided Pierre – who was taking every occasion to gloat, and to accuse Robinson of treason.

“If nobody else will be in attendance, we shall begin,” announced Councillor Lia Chiu, second in seniority to Patel and the new Chair of the Council. She glanced around the room at Hale, Pierre, Georgiou and the young Arnott.

“Are we not expecting Letitia and Natalia?” queried Councillor Pauline Pierre, referring to Councillors Greenwood and Hart.

“Natalia’s at a religious service,” said Hale, taking a sip of her coffee. “The Festival of the Goddess is in a couple of weeks. I don’t know about Letitia though.”

“She should be here,” insisted Pierre.

“You’re just saying that because you know your little faction doesn’t have a majority right now,” pointed out Rosemary Arnott.

Councillor Pierre narrowed her eyes at the teenage Arnott, opening her mouth to retort, when the door opened and Letitia Greenwood entered, trailed by Lucia Viallamando, the latter yawning and looking rather dishevelled.

“We apologise for our lateness,” Letitia announced loudly, taking her seat. Viallamando winced at the sound of the voice and collapsed into her own chair, resting her head in her arms on the table in front of her.

“Whoa, is she hungover!?” asked Rosemary, staring at Viallamando.

“It’s considered impolite to point that out,” Hale informed the young Councillor, who just shrugged. Several of the Councillors glowered at the young Arnott with contempt. She violated the Council’s normal rules of decorum for seemingly no reason. Hale, of course, violated them in protest against the system, but Rosemary’s disrespect was almost incidental, and clearly purposeless.

“If we could begin?” Councillor Chiu asked sharply, and the room fell silent as they turned towards her. “First on the agenda is the matter of serial killer Jasmine Eddington. The Federation of Lauchenoiria has refused our request for extradition. They are presently holding her on immigration charges but they will have to release her on Sunday. If she is let loose in Lauchenoiria, she will kill again, and undoubtedly we will somehow get the blame.”

“We ought to send someone to retrieve her,” suggested Pierre. “The Lauchenoirians might get touchy just now but in the long term they’ll thank us.”

“And risk the ire of the Sanctarian peacekeepers who are still in Lauchenoiria? I think not,” scoffed Georgiou, stirring her tea. Greenwood leaned away from her slightly, the pungent smell of the tea irritating her. Nobody was quite sure what kind of tea Georgiou was drinking this week, she had a new variety every few weeks.

“There’s still a chance Lauchenoiria will give her back, right? We’ve got KBS to put out that article today, right? The one with the families? That’ll change their minds probably, and it’ll be okay,” Rosemary said hopefully.

“Josephine will not extradite Eddington.”

Jennifer Hale spoke loudly and clearly, in a manner that said she was not open to argument.

“But surely if she sees what Eddington was like…” Arnott began, then trailed off when Hale shot her a glare.

“Josephine Alvarez has no reason to extradite to Kerlile, and every reason to refuse us. Or have you forgotten last year? You took her hostage, tortured her to get to me. She despises this country, and there is no way she would do anything to help us. She knows from experience what our prisons are like, can you blame her for refusing to send someone back to one? No, as long as Alvarez is Prime Minister, Lauchenoiria will not extradite Jasmine Eddington.”

“Then what do we do?” asked Letitia Greenwood.

“We move on. They’ll learn or they won’t,” Hale said firmly, looking to Chiu. After a few moment’s silence, Chiu nodded and shuffled the paper in front of her.

“Item two: a proposal to temporarily lift the ban on international travel for those wishing to visit Shuell as spectators during the IDU Olympics. We have discussed this before, however a vote must be taken. Does anyone have anything further to add before we proceed to a vote?”

“I think this is going to go a long way to improving our international image,” said Georgiou. Hale and Arnott nodded in agreement.

“We cannot allow males to leave, however, they will not return,” pointed out Pierre.

“We’ve amended the proposal so only female citizens will be allowed to travel, Pauline,” Hale informed her, sighing slightly. She disliked compromise.

“In which case, can we proceed to a vote?” asked Chiu, keen to get this session over with. She had an expensive bottle of imported wine to get to. She’d been stockpiling Lauchenoirian wine in anticipation of trade sanctions. “I will take the lack of objection as consent.”

The Kerlian civil servant lurking in the corner stepped forward. She rubbed at the scar on her arm, eyeing Councillor Pierre nervously. She didn’t want to end up like her predecessor.

“The motion is to temporarily lift the ban on international travel for female Kerlian civilians wishing to travel to Shuell during the IDU Olympics. Votes will now be counted.”

The Council had been through seventeen vote counters since the attempted vote of no confidence in Patel at the end of last August. Ironically, the vote counter present on that day was the only one who still lived. She had been hidden by Councillor Hale. Her successors had met a variety of unfortunate fates, most of which had been attributed to Councillor Patel. Very few in Kerlile were sad to see the back of her.

“Councillor Arnott?”

“I vote aye.”

“Councillor Chiu?”

“I vote aye.”

“Councillor Georgiou?”

“I vote aye.”

“Councillor Greenwood?”

“I vote aye.”

“Councillor Hale?”

“I vote aye.”

“Councillor Hart is absent. Her abstention has been noted. Councillor Patel is, uh, also absent. This has been noted. Councillor Pierre?”

“I vote aye.”

“Councillor Robinson’s absence has been noted. Councillor Viallamando?”

“Ugh can you be quieter? I abstain!”

“With six votes in favour and four abstentions or absences, the motion carries,” the woman said, then returned to hiding in her corner, relieved. No votes against meant that nobody was likely to punish her.

“Before we move on,” said Chiu, “we must mention briefly security arrangements for Councillors Georgiou and Greenwood. Both of you plan to go to Shuell, am I correct?”

“That is correct,” nodded Letitia. She was an avid sports fan, enough that she had overcome her dislike of foreign travel on several occasions. Georgiou just enjoyed any opportunity to visit new countries.

“We are waiting for final confirmation from Shuell but it appears that we may be limited to three security personnel per Councillor with one sidearm each.”

“You are kidding me, right!?” Letitia looked outraged.

“The Shuellians will also be ‘generously’ providing their own security.”

“Watching us, you mean?” Letitia growled. “Goddess, this is going to be a mistake. If we die you’ll nuke Shuell, right?”

“That’s not going to happen, Letitia,” said Hale. “And you’ve read the reports on a war with Shuell. Avoid at all costs.”

Letitia opened her mouth to retort, but Chiu held up her arms.

“We will discuss this later. Next item on the agenda: the Patel succession. With Anita due to be extradited following this session, we must decide if we are to allow Nirmala to take her place immediately.”

“If Anita isn’t dead, it would be rude of us to give away her seat,” pointed out Rosemary.

“Yes, however, we passed that emergency act providing for a daughter to take her mother’s place temporarily in the event of incapacitation or foreign incarceration six months ago. We must follow through,” insisted Pierre.

“Well, you see the thing is…” Hale interrupted, and continued. The Council would debate the Patel succession for around an hour before voting to allow Nirmala to take the Patel seat once confirmation of her mother’s arrival in Sanctaria was received.

*

Unidentified Airport, Kerlile
30th July 2019 – afternoon

The woman scanned the horizon and was relieved at the stillness. They had cleared the area so that the only vehicles passing this way would be those transporting the prisoners. The airplane sat on the runway, waiting. The airport was surrounded by armed guards, with not a male in sight.

President Arnott walked along the tarmac, flanked by guards.

“How long?” she asked the woman.

“The transport should be here momentarily, ma’am,” said the woman.

“Good,” the President replied.

Soon, the row of vans came into view. They stopped near to where the President and her entourage stood.

“Patel last,” ordered President Arnott.

“Yes, ma’am,” said the woman. The door of one van opened, and Chloe Conde was brought out in handcuffs. She was considerably skinnier than when she’d first been arrested, months before when she had tried to flee Kerlile. She seemed almost to breathe a sigh of relief when she saw the plane.

“Better a Sanctarian prison than a Kerlian one,” she muttered to herself, kicking a stone. President Arnott nodded toward the plane, and Conde was led off.

Littlewood and Casci had similar reactions when they were led out, though they hadn’t spent nearly as long in a Kerlian prison as Conde. When Chevroux was brought out, however, the woman had a rather more violent reaction, struggling against her captors.

“Please, Madam President!” Chevroux yelled when she saw Arnott. “I was only serving my country! Why are you bowing down to patriarchal masters? This is Kerlile!”

Arnott stared impassively as Chevroux was dragged off. When they brought out Patel, it was clear the older woman had been crying. President Arnott walked right up to her.

“Madam President, I beg you to reconsider. I truly believe that if it comes to it, we can fight Sanctaria. Do not let this happen,” begged Patel.

President Arnott leaned forward to whisper in Patel’s ear.

“You imprisoned and tortured my brothers. You imprisoned and tortured Jennifer’s wife. You imprisoned and tortured Councillor Robinson. Your own partners and the fathers of your children. Members of your staff who failed you. Anyone who ever criticised you. You deserve this, Anita. More than anyone else alive.”

Arnott then turned and walked away.

“Please! Rebecca, I know we have our differences but you’re selling out our country! Rebecca, I can promise you… wait I’m not done, stop dragging me, let go of me! I am a Councillor of Kerlile you cannot do this to me! Rebecca! REBECCA!”

President Rebecca Arnott did not look back as Councillor Anita Patel was dragged onto a plane, kicking and screaming, threatening and begging.

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Re: Council of Kerlile: Behind the Scenes

Post by Lauchenoiria » Thu Aug 01, 2019 12:34 am

Hale Residence, Kerlile
31st July 2019 – evening

Councillor Jennifer Hale kissed her baby daughter Amelia on the forehead, then handed her to Emma Woodward, Hale’s most trusted member of staff. She walked over to the desk and picked up the phone.

“I’m ready. Make the call.”

While she waited to be connected with Josephine Alvarez, Prime Minister of Lauchenoiria (and Hale’s legally-still wife), she nervously tapped a pen against the paper in front of her. She had cleared the desk except for the statements from the victim’s families… and a picture of her with Josephine, both of them still young and in love.

“Councillor Hale, what an unexpected pleasure,” came a voice dripping with sarcasm through the phone.

“Good evening, Prime Minister. I am calling to ask you to reconsider your decision to refuse the extradition of Kerlian citizen Jasmine Eddington, who as I’m sure you’re aware was convicted of thirteen murders and one kidnapping…”

“Jennifer, you know Lauchenoiria can’t extradite anyone to Kerlile. I’m sorry for the families who wrote those letters, truly I am. But you know fine well that it would set a precedent. This is a private call, so let’s not pretend that we don’t know each other. I sat with you once, when you went by another name, and I was Foreign Minister. You told me to never, ever agree to extradite any Kerlian. To never change that policy. Do you remember why?”

“Josephine, this is different, Eddington isn’t political, she…”

“‘Every Kerlian who tries to flee gets hurt, would you really want to be complicit in that?’ you said. If I send Eddington back, regardless of your assurances about the death penalty, I’ll be complicit in whatever pain your people subject her to. I’ve been there, Jennifer. I know what she would go through. I agree, she’s a terrible person, but she still doesn’t deserve to be tortured.”

“She won’t be. I promise you that. This Restricted Region moratorium is real, she can’t be sent there – and before you say they’ll just do it elsewhere, I swear they won’t. We give you our complete assurance.”

“We. The Council,” Josephine paused, the silence stretching out for a seemingly endless amount of time. “You know, I remember when you told me you wouldn’t join them. Then I convinced you to do it just so they’d stop hurting me. In a way, I feel responsible for this. You know, Sonja - Jennifer, I think I have been somewhat unfair to you. Thank you for rescuing me last year.”

“Josie…”

“But that doesn’t change the other facts. And that isn’t what this is about. By law we cannot extradite Eddington. President Marwick might be able to sign an executive order but it would cause a hell of a fuss. And if we extradite one Kerlian, that makes it so much easier the next time. Until one day, Lauchenoiria is no longer safe for the people fleeing political persecution. The people you claim you support.”

“I do support them, Josephine! I did not want this. I wanted to stay in Lauchenoiria with you. But that wasn’t to be. When my sister died without a daughter I was devastated. I may have lied about who I was but I wasn’t lying when I told you about the sister who beat me every night. And yes, I lied to you but Goddess do you really think you wouldn’t have in my position? I didn’t ask for this life. But now I guess I’m stuck here. And for what it’s worth I am so, so, so sorry I lied.”

Jennifer reached out to the box of tissues on her desk, wiping the tears that had begun to fall off her face. She really had intended to stick to business on this call, but it seemed like the unfinished business between her and Alvarez was too near the surface to stay buried for long.

“You know,” Josephine began, “the fall of Usera was almost a year ago. I’ve known who you really are for 51 weeks and I still call you Sonja in my mind. I don’t know if I can forgive you, but… I think I do understand. A little. I’m sorry that this happened, really. And I hope, in spite of everything that one day I can see Amelia. But I am not ready to discuss our… personal relationship yet. I need more time. So, let’s just focus on Eddington, okay?”

“Yes, yes, of course. Uh, well, if you’ve read the files we sent you, then you’ll know that she killed 13 adolescent boys, and kidnapped a 14th with the intent to kill him, when she was caught. She published a manifesto stating her intention to kill 16 boys. It was a religious crusade, she thinks she was doing the work of the Goddess in punishing males. My point is: she didn’t kill 16 people. She considers her work unfinished. If you release her, she will kill again.”

“My understanding of her ‘manifesto’ is that she wanted to kill a boy from each of Kerlile’s 16 regions, minus the Restricted Region of course. What makes you think she is a threat to Lauchenoirians?”

“All those Kerlian refugees you’re trying to protect by refusing to change the extradition policy? What makes you so sure that none of them are adolescent boys from one of those three remaining regions?”

“That is a fair point. We can assign protection to individuals meeting that profile until such a day as it is not required. If you’re right about Eddington, she will likely commit a crime in Lauchenoiria and then we can arrest her for that.”

“By that point it would be too late. And, forgive my bluntness, but does the Lauchenoirian budget allow for 24/7 protection for an unknown number of refugees, that won’t welcome it? After all, it will remind them of Kerlile. Of being watched by the government, of feeling unsafe. Do you really want to put them through that?”

“I… I understand where you’re coming from, I do. If it was any other country then I’d consider it. But you know our history with Kerlile. You still have three Lauchenoirian students in prison for criticising your government while on holiday. They’ve spent 9 years rotting in a Kerlian cell because your Council wanted to teach us a lesson.”

“If you’re interested in a trade…”

“We’re not giving you back Kerlian refugees. That was made clear 9 years ago. There’s a reason Lauchenoirian citizens are cautioned against visiting Kerlile. They’re hostages, being held by your government until we hand over your dissidents. But we won’t, we will protect them. It pains me that those three are still in prison, but we won’t give in to the demands to return dissidents.”

“That’s not what I’m asking, I know you never would. It would be offensive of me to try. I will speak to President Arnott, however, about those three. If she is serious about reforming, then she should be willing to release them. And the, uh, other Lauchenoirians. Anita used to refer to them as the ‘collection’. No strings attached.”

“Of course she did. I can’t say I didn’t celebrate when I saw her verdict. For what it’s worth, Jennifer, I was very relieved to see you wouldn’t be joining her. Anyway, that would be a good start. But I cannot guarantee we will extradite Eddington in return.”

“I’m not asking you… well, I’m not insisting you do. But it would mean a lot if you did – not to me, or the Council, but to the families of her victims. I know you care about them, and I know how difficult a dilemma this must be for you. Please, just consider the implications of this decision.”

“I will consider it, Jennifer. But it is unlikely that we will.”

“I understand. Thank you anyway. Oh, and incidentally, if you ever do want to visit Kerlile, the Council will guarantee your safety. I, of course, can’t exactly leave the country right now.”

“I… I think it unlikely that I will visit the Matriarchy any time soon.”

“Of course.”

“Goodbye, Jennifer.”

“Goodbye, Josephine.”

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Re: Council of Kerlile: Behind the Scenes

Post by Lauchenoiria » Tue Aug 06, 2019 10:28 pm

(Written jointly with Xiomera)

President Rebecca Arnott of Kerlile sat at her desk, tapping her fingers in a repeating pattern, nervous with anticipation over what Emperor Topilpopoca was going to say on the call. She was cautiously optimistic: Kerlile was desperate for new trading partners and it seemed to her like the Xiomerans would be more than willing, something Kerlile desperately needed in light of the TRC verdicts.

She flicked through her notes on Kerlian trade policy, even though she knew everything on the paper off by heart. She was trying to avoid staring at the phone. The words of her predecessor echoed in her mind, about how her trade policy was sure to fail, and she became even more determined not to let that happen.

In his spacious, sunlit office in the East Wing of the Palace of Flowers, Emperor Topilpopoca of Xiomera sat down at his expansive beechwood desk with a contented sigh. It was a beautiful day, and the palace gardens outside his window were especially resplendent in the sunlight, ensuring the Palace of Flowers lived up to its name. And the Emperor was about to engage in a favorite Xiomeran pastime: making a deal.

Trade had been the signature goal of Topilpopoca's current reign. But troublesome dissidents, bleeding heart democracies and nosy neighbors were all combining in a particularly vexing way to thwart the Emperor's ambitions. That wasn't a good thing for any Emperor who wanted to keep his Imperial posterior on the Obsidian Throne; rivals were always circling like sharks around prey, and any leader found wanting would find themselves chum in short order.

Topilpopoca had been Emperor for far too long to allow that to happen. And when he had demanded suggestions from his Trade Secretary, Tlanextia, on nations likely to ignore silly concerns about Xiomeran internal affairs when it came to trade, Kerlile had been first on her list.

Topilpopoca had read the dossier on Kerlile. Unlike many other regional leaders, he liked what he had read. A strange matriarchial system, to be sure, but also a proud nation with a unique culture, one often unappreciated and attacked by its neighbors. Xiomerans could certainly relate to that. And given Xiomera's own unusual political system, the Emperor wasn't inclined to look down on other nations whose systems were....unorthodox.

More importantly, since the Haven Accords, Kerlile needed trade and friendly nations to offer that trade. Xiomera had needs of its own. Resources, to power the ever-hungry maw of the Xiomeran industrial sector. People, to buy the goods and services that sector produced. Xiomera relied on trade to maintain its prosperity, the underpinning of what held the entire Xiomeran system together and kept the sheep contently grazing. Without trade, Xiomera would collapse eventually. The Xiomerans needed a deal just as badly as Kerlile did.

Topilpopoca certainly wouldn't let them know it, however. Xiomera presented an image of golden, implacable strength to the world. He would rely on that image during the negotiations.

When the time came, Secretary of International Affairs Huitzilhuani passed the Emperor a phone number. Secretary of Trade Tlanextia was also there, both of them ready to help the Emperor if he ran into trouble on the call. But the Emperor placed his own phone calls.

When the call was answered, he spoke simply. "Good morning, and thank you for taking my call. I am Topilpopoca," he said in his warm baritone voice. He didn't feel the need to try to impress Arnott with his title; she was a head of state in her own right, after all.

Besides, Topilpopoca was supremely confident that anyone important enough for him to call would already know who he was.

“Good morning, Emperor. I am Rebecca Arnott, President of Kerlile. It is a pleasure to speak with you,” Arnott said, her voice perfectly calm, giving away none of her nerves. She wasn’t going to let her emotions ruin this opportunity.

"It is a pleasure for myself as well, madam President. I believe I am the first leader of Xiomera to have the privilege to speak with a President of Kerlile in such a way. This is a momentous occasion, a milestone that I hope will lead to many more in the future of our nations," Topilpopoca said. His voice was pitched to convey warmth and sincerity, and confidence without arrogance. Rather than seeming prideful, it would reflect the Emperor's belief that this conversation would not prove to be a waste of time for either party.

"I am in agreement. For too long, my nation has failed to see the wisdom of developing positive relations with the rest of the world. It is my hope that during my time as president, we can change that, and it would please me greatly if we could begin our new era of international cooperation by working with Xiomera. You are an admirable nation," Arnott said, keeping her voice even. She had begun to relax as Topilpopoca spoke, and she was now feeling very hopeful that good would come from this call.

"Thank you for saying so. We find Kerlile to be a nation worthy of admiration as well. Xiomera is also unique in that we do not have the peculiar notions that many nations have considering women," Topilpopoca replied. "We respect anyone who has the strength to stand up for themselves, especially in the face of such malevolent opposition as you have faced. Xiomeran women have long been exemplars of strength in our own society. When some of the greatest leaders in your history are women, you rapidly discard any silly patriarchial notions," he continued. "As such, we have long admired your particular ability to maintain your society in the face of resistance."

"I believe there is much we can offer each other. But rather than start with what we want, I like to begin discussions by finding out what a potential partner is hoping to achieve. So please, tell me: what do you, and Kerlile, hope to achieve by partnering with Xiomera? What is it that we can offer you, or do to help you?"

“You may have heard of our current… predicament,” began Arnott, hating to appear weak but knowing that she had little choice. “Following the verdicts of the TRC we have had to cancel several planned trade deals. While we try to remain self-sufficient, there are certain goods that just cannot be found in Kerlile. Oil, for example.”

“I have no doubt you are also aware of the recent attack on our sovereignty by the Trivian Empire. While we are hopeful this will not turn into a conflict, we must be prepared for that possibility. We have heard good things about weapons manufactured in Xiomera, and we would be grateful for the opportunity to purchase some. I hope that is something you are open to?”

"These are all things we can provide. Oil is something we have access to in abundance; we are more than happy to export it to you. We also can supply just about any manufactured good you can imagine. As for your recent incident with Trive....we can help you take measures to prevent such intrusions in the future. Surveillance equipment, early warning technology, technology to jam unwanted broadcasts and protect your networks....and defense equipment as well, should it be needed. We can provide everything from basic firearms all the way to missile systems and main battle tanks. We can also provide experts to help train your forces and boost their capabilities, should that be desired." At the other end of the phone, Topilpopoca smiled. If defense equipment was what Kerlile wanted, Xiomeran factories would be more than happy to churn out as much of it as Kerlile wanted to buy.

“Thank you, we would be most grateful for all of that. Especially technology that would allow us to prevent a similar incident from occurring again. I, and the Council, are concerned that a repeat of such an occurrence would lead to massive unrest across the country. For the safety and security of our people, we cannot allow such a thing to come to pass. It is my hope that we will not need defence equipment but in these times, one never knows. What about you? What do you wish to gain from our partnership?” Arnott asked. She was thrilled with the way the conversation was going. It seemed like Xiomera had exactly what they needed to defend themselves from what was, at present, their biggest threat.

"For Xiomera, first and foremost we are hoping to build solid and mutually beneficial relationships with other nations. We are a nation that makes things, but need people to make those things for. More importantly, we are dealing with foreign challenges of our own. You have probably heard of the unprovoked sanctions recently leveled against us by Zamastan. These events have impressed upon us that we need to find less imperialistic trading partners," Topilpopoca replied. "As for specific needs, as a manufacturing nation, we are always in need of raw materials. Ores, steel, lumber, rare minerals and the like. If we can be supplied those, we can maintain our economy."

“We have an abundance of raw materials in Kerlile. Our mining sector especially is very large. We can provide you with considerable quantities. And yes, I have heard of the sanctions. The Zamastanians sanctioned us too, back in February. They claimed we were interfering in the Aelurian referendum, which was a blatant lie. It hurt our economy. If you are taking any action against Zamastan, we would be open to joining you,” Arnott said. “Rest assured that Kerlile will not attempt to influence the internal politics of Xiomera, unlike so many other countries who feel the need to interfere in others’ affairs.”

"That is good to hear. Xiomera will likewise respect the sovereignty of the Matriarchy and will not interfere in your affairs in any way. We believe the best partnerships are built on that kind of mutual respect," Topilpopoca replied in a pleasant tone. The Emperor was growing more pleased with the conversation as it went on; the situation seemed very promising.

“I am in full agreement. I am glad we see eye to eye on so many things, emperor. I hope that we can cooperate on many things in the future. If you like, I will have my trade minister draft up a full list of resources we would be willing to trade, and send it to your government?” Arnott asked. “We may also soon announce some measures of our own that we will be taking against Zamastan.”

"Such an announcement will be greatly appreciated, along with your list of resources. In return, we will denounce the actions of the Trivians, and supply a list of available defensive weapons and manufactured goods, as well as oil exports," Topilpopoca said with genuine pleasure. Nothing satisfied a Xiomeran more than a well-done deal. And this deal seemed to be just that for both nations.

“We are grateful. I look forward to receiving your list. It has been a pleasure speaking with you,” Arnott replied. She could not have been more pleased. The two nations were perfect trading partners, and what’s more, Xiomera seemed fully willing to work with Kerlile. Her trade policy was shaping up to be a success, despite the numerous forces which had been working against her.

"We are grateful as well, and look forward to a long and mutually beneficial and respectful relationship between our two nations. Thank you once again for taking my call," Topilpopoca replied. For his part, the Emperor felt the conversation could not have gone any better. Xiomera would soon show the world that it would be subject to no one's economic blackmail.

“You are very welcome. I hope we can speak again soon. Have a good day, emperor,” said Arnott. She leaned back in her seat and smiled at the ceiling. This day was going very well indeed.

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Re: Council of Kerlile: Behind the Scenes

Post by Lauchenoiria » Thu Aug 08, 2019 12:36 am

(Written jointly with the Democratic Republic of Eiria)

Arnott Residence, Grapevale, Kerlile
7th August 2019 - evening

President Rebecca Arnott flicked through the list of Council debates scheduled for the next week. She was annoyed that the emigration decriminalisation debate had been scrapped, and hoped that something could be scavenged and saved. She was reading through a proposal by Councillor Georgiou to increase arts funding when the phone on her desk rang. She jumped a little before picking it up.

"Yes?" She asked.

"Ma'am, we are receiving a call from Alice Lancaster, the Minister of Diplomacy for the Democratic Republic of Eiria. She wishes to speak to you."

"She's not on my schedule, but I suppose I could make an exception. Put me through."

The line clicked a couple of times. When the call connected, Arnott spoke.

"This is President Arnott. How may I help you?"

"Good Evening, President Arnott. This is Alice Lancaster. I know you are very busy, so I won't waste to much time with pleasantries. I called to discuss the Trade war".

"Ms Lancaster," said Arnott, slightly taken aback, "while I can appreciate a certain level of bluntness, I would not describe our slight dispute with Zamastan as a 'war'. However I am willing to overlook that. May I ask, however, what business this is of yours?"

She chuckled. "My apologies, Madame. I can be a bit blunt on occasion. I didn't get the nickname 'Diamond' by being subtle. Eiria is interested in holding a conference to end this... Dispute, before it gets out of hand and sends us all into a depression".

"Well, that seems like a bit of an exaggeration to me. We shared little in the way of trade with Zamastan to begin with. And they sanctioned us back in February after accusing us of electoral interference in Aeluria that we were not responsible for. I do not feel that such a conference is necessary."

"With all due respect, Eiria disagrees. I do not doubt your statement that you were not interfering in the election. Eiria has a habit of attempting to shut anything negative down before it starts, ever since the Civil war". She sighed. "Look, you have every right to decline. If so, I apologise for wasting your time. We are just being cautious, Madame President".

"That is understandable. I would not be so hasty, however, to decline without giving the invitation due consideration. We would, of course, prefer to end this dispute in a peaceful and prompt manner. After all, we are seeking to increase trade with our neighbours, not get into unnecessary disputes. I will consider sending a representative to this conference, if it goes ahead."

"Thank you, Madame. It will be held at my childhood home, The Lancaster Estate, in Duņceda, Western Eiria. Accomodations for travel will be made, and diplomats will stay at guest rooms on the Estate property. When would you like to hold it?"

"That will surely depend on the other parties you are inviting. Have the Xiomerans and Zamastanians agreed? We will confirm our attendance once they have," Arnott said.

"I will confirm with them, but I assume they'd be open. We also require the Dietary and Allergenic restrictions for your party, as soon as possible. Is there anything else you wish to discuss, Madame President?"

"No, that will be all. Once we have confirmed our attendance and decided who we are sending we will provide you with that information. Good day," Arnott replied.

"Good Day, Madame President". Click.

Arnott put down the phone and stared at it, slightly bemused. She had not planned to agree to attend any conference, but somehow had ended up doing just that. Still, she figured, it would do Kerlile good on the international stage to be seen to be looking to end the trade war before it could really begin. It was important that Kerlile appeared cooperative with all efforts to end this. This would be good for the Matriarchy - and, almost more importantly, good for her political career.

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Re: Council of Kerlile: Behind the Scenes

Post by Lauchenoiria » Sun Aug 18, 2019 9:14 pm

Council Chamber, Grapevale, Kerlile
Friday 16th July 2019, morning

Councillor Rosemary Arnott glanced nervously around the Chamber. She was the youngest – although not the newest, given that Nirmala Patel had recently taken her imprisoned mother’s seat – and this was a momentous debate. The consequences of the decision made there today would affect the lives of millions in the years to come. It was a responsibility that the 19-year-old Rosemary struggled to comprehend. She hadn’t wanted to inherit her seat so early, but Kerlile was not a country where people had many choices.

The door opened, and Councillor Carmen Robinson entered, pointedly avoiding Councillor Pauline Pierre’s eyes as she took her seat. Carmen had taken to avoiding the Chamber recently, only turning up to the most important and contentious of debates. Everyone knew it was to avoid Pauline, even the young Rosemary, but naturally decorum meant that nobody would mention it.

Carmen still hadn’t forgiven those on the Council who had ordered her detention and interrogation, and when Pauline had been found not guilty, she had been devastated. All her plans, her careful collecting of information, all for nothing. She had betrayed the matriarchy, committed treason, all for nothing. She had wanted revenge for her family, anyone even remotely familiar with the Council knew that. Alas, her vengeance was still out of her grasp.

“If we are all present, we shall begin,” announced Councillor Lia Chiu. She stood, motioning for the others to do the same. Since Jennifer Hale’s return, the traditions of Council meetings had often been neglected, but for such a momentous debate, Lia had decided it was important that protocol was followed to the letter. “Who is present in this chamber?” she demanded.

“Councillor Rosemary Arnott,” said Rosemary, standing straight and looking dead ahead. “Descendant of Founder of Kerlile Nancy Arnott.”

“Councillor Electra Georgiou, descendant of Founder of Kerlile Phoebe Georgiou”

“Councillor Letitia Greenwood, descendant of Founder of Kerlile Wilma Greenwood.”

“Councillor Jennifer Hale, descendant of Founder of Kerlile Camila Hale.”

“Councillor Natalia Hart, descendant of Founder of Kerlile Edith Hart.”

“Councillor Nirmala Patel, descendant of Founder of Kerlile Sunita Patel.”

“Councillor Pauline Pierre, descendant of Founder of Kerlile Marilène Pierre.”

“Councillor Carmen Robinson, descendant of Founder of Kerlile Margaret Robinson.”

“Councillor Lucia Viallamando, descendant of Founder of Kerlile Martina Villamando.”

“And I, Councillor Lia Chiu, descendant of Founder of Kerlile Yijun Chiu. This session will now begin,” finished Lia. The Councillors all took their seats in unison, even Jennifer, who had fought so hard to discard pointless traditions.

“For the consideration of the Council of Kerlile, I propose the Prisons and Detention Reform Bill. I believe you all have paper copies in front of you, so with permission, I will let the discussion begin immediately?” Carmen asked of Lia, her hand resting on her own copy of the proposed bill.

“Granted. If you would like to begin, Councillor Robinson?” Lia asked of Carmen.

“I think we all already have our own opinions on the topic of prison reform,” began Carmen. “If you will oblige me, however, I ask even those of you who have previously voted against this to reconsider. I could talk about issues of morality, and you could ignore me. Those of you who subscribe to that kind of thought process will already support this bill. So instead, I would like to address this to those of you who may be convinced to change your mind.”

She paused, smiling pointedly in the directions of Lia Chiu, Letitia Greenwood, Nirmala Patel and Lucia Viallamando. She did not glance towards Pauline Pierre. Carmen would never look at Pauline again, if she could avoid it. “I believe the debate following this is on the topic of temporary rationing of certain goods, brought about as a result of the sanctions against us by a number of nations. We cannot act as if these are two separate issues. We all know, deep down, that the main reason other nations choose to sanction us is for our treatment of prisoners. These sanctions affect even us, in this room. They are directly linked.”

“Nirmala, your mother is rotting in a cell in Sanctaria. Why is that? Because of the way she ordered the torture of prisoners. We might call Anita’s situation unique, but can any of us say with certainty that something similar will not happen in the future? I have experienced life in a cell, on the orders of people in this room, and I know that none of you would enjoy the experience. Most of you wouldn’t even cope for a single day without breaking down in tears, knowing the lifestyle you are accustomed to. If we continue to mistreat our prisoners, we are all but asking for such an outcome.”

“Which brings me on to my last point. You lot. The way you treated me. I see the looks on your faces right now. You think: what does it matter to me? I will never be in that position. I will never be treated like that. Well, you are of equal rank to me, and I was treated like that. You tortured a false confession out of me, and now act like I should just let bygones be bygones. You make me sit here and look at your faces, the way you made my mother sit here when she was young and grieving for her mother who was killed in this very room. You are the most immoral and irredeemable people I know, so I know you won’t vote for this out of the goodness of your hearts. So, vote for it to save yourselves in the future, if that’s what it takes.”

Carmen took her seat, blinking away a few tears that had formed at the corner of her eyes. The room was silent, with all of the Councillors avoiding Carmen’s gaze. Those who had voted in favour of her imprisonment in June had the good grace not to speak, and even Pauline couldn’t quite bring herself to look up. The Council sat in silence, until Lia cleared her throat.

“If you could refrain from insulting this Council, Councillor Robinson, that would be much appreciated. I understand that this is an emotional topic for you, however insults will not be permitted in this chamber.”

“Kick her out,” said Pauline.

“Councillor Pierre, I…” began Lia.

“No, I will not have her implying that my grandmother was a murderer!” Pauline shouted.

“She was a murderer!” said Carmen.

“STOP!” yelled Jennifer. “Are we going to do this now? This is a serious topic for debate, and the 1983 incident is not what is being discussed. Are we going to continue this debate on prison reform or not?”

“The debate will continue,” said Lia firmly. “If Councillors Pierre and Robinson wish to argue over historical events they may do so in their own time. Now, I believe Councillor Greenwood has points she wishes to raise.”

“Yes, I do,” began Letitia, “especially pertaining to the proposed closing of the Restricted Region. In the event that this legislation passes, there is going to need to be a lot of transfers out of the Region. We are, I hope, not planning to release terrorists and traitors? Which means we would need to address overcrowding in other facilities. What is wrong with keeping the prisoners in their present location but changing the way the facilities are run? Would that not address the concerns of the Reform Party Councillors without making matters worse?”

“There will be ample space in prison facilities after my mother announced those pardons,” replied Rosemary Arnott. “Which she intends to do soon.”

“She is a fool!” exclaimed Nirmala. “She wants to release traitors, who will undoubtedly work to overthrow us all as soon as they can.”

“She’s releasing people who spoke their minds. People who did nothing but speak, which they shouldn’t be locked up for,” said Jennifer.

You would say that, little democrat,” sneered Nirmala. “You are the reason we are all in this mess with the Haven Accords.”

“I just want an answer to my question,” sighed Letitia. “Why can we not keep them in their present location but reform the way they are treated?”

“You know fine well that the way the Region is set up, that reform there would be impossible,” Electra Georgiou answered. “It must be shut down.”

The Councillors all began to speak over each other, their voices mixing together as Rosemary Arnott stood and subtly exited the chamber. She leaned against a wall and sighed. She was getting a headache – Council debates always did that to her. She wished she hadn’t been the eldest (and only) daughter of President Arnott. She hated being a Councillor. She wished she could just head back to university in Hazelton.

“Ma’am, are you okay?” one of the security guards outside the Chamber asked her.

“Fine, yes. Just… can you ask, um, I’m sorry I don’t know her name but I mean the minute-taker to tell me when they’ve called a vote? I just want a break.”

“Of course, ma’am.”

Rebecca wandered down the atrium outside the Chamber, looking at the statues of the founders of Kerlile and enjoying the quiet. Sometimes the noise just got too much for her. It had always been this way throughout her childhood. It had got her in trouble more than once. She sat down on a bench, pulled out a small e-reader and sat down.

“Ma’am?” came a voice, about an hour later. “They have delayed the vote until Monday. They are moving on to discuss rationing procedures.”

“Thank you,” she said to the nameless civil servant who looked a little frightened to be speaking to a Councillor. “In which case, I will go home. It is not a contentious issue, we all know it is necessary, unfortunately.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

Rebecca Arnott sat a little longer, finishing her chapter, then stood up and abruptly exited the building, her security noticing and following wordlessly. Her chauffeur opened the door to her car as she approached, and she got inside. She preferred to walk, but wasn’t permitted to while there was a security warning in place. She hated Trive for provoking the increase in security.

As the car drove through Grapevale, she absentmindedly stared out the window and began her favourite daydream – in which she was a normal 19-year-old, in a normal country, with no responsibilities at all.

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Re: Council of Kerlile: Behind the Scenes

Post by Lauchenoiria » Wed Sep 04, 2019 11:45 pm

Georgiou Residence, Grapevale, Kerlile
4th September 2019, evening

Councillor Electra Georgiou sat curled up on a soft sofa in a grand library within her mansion. The bookshelves were full of thick volumes, mainly on the history of art. The Georgiou library was said to hold the largest collection of foreign literature in Kerlile – which was, of course, banned for the general populace. Paintings by foreign artists, some of whom were even male, adorned the walls, much to the dislike of the other Councillors, who knew of Georgiou’s love of foreign art.

Suddenly, the heavy oak door to the library opened, and Georgiou sighed, placing a bookmark in the volume on Laeralian architecture she had been reading. She set it down next to a cup of Trivian coffee that likely had not been purchased through official channels.

“What is it, Felicity?” she asked the servant who had disturbed her. She was straight to the point, but there was a softness to her tone which reassured Felicity that she was not in any real kind of trouble.

“Ma’am, um, something highly irregular has occurred.”

“Yes?”

“Councillor Chiu is, well, here unannounced. She wishes to see you.”

“Unannounced visit? Well, either something terrible has happened, she is here to kill me, or she wants something. This is not going to be a fun evening. Have someone send champagne to the secondary sitting room, I will see her there.”

“Yes, ma’am,” Felicity said, turning and leaving. Georgiou sighed, looking at her book and unfurled herself, straightening herself up and dusting the crumbs from the biscuits she ate earlier off her clothes. Councillor Chiu was rather traditional, it wouldn’t do to show up looking unkempt.

After leaving the library, Georgiou ducked into a small room in the corridor on her way to the secondary sitting room. In the small room, she took a pistol out of a box, loading it and concealing it on her person. If Chiu did intend to kill her, she would be prepared. She continued and entered the room, to find Chiu already sitting in her favourite chair.

“Lia, what brings you here at this time of night?” Georgiou enquired.

“Nothing pleasant, but you can relax – you will not need the weapon I know you have concealed. Oh, do not give me that look, it is quite obvious. Please, have a seat. We need to discuss the Olympics.”

“The Olympics?” Georgiou was confused, however she felt reassured that Chiu had not immediately shot her dead, so she took a seat nearby. A male servant appeared, placing a bottle of champagne on the table and pouring two glasses. Georgiou nodded to him as he exited.

“You let men serve you? I would be worried about poison,” Chiu shrugged, but nevertheless took a sip of her champagne.

“They can be useful, Lia. What is it you wished to discuss?”

“I understand that you, personally, are attending mainly as an opportunity to visit Shuell and gain an appreciation for their culture. You do so enjoy your trips abroad and with the heightened security recently, you have been unable to make so many. I do not begrudge you your hobbies, though I do often wish you would not give so much money to misogynistic artists for their paintings.”

“They are not…”

“Yes, yes, we could argue this but that is not my point. While you are in Shuell, it would be beneficial for all of us if you were to develop positive relations with anyone of a similar position to yourself in other nations – ministers, Shuellian directors, whatnot. Though I would urge you to avoid the Lauchenoirians.”

“Well, naturally, they do hate us. And, I assume, you wish me to avoid Shen too.”

“Of course, though that is from a personal perspective, rather than what is best for the Matriarchy, so it pains me to say this, but I would not listen to my view on the matter of that particular Empire.”

The two Councillors sat in silence, Georgiou delicately sipping her wine and Chiu gripping her glass hard and taking a gulp, as if the alcohol could wash away the mention of Shen. Neither woman offered more explanation.

“Electra… may I ask why you chose to join the Reform Party?” Chiu asked, her voice softer than usual, indicating a genuine curiosity rather than an ulterior motive. “You used to be politically neutral, as far as I remember.”

“That is true. Well, partly. I maintained a public neutrality, preferring not to involve myself in this divide. I have always supported reform, however. I just went about it in a more… covert manner. The Patels and Pierres have always pushed against open reform. I achieved much more operating the way I did – education bills, arts funding. All of this has helped the Matriarchy move in a positive direction.”

“Then why change? If operating covertly has given you more opportunities to push the reforms you favour?”

“Time, Lia. The mood is shifting in this country, and globally. We are going to need to move with the times, or we will not just be left behind – we will be, to put it bluntly, invaded, occupied and forced to change. Look how quickly the world intervened in Lauchenoiria. If we are not careful, it will be us next. The time for open change, for real change, has to be now. We need reform to stop revolution.”

“I would say that was somewhat alarmist,” Chiu noted, picking up the bottle to refill her empty glass. Georgiou had only taken several sips, she was alarmed to see how quickly the older woman was going through the champagne.

“You should heed my warning, Lia. I know what you care for most – money. Already, we are struggling. This champagne is from my stockpile, when that is gone I will have to either do without, or turn to the smugglers to avoid the sanctions. Reform is the only way you and your family can keep the lifestyle you have grown accustomed to.”

“You have certainly given me food for thought, Electra. As you know, I supported Rebecca’s appointment as President in the end. It was the right choice for the time. It worried me, the way Anita and Pauline thought they could get away with imprisoning and torturing Councillors. I mean, Goddess, who would have been next? Carmen made her mistakes, but when I saw those scars on her arm…”

“Horrible things have happened recently,” Georgiou sighed, standing and walking over to the large window which overlooked her garden, the lights of the city blinking in the distance. “I worry.”

“As do I, I think we all do. I have not paid enough attention, I do not think any of us has. We believed for too long we were untouchable… but no longer. Action must be taken, and I confess, you may have the right idea. The thought of changing our system is not one that appeals to me, but if it is necessary, I can learn to live with it.”

“We will all have to, in the end. Those of us who support it, and those who do not. Unless we all want to end up in cells like Anita.”

Chiu shuddered at the thought, and Georgiou chuckled slightly. She finished her champagne and put down the glass, walking back over to where Chiu was standing up and preparing to leave.

“I must say, Lia, this was a more pleasant meeting than I expected,” Georgiou commented. “I will show you out.”

“Thank you, Electra,” Chiu said, as the two women began to walk to the exit together. “I know we have had our differences in the past, but it is time the Council came together. Some of our number are resistant to what must be done. Those of us who are at least willing to entertain the idea of change ought to stick together.”

“I am glad you see it like that, Lia. Let us not be hasty in making any moves. We can discuss this further at a later date. I cannot convince you to join the Reform Party, can I?”

“No,” laughed Chiu, “I am not that far gone.”

“Pity, we could use someone with as much experience as you,” Georgiou smiled, genuinely, which she hadn’t expected to do this night. “Well, I hope you have a good night.”

“To you also,” Chiu nodded, as a servant opened the front door for her. The air outside was still warm, the summers lingered long in this part of Kerlile. “We shall speak again soon.”

“Soon. Goodnight, Lia.”

“Goodnight, Electra.”

As Chiu departed and the door was closed behind her, Georgiou smiled to herself. What she had expected to be a stressful meeting had turned into a positive development. Chiu had come to declare herself an ally of the reformists. A secret one, but they needed all the help they could get. Yes, things were looking up in Kerlile.

“I will turn in for the night,” Georgiou said to Felicity, who hovered nearby.

“Yes, ma’am.”

Georgiou began to head upstairs, pausing on the landing to look out the window at the city of Grapevale. The lights twinkled, pretty in the darkness. She wondered what was going on in the city right now, if the people were happy, or if the revolution she so feared was already brewing.

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Re: Council of Kerlile: Behind the Scenes

Post by Lauchenoiria » Mon Sep 09, 2019 9:36 pm

(Written jointly with Xiomera)

Greenwood Residence, Iletina, Kerlile/The Cauhloc, Tlālacuetztla, Xiomera
9th September 2019 - early morning Kerlile, late morning Xiomera

Councillor Letitia Greenwood walked along the corridor of her family mansion, passing grand windows overlooking her vast garden. Her daughter Carolyn was outside playing an early morning game of tennis with one of Letitia's sisters. Letitia paused to watch as Carolyn won a point, nodding in approval. She then opened a door and slipped inside her home office, a rather modern looking room filled with a variety of screens. One of her assistants, Yvonne, the one who dealt with political matters, hurried to stand up from a smaller desk where she'd been working.

"Yvonne, I want to speak with the Xiomeran security secretary, Tepilcayotl. Get him on the phone for me, if you can," Letitia said, walking over and sitting down at her larger desk. "And once I'm on the call I would like privacy."

"Yes, Councillor," said Yvonne, picking up her tablet and flicking through the list of numbers. Once she had located that of Tepilcayotl's office, she took the phone and dialled, listening to it ring as the Councillor watched.

The Cauhloc, the building that housed the Secretariat of Security, was quite unlike most of the buildings on the central square in Tlālacuetztla. The buildings on the Tiazō were a mix of ancient buildings with classical Xiomeran architecture, and more recent buildings from the period between 1850 to 1900 built during Camaxtica's postwar reform period.

The Cauhloc, however, was different. Built in 1968 after its predecessor building burned to the ground in a still-unexplained fire, it was unapologetically modern, even Brutalist, in design. A solid mass of stone arranged in cubes, its flat slabs rose thirty stories into the air, looming over the smaller buildings on the square like a giant black box. To Xiomerans, it was more like a black hole - what went into the Cauhloc, the grim joke went, didn't come out.

At the top of this mass of black stone, the office of the Secretary of Security was likewise not at all similar to any other Xiomeran leader's space. Most Xiomeran high officials had richly decorated and highly comfortable offices, laden with Xiomeran tradition and Xiomeran wealth as well.

This office was different by design. Stark stone walls housed a bevy of computer screens and televisions, silently displaying news and events from throughout the world. Multiple clocks displayed the time in various countries. The furniture was equally stark and modernistic - it encouraged you to sit, but not get comfortable.

While the fancy and old-school offices of other Council members were the face of Xiomera's government, this room was the beating heart of the cold technocratic soul that kept Xiomera functioning behind the scenes. And, its occupant reasoned, kept it safe.

Tepilcayotl was at his desk when the call came in, poring over multiple security and intelligence reports relating to the attempt on the Emperor's life. Cahuit, his assistant, interrupted his review by speaking over his intercom. "I apologize for the interruption, Excellency, but there is a call for you. Councillor Letitia Greenwood of Kerlile has asked to speak with you," Cahuit said.

Normally, Tepilcayotl would have quietly and verbally eviscerated Cahuit for interrupting him during such a challenging security situation. But he was curious as to why someone from the Council of Kerlile - and this Councillor in particular - would be calling him specifically. "Put the call through," he said. When the call was patched through, Tepilcayotl said, "Good morning, Councillor Greenwood. This is an unexpected pleasure. What can I do for you?"

The moment she received confirmation that Tepilcayotl would take the Councillor's call, Yvonne had transferred the call on her end to Letitia, and had scurried out of the room. When Tepilcayotl's voice came through the phone, Letitia couldn't help but smile.

"Good morning, Secretary. I was so sorry to hear about the attempt on the life of Emperor Topilpopoca. He has been a good friend to Kerlile in the last month, at a time when we sorely needed it. The best wishes of all on the Council of Kerlile are with him in his recovery."

"Thank you for your well wishes, they are greatly appreciated. We are hopeful that the Emperor will make a speedy recovery. We are fortunate that we were able to quickly apprehend his assailant as well. Justice must be served swiftly and decisively to maintain the people's confidence in the institutions that a society is built upon. Despite the difficult situation, I am confident that Xiomera will prevail in the end. Support of friends such as yourself and the rest of the Council helps greatly, of course," Tepilcayotl said.

"Kerlile is willing to help in any way we can during this difficult time," Letitia began. "I can also offer you some... additional assistance with the problem of the assailant. I imagine you are looking to discover if he had accomplices. My country is very good at finding out such things. Unfortunately, our current President seems to be endeavouring to lessen our security abilities in that way. As such, there are many Kerlians who are extremely skilled in such areas who find themselves out of work. I, personally and not on behalf of the Council, wonder if you would perhaps be seeking to employ any such individuals?"

Tepilcayotl found himself suddenly intrigued. Kerlile's skilled interrogators had a certain reputation, and while the ASI was no slouch in getting information, sometimes a different set of skills was useful to have. Besides, this would be an opportunity to see what techniques the Kerlians might be able to bring to bear on Cētlalhui that Xiomerans couldn't.

If nothing else, it would be a way to make Cētlalhui suffer. And Tepilcayotl wanted him to suffer. He had promised unprecedented pain, after all.

"I believe we could certainly find a place for anyone you know of who would be able to bring a unique set of skills to bear to our dilemma with Cētlalhui. If that could be arranged, I would be most grateful indeed," Tepilcayotl said.

"As you may know, Kerlian citizens are not permitted to travel outside of the country without reason. However as a Councillor I may grant individuals a temporary permit to work abroad, in specific circumstances. There are a number of skilled individuals I feel could help you. If you're interested, permits for these people could be arranged."

Letitia smiled as she spoke. Kerlile was presently filled with many unhappy and unemployed women who had previously worked in the Restricted Region before it was closed down. They despised the Reform Party, of course, but their discontent was not enough to make them act against Arnott. However, if she could provide these individuals with opportunity... they may well support her in the future, if the unity of the Council was to deteriorate. If Tepilcayotl accepted this offer, it would benefit her too.

"I would indeed be interested. Any of these skilled individuals that you recommend would be most welcome. For the duration of their time here, they would be treated as employees of our ASI, and would be generously compensated for their time and valuable expertise," Tepilcayotl said.

On the other end of the phone, Tepilcayotl was smiling as well. The chance to make Cētlalhui suffer while possibly gaining valuable knowledge to make ASI, his personal pride and joy, more dangerous was practically a gift from the gods.

"Of course. I would, however, appreciate it if this arrangement could be kept between us. The Council has enough on its plate to discuss and, well, you know how some of them are these days. Unwilling to do what needs to be done," Letitia said sadly. She was, it must be said, genuinely disappointed in some of the decisions made by the Council recently. She was glad someone appreciated the talents of Kerlian interrogators these days, even if it was a foreign male.

"I can appreciate the need for discretion on this matter. We have our own elements here in Xiomera who are...reluctant at times to make the hard decisions that must sometimes be made. As head of Security, I must often make executive decisions that the rest of our Council need not concern themselves with, and wouldn't probably understand anyway, not being professionals in my line of work," Tepilcayotl chuckled softly. "You can rest assured that our agreement will be kept in strictest confidence."

"I thank you for that. I can begin contacting likely individuals immediately. I can have permits for them within 24 hours, and then we can arrange transport. I'm sure you will want them as soon as possible?" Letitia asked.

"Indeed. I will begin making the necessary arrangements on our end to make sure that housing and pay are ready for them when they arrive. Given the potential security risks here, the sooner they can start, the better," Tepilcayotl replied.

"Of course. I will have people I trust reach out to them immediately. I hope the Emperor has a speedy recovery, and that you can deal with this threat swiftly and fully," Letitia said, brushing a strand of hair behind her ear and twirling it a little. She was pleased that he had accepted. She had been somewhat worried that she would get a rejection - and that the Xiomerans would tell Arnott.

"Thank you again for your kind words. With your help, and that of your experts, I am confident that we will be able to take care of this matter in an effective way. If there is anything else that our government, or I personally, can do for you, please do not hesitate to ask," Tepilcayotl said warmly. He was quite pleased to have Kerlian 'experts' on his payroll now. They would root out any security threats the Xiomerans couldn't.

And even if there was no conspiracy, and Cētlalhui had acted on his own, the Kerlians could still prove quite useful in ensuring no other annoyances disturbed the harmony of Xiomeran society.

"I will be sure to ask if there is anything you can help us with. I hope that our professionals prove helpful, and once again I hope you can end this threat promptly. I wish you the best of luck," Letitia said. She was very hopeful that this arrangement would prove useful to Xiomera, and that in the future, should certain events transpire, it could serve as an example to those who would see Kerlile weakened.

"Thank you again, and I wish you luck as well. Have a good day, Councillor Greenwood," Tepilcayotl said with a smile. He was already contemplating what was awaiting Cētlalhui when the Kerlians arrived, and was pleased.

"Good day, Secretary," Letitia said, putting down the phone. She sighed contentedly and sat back for a moment before she pressed a buzzer that sent Yvonne scurrying back into the room.

"I'm going to need the full list of former Restricted Region employees and their present contact details. Order them by rank, I need to speak to those with the most experience in... certain areas."

"Ma'am? But the Region has been shut down."

"Do it, Yvonne, and don't question me."

"Yes, Councillor," Yvonne said, then exited once more.

Letitia sat by the window, staring out at the early morning sun, chuckling to herself. She was very pleased, and she had new plans for how she could put an end to this pointless experiment with reform that Arnott and her allies were set on.

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Re: Council of Kerlile: Behind the Scenes

Post by Lauchenoiria » Thu Sep 12, 2019 6:55 pm

School of Biological Sciences, Hazelton University, Hazelton, Kerlile
12th September 2019 – 11:07am Kerlian time

Councillor Rosemary Arnott ran along the corridor, her two armed guards matching her pace, though they didn’t look very happy about it. A couple of students and professors turned to stare at the three of them, one almost dropping a petri dish in shock as she was forced to press herself against a wall to let them past.

“Sorry I’m late!” Rosemary called as she pushed into a lecture theatre, panting for breath as she slowed down. The professor fell silent, freezing and dropping a pen which clattered on the floor in front of her. The class turned to see who had entered the room as the armed guards stepped inside and took their position by the door.

“C… Councillor Arnott! I’m so sorry!” the professor said, horrified. “If I had known you were coming I wouldn’t have started without you! Please forgive me!”

“Oh, no it was my fault, the train didn’t arrive in Hazelton until about 3am last night and I just overslept. And after missing the first three days of classes as well! I’ll just sit in the back, sorry to have disturbed the lesson.”

“Here, Councillor, you can have my seat!” an eager young woman in the front row called.

“Or mine, please!” another woman added, standing up and gathering her things.

“It’s fine,” Rosemary said, her cheeks glowing slightly red as she hurriedly walked to the back and sat down. One of the guards made to follow her. “No, it’s okay.”

“Ma’am, this area hasn’t been secured, I must stay near you.”

“I said it’s fine,” Rosemary hissed. The class were still staring at her and she was beginning to get horrendously embarrassed.

“Ma’am, your mother gave me strict orders.”

Rosemary groaned and put her head down on the desk as the guard took up her position behind her. She’d known it might be like this at first, but she was utterly determined to bring some normality back to her life. Her summer spent in the Council Chamber had made her long for a dorm room, some alcohol of dubious quality, and sneaking out after curfew to visit the swimming pool and run like hell if someone called the police.

“I will begin again,” the professor said, bowing deferentially towards Rosemary.

“No, it’s my fault, please, just continue from where you were,” she said, sitting up straight and opening her notebook.

“As you wish,” the professor said, bowing once more. “As I was saying, we see this behaviour in the majority of mammals, however there are some interesting exceptions…”

Canteen, Hazelton University
1pm Kerlian time

“If someone was going to poison me, do you really think they’d do it here and risk all the collateral damage?” Rosemary gritted her teeth as she glared at one of her guards.

“Terrorists rarely care for collateral damage, ma’am,” the guard said.

“Well, I’m going to eat it, unless you’re going to tackle me to the ground in front of all these witnesses? Me, a Councillor? Didn’t think so,” Rosemary spun around and picked up the tray. She carried it over to a table where five students sat, laughing and eating. “Surprise! Bet you didn’t expect to see me back!”

The five students jumped and turned, recognition in their eyes as they all scrambled to their feet. Rosemary put the tray down and grinned, arms out as if expecting a group hug. The five women instead looked at the ground, eyes every so often moving to glance at the Councillor then turning away.

“What, no greeting?” Rosemary laughed, her voice teasing even as the smile drained from her eyes.

“Councillor, it’s wonderful to see you,” one of the women said eventually.

“Mari, it’s me, you can call me by my name,”

“Of course, Cou… Rosemary,” the woman, Mari, replied.

“Oh come on, you know me! We were friends. We did everything together. Why are you still standing? Sit down! Eat! Laugh! Come on, nothing’s changed!”

The five women immediately took their seats, remaining silent. Rosemary sat down next to them, taking a sip of water. The two guards took positions on either side of the table.

“Can you two please leave me be?” Rosemary asked them. They just looked at her. She groaned. “Look, I know the situation is… different, but can we still be friends?”

The five women exchanged a look.

“Of course, Councillor,” one said.

Rosemary,” Rosemary insisted. “You still watching that Lauchenoirian show about the space monkeys, Rach?”

“What show? I would never violate the law by watching foreign media!” a woman, Rachel, looked horrified, glancing frantically at the guards.

“No, of course you wouldn’t,” Rosemary said sullenly. “Know what? I’m not hungry. I’ll see you later,” she said, pushing her tray away then standing up and storming off down the corridor. She exited the building and walked across some grass, letting a nearby fountain spray her with a little water. The guards followed. She walked up to a parked car, where a chauffeur stood waiting. She gestured and he opened the door. She climbed inside, and folded her arms.

“Where to, ma’am?”

“My apartment, please.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

The car drove off, across town, heading to the upmarket district to the west of the city. The journey took around ten minutes, passing rows of fancy glass buildings and corporate headquarters. The city was one of Kerlile’s wealthiest, and contained the headquarters of the vast majority of Kerlile’s technological and scientific companies. They passed through the corporate district and into the wealthiest residential area. They pulled up to a large apartment building, passing through a security gate.

“Leave me alone,” Rosemary ordered the guards as she got out of the vehicle, ignoring the bowing doorman and entering the elevator. She jabbed the button for the penthouse as the guards hurried to catch up. “I mean it!”

As the doors closed she breathed a sigh of relief. The guards had been annoying her all day, and by this point she would rather have been assassinated than spend another moment in their company. The elevator reached her floor and she exited into her apartment. She threw her bag of books on a fancy sofa, and then stalked into her bedroom, pulling the blinds closed, slipping off her shoes and throwing herself onto the bed.

She pulled the covers over her head, grabbed a pillow which she clutched close to her chest, and then began to sob.

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Re: Council of Kerlile: Behind the Scenes

Post by Lauchenoiria » Sun Sep 22, 2019 11:33 pm

Council Chamber, Grapevale, Kerlile
22nd September 2019 – morning

Nirmala Patel sat with her back straight and her hands clasped in front of her. She wore a neutral expression as she stared at the door of the Council chamber, willing it to open. The emergency session was scheduled to begin in only two minutes, and so far, she was the only person to arrive. Not even Pierre, her partner in this attempt to stop the pardons had shown her face. The Council did not normally meet on Sundays, of course, and there had been little notice, so some Councillors had been outside of Grapevale.

“My apologies for my lateness, Councillors, I… oh. Well, this is not good,” Pauline Pierre entered the room, coming to an abrupt halt before reaching her seat.

“They are attempting to prevent the debate,” Nirmala sighed, looking slightly dejected. “There will be nothing we can do. If my mother was here, perhaps she would have a solution but the Sanctarians took her.”

“I really am sorry about that, Nirmala,” Pauline said, taking her seat next to Nirmala and tentatively resting her hand on the other woman’s arm. Nirmala did not shrug it off, instead turning to face Pauline.

“Our country is dying. Arnott is going to kill it, and everything we have worked for. I am devastated. My mother gave everything for Kerlile. We have to save it.”

“I agree, but what can we do? Look at the clock, the session should have started and we do not have quorum. The others… they have given up. Some sanctions were all it took to break them completely. I am angry, and I want to fight, but how? We would lose a civil war, and none of us want that. Without the means to work within the system, or the willingness to change it, there is no way to move forward.”

“Oh Pauline... why did this have to happen now?” Nirmala let out a sigh and stood up, walking over to a table at the side of the room on which stood bottles of water. The minute-taker began to walk over in silence to pour the water, but Nirmala waved her off with her hand and poured herself a glass.

“Natalia would say it is because we have angered the Goddess,” Pierre said, laughing mirthlessly. “I wonder sometimes if she is right. If there is a higher power, She seems to have cursed us all.”

The two women sat in silence for a few moments, when suddenly the door to the chamber opened. Both women’s heads snapped around to see the newcomer.

“The others will not attend. The Reform Party Councillors have made a statement, and Councillors Hart and Chiu have both said they will not come. Letitia is on the other side of the country and cannot make it. We will not reach quorum, I am afraid. You need not wait here any longer. My apologies, I know this was important to you,” Lucia Viallamando stood in the doorway, looking apologetically at the two traditionalist Councillors.

“Typical. They say we support totalitarian dictatorship and yet they are the ones who shut down debate,” Nirmala shook her head.

“A little unfair, Arnott never said she was a democrat. Only Hale has said that,” Pauline replied.

“And where is Hale? Not here to debate, that’s for sure,” Nirmala scoffed, standing up and walking to the exit, closely followed by Pauline. They met Lucia at the door and the trio walked out of the chamber together and headed outside to where their cars waited.

“Thank you for letting us know, Lucia,” Pauline said.

“They were cowardly not to do so earlier,” shrugged Lucia. “I do hope you can find some way before they do something foolish like allowing free elections.”

“Goddess, we would end up with all kinds of traitors and saboteurs in Parliament if that happened. I would not put it past them though, and that frightens me,” Nirmala shivered, coming to a stop beside the cars. “I will see you tomorrow, and we will hold them to account. It is a shame Robinson escaped her punishment.”

“She will not escape it forever if I have my way,” Pauline said darkly, then turned to enter her car.

“Until tomorrow,” Lucia said, walking towards her own.

Nirmala waited until the other two women were inside and their chauffeurs had driven off before entering her own car. She signalled for the driver to take her to her family’s Grapevale mansion. She wondered what her mother was thinking right now, all the way in her Sanctarian cell. Nirmala had always thought her mother overly extreme, but still didn’t want her to suffer this way. She sighed, and leaned back in her seat, watching the scenery go by and saying a silent prayer for the Matriarchy.

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Re: Council of Kerlile: Behind the Scenes

Post by Lauchenoiria » Mon Oct 07, 2019 9:39 pm

Hale Family Overnight Apartment in the Council Chambers
7th October 2019 – 2am

Jennifer Hale sat at a desk scowling as she read through her writing, then deleting a paragraph and starting over. She had stayed in the Chamber working on the piece of legislation she had been trying to draft herself until she had inadvertently terrified a cleaner who had come in, panicking at the sight of a Councillor in the flesh. After she had reassured the poor girl, she had walked to a wing of the building which contained ten apartments for Councillors working late who didn’t wish to return to their city mansions.

Jennifer despised the Hale apartment, but outside was a hailstorm and her driver had been rather worried about taking her through it – after all, if something had happened to her, it would have cost him his life. So, she had sucked it up for the sake of her staff, who she cared about and thought it unfair how they were treated, and headed to the apartment she had been held prisoner in for several days last year upon her return to the country. It was her first time in the place since her relative freedom, and though she’d ordered it redecorated months back, she still didn’t want to look around her.

Knock, knock.

The sound startled Jennifer, who jumped up and drew the concealed pistol she carried, her heart beating heavily. It only took two seconds for her to realise this was an overreaction and lower the weapon – apparently, the location made her jumpy. She closed the window on her computer on which the piece of untitled legislation which aimed to make elections to the Kerlian Parliament actually fair (it had about as much chance of passing as a Shuellian communist gaining power, but it can’t hurt to try) and walked over, opening the door.

“Jennifer, can we talk?” said Carmen Robinson, who was standing outside in pyjamas, her hair messed up, and her eyes red as if she had been crying. She was shivering from the cold of the corridor, and she seemed afraid.

“Carmen, what’s the matter? Come in, you look freezing!” Jennifer gestured for Carmen to enter, leading her over to the couch and sitting down beside her. “Can I get you some coffee, tea, hot chocolate?”

“Can… can I just have some warm milk? Like when we were children?” Carmen said, her voice shaking. Jennifer picked up a nearby blanket and offered it to her fellow Councillor, who took it around her shoulders and pulled it tight.

“Of course,” Jennifer said, walking to the small kitchenette and taking out some milk, pouring a mug and sticking it in the microwave. Carmen was three years younger than Jennifer, but with a possible friend pool of only the female descendants of ten women who had lived less than a century ago, that age gap meant little. They had known each other before Jennifer had fled her family, though they rarely spoke of that time now.

Jennifer took out the milk, and stirred it, taking it back to the couch. She stopped to pick up her own coffee from the desk and then sat beside her old friend, handing her the milk. Carmen downed the entire drink in three large gulps, then set it on the table and began to cry.

“I can’t sleep because every night I just remember what they did,” she sobbed. “I’m so terrified it will happen again that I honestly think I should just leave the country and never return. It wasn’t meant to be like this!”

Startled, Jennifer quickly put down her coffee and put her arm around Carmen, holding her close as the younger woman sobbed into her shoulder.

“Carmen…”

“No, don’t, just listen. I’m not stupid, I know leaking classified information to a foreign power was treason. And I know how treason is punished. But that wasn’t what I planned to do! Goddess, I’ve got Lauchenoirians praising me and my own people hating me and all sorts of speculation in the media… but I wasn’t trying to leak the information about the Aurora Programme to Lauchenoiria.”

“I don’t understand,” Jennifer frowned, sitting up straighter. “Then where did that USB come from?”

“It wasn’t meant for them,” Carmen said, turning to face Jennifer and wiping away the tears. “It was meant for you. The instructions I gave the messenger was to get it to Sonja Viratnen-Alvarez. Not any old Resistance leader. But then you got yourself captured and your identity revealed, and…”

“Oh Carmen.”

“Yeah. If you’d received it you’d have understood. You’d have been able to use the information to stop them, to stop Clarke. You wouldn’t have been foolish enough to reveal the existence of hundreds of sleeper agents to the entire world! And then Pierre would have been humiliated, and Lauchenoiria would have been saved. And I wouldn’t have been… have been…”

“You don’t need to say it. Carmen, was there no other way? The amount of trouble this has caused… you’re right, I wouldn’t have revealed it. Frankly I’d have got to Clarke before she ever killed Chaher. He would have been easier to fight – he made five mistakes a day, and that was before noon. You couldn’t have known what would happen but still.”

“I didn’t want to be a traitor, Jennifer. They hurt me, tortured me as a traitor. They will do it again and I won’t survive.”

“Carmen… it’s not fair. Hell, if anyone on the Council should be convicted of treason it is definitely me. I fought against them in two wars, I mean come on,” Jennifer laughed, trying to lighten the mood. Carmen smiled weakly in response. “They won’t do it again, they have no reason to.”

Carmen sat up very straight, and her face became serious. She leaned closer to Jennifer.

“But there’s going to be another leak.”

“What!? Surely you aren’t fool enough to…”

“Not me. Look, since the end of the war the Pierres and I have been keeping our eyes on the Council archives. Watching in case either of our families made a move. Well, something happened. More information on the Aurora Programme went… missing.”

“No way Pierre would do that, and if it wasn’t you….” Jennifer swallowed.

“Someone hacked the database. And I fear I’m an easy target to frame.”

“Do you know who?”

“I have a suspicion.”

“Who?”

Carmen took out a small envelope and sat it down on the table in front of her. Then she stood up, placing the blanket back on the couch.

“Promise me you won’t let them torture me again? I would rather die,” Carmen said meaningfully, looking Hale in the eye. The message was clear. If they are about to take me, kill me.

“I won’t let them torture you,” Hale said, standing, taking both of Carmen’s hands in hers and meeting her eyes. “Upon my life.”

“Thank you, Jennifer. I know you didn’t want to be here, and I’m sorry for the way it happened but… I’m glad you are. We will need you in the times to come.”

“Carmen… we’ll stop them, okay? We are making so much progress. Just a little further. And we will both see our success one day, okay?”

“I hope you’re right,” Carmen said, turning around and walking out of the apartment.

Hale stood a little longer, watching, until she heard the click of the lock. Then she picked up the envelope, opening it, and taking out a piece of paper. She read it through once, then twice, then three times. Then she folded it carefully, and sat it down on the coffee table, then took a seat. She began to laugh, hysterically, but after a while her laughter turned to tears. Jennifer Hale lay down on the couch and sobbed herself to sleep.

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Re: Council of Kerlile: Behind the Scenes

Post by Lauchenoiria » Fri Oct 11, 2019 7:09 pm

Somewhere in the sky between Kerlile and Xiomera
11th October – afternoon

Three Councillors and the President of Kerlile sat on an airplane as it made its way to Xiomera for the funeral of Emperor Topilpopoca. It was the most Councillors on a single aircraft ever, and with the President as well it was a security nightmare for the Matriarchy. It was the first time a sitting President of Kerlile had left the country, and without precedent, preparations had taken forever.

The idea of sending the delegation on multiple planes had been welcomed by those in charge of security, but was so hated by those in charge of Kerlile’s budget that the idea was quickly scrapped. Between the sanctions, the chaos of reform, and the brief trade war with Zamastan and Trive, Kerlile was beginning to run low on their fuel supplies, and it was expected that they would soon need to ration fuel, or ban personal cars temporarily.

Councillor Carmen Robinson sat with her seatbelt remaining fastened, her body stiff and her eyes wide as she kept glancing nervously around the plane. A packet of travel sickness pills sat nearby, and she was tapping her fingers. President Rebecca Arnott sat nearby, with a bottle of water, looking somewhat more relaxed.

“There should not be so many of us attending,” remarked Robinson to Arnott, glancing warily around the plane. “If something was to happen to us it would plunge the Matriarchy into chaos.”

“Nervous flier, Carmen? Relax, nothing is going to happen,” Arnott tried to soothe her colleague. The tension in Robinson’s shoulders, however, refused to leave.

“I was reading this book about plane crashes…” began Robinson.

“Oh, Carmen. You always pick the worst choice of reading material. It is almost like you enjoy winding yourself up.”

“If I worry about the future I do not dwell on the past,” she replied. “I don’t fear death, I merely fear the political chaos it would cause.”

“The tension in your shoulders says otherwise. Regardless, you need to think of something else. What are your plans for when we land in Xiomera? I intend to meet with the two frontrunners, I want to see what their attitudes towards us would be,” President Arnott said, taking a sip of water. She didn’t like flying either, truthfully, but she wasn’t about to tell the Councillor that.

“I am going to ask for a meeting with Cozamalotl. As the clear reform-focused candidate in Xiomera, I really think we should consider helping him. He is, after all, like you were – an unlikely, reform-focused candidate. And you won.”

“Carmen,” Arnott swallowed then sat up straighter and looked Robinson in the eye. “I understand your logic, really I do. But here’s the thing. Our economy is not good. The world is still angry with us for the war in Lauchenoiria. We are widely hated and the verdict from the TRC has hurt us. Xiomera has been a friend to us through this time. We need them. And can we guarantee that if they have major change they will still want to help us?”

“But surely we want reform there just as at home?”

“Eventually, yes…”

“I can’t believe you’re saying this. You are the leader of the reform movement in Kerlile. And yet you would deprive Xiomerans of the same?”

“That is not exactly…”

“Our enemies imprisoned both of us in June because we advocated for reform. Have you forgotten that? Was it so traumatic that you erased it from your memory? They didn’t even hurt you and yet you reacted worse than I did!”

“Carmen…”

“Forget it,” Robinson shrugged and then stood up and began to walk to the plane’s toilet.

“You are acting like Jennifer!” Arnott called after her.

“She has the right idea!” Robinson retorted then entered the small cubicle.

Arnott shook her head and chuckled slightly. Robinson really had been acting like Hale recently. The two of them had become extreme in terms of what reforms they supported, and they tended to get angry at those who opposed them. Arnott knew that Robinson’s torture had hurt her psychologically as well as physically, but the extend was rather alarming. Arnott hoped it was temporary.

At the other end of the aircraft, Councillor Greenwood sat next to Councillor Pierre, though neither of them said a word. Greenwood was reading a newspaper, not one of Kerlile’s three legal news sources, but a Lauchenoirian paper known for its neutrality. She periodically made indignant noises when she read something she disagreed with, and muttered under her breath about ‘foreign males’.

“Can you cut it out?” Pierre said irritably after Greenwood hissed in response to an article about a Paul Doberman rally in Annatown in which a woman was kicked off the stage after accusations she was an Aurora.

“Sorry, I just get caught up. Hate-reading foreign media is how I relieve stress during long journeys,” she replied by way of explanation.

“I am trying to work on this counterargument to little Rosemary’s minimum wage proposal. And I need to work out how I will keep an eye on traitor Carmen while we are in Xiomera,” Pierre said without looking up.

“Have an Aurora do it,” joked Greenwood, which earned her a glare.

“Do not mention the Aurora Programme while we are in Xiomera,” Pierre ordered.

“You cannot give me orders, Pauline, and I am not foolish enough to do that, rest assured.”

“You better not be,” warned Pierre, to which Greenwood rolled her eyes and returned to her newspaper.

The airplane continued to soar through the skies on its way to Xiomera, as the Councillors continued their activities and the numerous security personnel glanced at each other warily, praying to the Goddess that none of their number was a traitor. While Robinson was on the paranoid side, she was still right about one thing – if anything bad happened on this trip, it would plunge the Matriarchy into chaos, and nobody could be sure what the end result of such an occurrence would be.

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Re: Council of Kerlile: Behind the Scenes

Post by Lauchenoiria » Wed Nov 06, 2019 10:11 pm

Arnott Residence, Grapevale, Kerlile
6th November 2019 – evening

“We cannot let this become public. It would be incredibly embarrassing after the Robinson affair,” Councillor Nirmala Patel argued.

“Believe it or not, we agree. For once,” chuckled President Rebecca Arnott.

The pair were in one of the smaller sitting rooms, decorated with red patterned cushions and dark curtains. The room was dim, almost as if the pair were trying to pretend nobody was inside. Any servants had been shooed away shortly after the Councillor had arrived, clearly disturbed. The pair were not friendly, of course. Arnott had, after all, been the one who had made sure Nirmala’s mother had been extradited to Sanctaria. But this was not a personal call – it was strictly business.

“I do not understand how it happened,” sighed Nirmala. “They were watching Joanna closely. Now, you know I did not agree with this planned arrest, but I am still loyal to this country and I would not refuse a direct order from the President. I assure you, I do not understand how she found out, or how she slipped our grasp.”

“It is entirely possible she merely became suspicious after that Kerlian News Service journalist posted about the investigation. She had been warned not to. Do you know if she has been arrested for leaking classified information yet?”

“She has, Madam President. She is being held at the police station presently, but I believe they plan to release her until her trial. Unless you want to intervene?”

“Hmm. I will confess, I am almost tempted,” smirked the President. “Alas, that would not be very reformist of me. What are we going to do about my predecessor, though?”

“I have ordered a team to begin searching for her immediately. I also plan to ask Councillor Robinson for some advice, believe it or not. She did, after all, manage to hide in this country for an alarmingly large number of months before she was found. We still do not know how she did it, much to my great annoyance.”

“I do not believe she has even told Jennifer,” sighed Arnott. “So, I rather fear she will not tell anyone. It is a shame, it would be useful. We need to find Joanna Greenwood though. We have to prove to the world that such things will not be accepted anymore.”

“You know,” Nirmala began, blushing slightly, “I would never admit it outside this room, but the detention of that girl horrified me. I am not surprised my mother would have ordered such a thing. My sister, Yamunda, would do the same. I promise you, though, that while I may support traditional policies, I do not support pointless cruelty.”

“I am glad to hear that. We must find her, and soon. Check back with me when you know more, Councillor.”

“Yes, Madam President,” Nirmala nodded deferentially and stood up. After exiting the room, she allowed one of Arnott’s servants to lead her to the door and out of the house, before she got into her car.

She looked back at the Arnotts’ Grapevale mansion as they drove down the driveway. It was as grand as any other, and from the looks of things, Arnott kept just as many servants as she did herself. It was curious that the chief reformer would continue to live in the traditional manner, unlike Hale and Robinson who had made cuts, began paying men a living wage, and actually adhered to the rationing. No, Nirmala smiled to herself, Arnott was not as much of a danger to their way of life than she had feared.

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Re: Council of Kerlile: Behind the Scenes

Post by Lauchenoiria » Tue Nov 12, 2019 6:29 pm

Chiu’s Office, Council Chamber, Grapevale, Kerlile
12th November 2019 – late morning

The personal office of Councillor Lia Chiu within the Council Chambers building was rarely used, much like the other Councillors’ offices in that location. They tended to conduct their business in their personal apartments, which were far more comfortable, if they absolutely had to do something in the building. Usually, they merely waited until they could go home to their mansions, using the Chambers only for Council sessions.

Yet today, Chiu’s office had been dusted off a mere 15 minutes earlier after she had read something on her morning commute that caused her to hiss in rage and demand – yes, demand that Councillor Nirmala Patel and President Rebecca Arnott be summoned to her office as soon as possible. It was not, either legally or traditionally speaking, her place to summon the President, yet Arnott found her curiosity piqued when she got the call, and made her way to the office.

Councillor Patel arrived first, looking curious, and then alarmed when she saw the look on Chiu’s face. Chiu ignored her at first, continuing to read something over and over again in a newspaper she was clutching in her hands. Nirmala, without knowing what else to do, instructed her aide to bring her a coffee and took a seat on one of the chairs in the office, glancing around at the rather old-fashioned décor and wrinkling her nose, until President Arnott walked in, and Chiu immediately snapped out of it, standing.

“Madam President, Councillor Patel, I have learned of some disturbing news. I believe you have both been searching for former President Joanna Greenwood. I know where she is, and I guarantee you will not like it any more than I do,” Chiu began darkly.

“Do tell, Councillor,” Arnott replied, taking a seat next to Patel.

In response, Chiu picked up the newspaper and spun it around, placing it on the desk so that both of the other women could see. It was an article, written in Chinese (a language neither Arnott nor Patel could read a word of), accompanied by a picture of Joanna Greenwood holding a microphone, clearly giving a speech.

“What are we looking at, Chiu?” asked Patel. “You know I can’t read this.”

“Joanna Greenwood is in Shen. I do not know how, or why, but I can guess she was pre-emptively fleeing your plans to arrest her. Evidently someone informed her in advance. I can tell you, however, that she will already have regretted the move. Given how she treated Shen while in office, I rather think that Empress Wu,” Chiu shuddered as she spoke the name, “will not have been too pleased with her.”

“I see,” responded Arnott, biting her lip slightly. “Does it say why she went there?”

“The article is about her giving an address to students in Biaking, and implies this may be a sign of strengthened relations between our two nations,” Chiu shuddered. “So, to answer your question, no it does not.”

“I can hazard a guess,” Patel said. “If she had advance knowledge of the planned arrest, which seems certain, she would want to go somewhere she would be safe. None of the democracies would take her, especially after the… war crimes matter. She would know that, given our extradition treaty with Xiomera, she could not go there. As for Gonhog, they are a Haven Accords signatory, and you know how much she feared that document. That leaves Shen and Shuell, and I rather think that she thought Shuell was a risky option, especially given the Olympics. Process of elimination, she went to Shen.”

“A sound analysis,” nodded President Arnott. “Alas, I do not think we have a chance of having her returned, but we could submit an extradition request as a means of making our displeasure known.”

“No!” Chiu squeaked, alarmed. “I mean… I would advise against that, Madam President. I agree with Nirmala’s analysis too, but Joanna has made one colossal miscalculation. She should have listened to my family: nobody in Shen is ever safe.”

“We are well aware of your knowledge and opinions on the matter, Councillor Chiu, but that does not explain why you oppose an extradition request,” pointed out Arnott.

“If they know we want her badly enough, they will use her as leverage. It will disadvantage the Matriarchy greatly. Not to mention, potentially put Joanna in danger. While she made some mistakes, and might be your political opponent, she is still a member of a Council family and if we cannot keep her safe, it sets a worrying precedent, especially after what happened with your mother, Nirmala.”

“Good point,” conceded Patel.

“I guarantee that Joanna Greenwood will have discovered what my family knew since before the foundation of the Matriarchy. The Wu cannot be trusted. They cannot be reasoned with. They believe they have a right to do whatever they want, no matter how horrendous and inhumane. Whatever ‘war crimes’ were committed by Anita Patel, Joanna Greenwood, any Kerlian: they will be nothing on the horrors Wu Zhou has unleashed on those with the misfortune to be in Shen’s sphere of influence.”

“Councillor Chiu, do you have any recommendations on how we proceed?” President Arnott asked, slight impatience beginning to show. She disliked Chiu’s rants about the Shen.

“I do. We do nothing,” Chiu said, then looked Arnott dead in the eye. “I know what you are thinking, that it is not enough. I guarantee, however, that no action we take could have a positive effect. Either Joanna Greenwood will die in Shen, or she will realise that she has made a terrible mistake and come home of her own accord.”

“I may think you paranoid, Councillor,” smiled Arnott. “However, I do still trust your judgement on these matters. You are, by far, the most knowledgeable of any of us in matters pertaining to Shen, and I do not think you would mislead us. Very well, we shall refrain from taking any further action at this point.”

“Thank you, Madam President,” Chiu responded, nodding. “Oh, and there is one other thing… anything classified Joanna Greenwood had access to as President, we shall need to change. Nuclear codes, if they have not been changed already. Passwords, codewords… If they want her to talk, even if she would rather die than betray us… they can make her.”

“That is a worrying sentiment,” Arnott shuddered. “But consider it done.”

“Well,” piped up Patel. “There is one matter which she would have knowledge of that we cannot do much about…” she trailed off, staring pointedly. Chiu swallowed nervously.

“We need to talk to Pauline.”

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Re: Council of Kerlile: Behind the Scenes

Post by Lauchenoiria » Mon Dec 16, 2019 10:42 pm

Airport, Central, Shuell
16th December 2019

Councillor Letitia Greenwood had been gone long enough. She had meant to spend no longer than two weeks in Shuell, yet after the news of her mother’s flight, she had avoided returning home to face the consequences for her family. She and her daughter Carolyn had remained, watching sports and pretending everything was going to be okay. Yet the more time passed, the more she realised it would not. Her sister Juliette had needed to represent her at an emergency Full Council session, the topic of which had been deemed “too dangerous” to tell her over the phone. It was time to go home.

“What are we going to do about grandmother?” asked Carolyn as they waited for their airplane to be prepared. The remainder of the Kerlian delegation were staying in Shuell for the time being, so the jet would merely be returning the two Greenwoods.

“I do not know,” replied Letitia, irritably. “There is little we can do. I cannot speak with her; the call would be far too monitored for my tastes and anything we say could be used against us. Arnott wishes revenge on your grandmother for what happened to her and Robinson in June. Short of overthrowing her, I see no solution.”

“Reena says…” began Carolyn.

“Do not speak to me of her,” Letitia snapped. “She is a liar who cares only for upsetting her grandmother. She went on a game show in Xiomera! She has no decorum, she cares not for responsibility, and she is so far down her family line of succession that she will be able to marry a male should she choose. I do not want you being friends with her.”

“But…”

“I said no, Carolyn!” she shouted, drawing some looks from nearby airport personnel. She sighed and crossed her arms, staring out the window at the runway. Her daughter sighed and sat down on a seat, looking miserable.

“Ma’am?” one of Letitia’s security guards walked up, holding a mobile phone. “There is another call for you.”

“Is it my mother?” asked the Councillor.

“Yes, Councillor,” the guard said, looking resigned, already knowing what was about to happen. Letitia plucked the phone from her fingers, and hung up the call, then wordlessly handed the device back to her guard, who stifled a sigh and joined her two colleagues near the door to the room they waited.

“Mum?” asked Carolyn after a short pause. “What do you think that meeting Aunt Juliette attended was about?”

“I have no idea,” sighed Letitia, sitting down beside her daughter and sighing. “I expect we shall find out once we are back on Kerlian soil. Although, I do have my suspicions.”

“You mean the Au…”

“Yes, that,” Letitia interrupted quickly, before her daughter could say the word.

“Yeah, that I would understand. Will you still let me join the military next year if we are at war?” asked Carolyn.

“We are not going to war,” Letitia said firmly.

“But if there is a war, then…”

“We are not going to war!”

Carolyn fell silent, twirling the end of her scarf in her fingers as she thought. Despite her mother’s insistence, the 17-year-old was not certain that her country wouldn’t end up in a war it didn’t want to fight. She had heard, as they all had, about a leak of material relating to the Aurora Programme. She herself had no idea if the Programme was real or not, but judging by the reaction of her mother and the other Councillors to the previous two leaks, she figured it likely was.

She knew that people hated Kerlile. She had seen it. They viewed Kerlians with suspicion, people thought of them as an oddity at best, and a dangerous threat at worst. Her country would never be safe in such a hostile world. She would never be safe, as long as she lived. She would die if her family was removed from power, she knew, and yet the Council were so widely hated that as long as they were in charge, people would be out to get the Kerlians. Carolyn was cursed.

Absentmindedly, she pulled out her phone and brought up the Kerlian government’s messaging app. She typed out a message to Liling, a great-niece of Councillor Chiu who was in Carolyn’s class in school in Maytown, and was a friend. She received no immediate response, so she went back to staring out and watching the planes.

Eventually, their airplane was ready, and they boarded with their security. It was a private flight, with plenty of room, and the guards sat back away from the mother and daughter. The take-off was uneventful, with Carolyn staring out the window and Letitia lying back and thinking about how thankful she was that 5-year-old Jia was not on this flight, and would thus be unable to vomit in her presence.

“Councillor Chiu is right,” Carolyn said suddenly once they were in the air.

“Carolyn, I understand why you would feel like that given what has happened recently,” began her mother. “But the paranoia of the Chiu is no way to live a life.”

“They hate us,” the teenager whispered. Letitia reached out to take her daughter’s arms, and turned towards her.

“People who try to change things are often hated. Living in Kerlile, you cannot fully grasp the extent of the changes we promote. I am known as a traditionalist on the Council for opposing the reform efforts of Arnott and the others, and so one living in Kerlile might be tempted to say I oppose change. That is not true. The very existence of Kerlile is predicated upon change.”

“In what way?” frowned Carolyn.

“We are trying to change the attitudes around the world to women. At the time of Kerlian foundation, there were few countries who granted women the same rights as men. In some democracies, only men could vote. In some countries, only men could hold property and their wives were treated like it too. You know there are still places where these things happen out there. But back then, it was so widespread.”

“I know all this from history class, what relevance does it have in this context?”

“When we set out to build a women’s utopia, we changed that in our territory, what was once North Fleura and became Kerlile. Everyone agrees that we changed attitudes towards gender in that area. However, look at the course of history in the rest of the world – since 1924, women’s rights have come a long way. Would that have happened without Kerlile? Possibly, even probably. But I like to think we accelerated the course. Shifted the average, encouraged women to fight for rights, put pressure on other governments even as they didn’t realise we were doing so. That there are more countries in the world today where women can be free than there would be otherwise.”

“But only in Kerlile are women truly free.”

“Oh, my daughter. You are a truly loyal Kerlian. I will let you in on a secret, though: that is just what we say. There are other countries where women have freedom nowadays: Xiomera, Laeral, even our old enemy Lauchenoiria. Yes, there will be more instances of sexism, of violence against women, of marital abuse in those countries than Kerlile. But you cannot argue that a Kerlian has more freedom than a Lauchenoirian, without sounding either silly or as if you are writing propaganda.”

“I…” Carolyn looked around, eyes wide, looking to see if any of the guards had overheard. They were out of earshot, and had no idea what was being discussed, much to the teenager’s relief.

“My daughter, the Kerlian project has been a resounding success. The world is not yet perfect, but we are making progress the world over and our existence encourages other countries to make sure women have rights. It is far easier to give someone rights than take them away; short of a state like Monagon conquering the world, women will have rights in many countries from this point on. If we were to fall tomorrow, our mission would carry on without us, though it is not complete. I do not fear such a possibility because of the impact on women all over, but because of the impact it would have on us, the Council and our family.”

“Why are you telling me this? And why now? What if the plane is bugged?”

“Because, Carolyn, you need to know the truth if you are going to one day take my place. And besides, the Shuellians – and everyone else – already know all this. They know we do not believe every word we say. The things we say in our media are for our citizens, not for them. I will be blunt, my daughter. Our fight, these days, is not for liberation, but for power. Your grandmother lost, that is why she went into exile. If we want to remain in our position, we must succeed. That is the truth of the matter.”

“But… you’re saying it doesn’t matter, then. If we all die.”

“Of course it matters!” Letitia said, shaking her head. “All I mean is that the future of womankind does not rest squarely on our shoulders. You needn’t be as frightened as you seem of the future, they cannot stop what we have already started. Not completely, anyhow.”

“Then why do you oppose reform? If our mission is already mostly over, if the world is already on the right path, then what risk does reform have to us?”

“Councillor Hale. She is the risk. She supports democracy – and we cannot have democracy and remain in power. Reform will lead there, little by little. Even if Arnott thinks she can control it, she cannot. It will spiral out of her control, and the country will in turn spiral out of ours.”

“Okay, I do not agree with your fundamental beliefs here, but for the time being let’s operate on the assumption that remaining in our position is the most important thing. Well, what is it about power that makes it so important, if you do not want to change things?”

“Security,” answered her mother. “Without power, we do not have security, the protection from threats to our family. We lose access to one source of income, although I will admit we do have others. We lose access to protection from prosecution for political crimes, too.”

“If Kerlile was a democracy, there would not be political crimes,” countered Carolyn. “And if we are so hated as Councillors, it strikes me that there would be a lot less threats, should we no longer be in our position. And as you said, we have other sources of income, which we would be able to focus on and grow without worrying about politics.”

“Where did you learn to debate so well, my daughter?” Letitia asked, amused.

“School. Now, of course, that is operating on the assumption I share your beliefs about our position being of the utmost importance over policy.”

“You do not?”

“No, I still believe in the Kerlian mission. I still believe that until the day when women the world over are free from oppression, we have work that needs to be done. That we cannot rest, cannot stop, until that day. As long as a single woman is beaten by her husband, controlled, abused, looked down on because of her gender, that the Matriarchy is necessary. I do not hold this belief because of the propaganda, but because of what I have seen. Yes, there are nations where women have full legal rights. But they are still looked down upon because of the clothes they wear, viewed as sex objects in many of these countries. No, our work is not complete.”

“You make a compelling case, Carolyn,” Letitia said thoughtfully, lying back. “I shall have to think on it more.”

“At the moment, we are not helping, I agree. It looks like Kerlile is doing nothing to advance the women’s cause worldwide because we aren’t. The moves we have made have all been about power, territory, not about women’s liberation. The Aur… Pierre’s orphans being sent out into the world will not do a thing. No, we need a whole new strategy. And when we get home, I am going to write one out and give it to you. A strategy that is not about gaining power for Kerlile, but about gaining liberation for women. One that will not involve covert operations, or angering foreign governments, but that will empower the very people we claim to want to empower.”

“… just who have you been speaking to, Carolyn? This is not like you. You have always been far more interested in military matters than politics.”

“When I was younger, I believed that joining the military was the best way to serve my country and its mission. I still believe in serving my country and its mission… but I’m starting to realise that there are better ways to do that. Yes, there have been a group of us Daughters, who have been discussing these things together.”

“I am intrigued to know who is part of this group,” said Letitia.

“You will find out soon enough. And we will present our plan. A radical restructuring of Kerlian society which should appeal to all three factions on the Council – traditionalist, reformist and religious.”

“You already knew everything I said about history, didn’t you?” Letitia realised, looking at her daughter, who nodded.

“I wanted to see what you would say,” replied Carolyn. “I am glad you were honest with me.”

“You’re starting a fourth faction, you know,” warned her mother.

“I like to think we will unify the three existing ones. Anyway, we have a long flight, and I am tired. I think I shall try to sleep. Goodnight, mother.”

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Re: Council of Kerlile: Behind the Scenes

Post by Lauchenoiria » Sat Dec 21, 2019 10:15 pm

Krieg-Metzger Hotel, Central, Shuell
21st December 2019 – evening

Olivia Pierre lay on her bed, smiling at the ceiling and relaxing. It was so rare for her to feel safe – she always worried about the possibility of assassins lurking around the corner, paid for by her mother. It was unpleasant, being a Kerlian wanted dead by a Councillor. Even more so if that Councillor was your mother.

As the eldest daughter, she was the heir to the Pierre family seat. She was also very openly pro-reform, unlike her hardline traditionalist mother. Her sister, Eva, was by far her mother’s preferred heir. Pauline had, within Olivia’s earshot, once suggested that Kerlile should adopt the Shen system of succession. She lived an uncomfortable life, and being away from her country, and out of her mother’s reach, was incredibly relaxing.

Knock, knock.

Olivia sat up, intrigued. She hadn’t been expecting anyone at the door, and so she was rather cautious when she approached. She opened it a crack and peered out, to see Xia Chiu standing, nervously fiddling with her clothes.

“Xia?” Olivia said, opening the door wider. “Are you okay?”

“May I come in, Olivia?” she asked. “I need to speak to you.”

“Of course,” Olivia said, gesturing for Xia to enter. The woman did so, walking over to a couch in the room and sitting down. Curious, Olivia followed and took a seat beside her. “What’s the matter?”

“I did something…” Xia began hesitantly.

“What did you do?” Olivia prompted gently. The other woman didn’t answer. “Xia… what did you do?”

“My grandmother is going to kill me,” whispered Xia, shaking.

“Xia, what happened?” Olivia said, alarmed, taking Xia’s hand.

“Olivia, how do you go against your family? You say you want reform, it is in the best interests of your family, but they disagree. What made you decide to do that, what made you decide that was the right decision?”

“My mother is a complicated person,” sighed Olivia. “She has her opinions, which are rather strong… and also rather morally corrupt. My own morals don’t allow me to agree with her, it’s as simple as that. I believe in doing what is right regardless of how easy it is. My mother’s policies would bring ruin to our family and our country, in my opinion, and things need to change.”

“So, she doesn’t know what is in her best interests? Is that not what we say to justify our lack of democracy?” asked Xia. Olivia opened her mouth to respond, but Xia interrupted. “It was rhetorical. But… well, is it possible to do something that is in the best interests of your family, even though the rest of your family would say you were a traitor to them for doing so?”

“I would say so, yes,” Olivia said carefully. “It would depend on the context, though. Would you like to tell me more?”

“I wrote a letter to God-Empress Wu Zhao.”

Olivia blinked, dropping Xia’s hand in shock. Xia cringed and turned away, closing her eyes tightly shut as if she expected Olivia to hit her.

“Uh… why?” asked Olivia after a while.

“I thought… well, I met Wu Genbao, her brother who was here when their mother died. It was the first time one of my family had met one of theirs since the beginning of the feud. I was terrified. And, well, he was nice to me. So, I, well, when he died I was… can I confess something secretly?”

“Of course, Xia,” Olivia said gently.

“Well, I was relieved in a way. I don’t think he knew who I was, who my family were. It meant he couldn’t find out, and he couldn’t hate me. I was ashamed of being a Chiu, I didn’t want him to know. And then, when Wu Zhou died, I saw an opportunity to end the feud. It seems so silly, such a long shot. Since Yijun fled, my family have lived in fear. To think I could end all that is silly. Yet, I desperately wanted to. I thought if I wrote with my condolences, it would be a first step towards ending it.”

“That’s good, Xia,” said Olivia, eagerly. “I’m glad you’ve taken that step. Your grandmother always seemed so paranoid to me, it can’t be fun, living like that.”

“The thing is, she responded. And she made a joke, and she seemed nice. And, well, I wrote back, again. And I’m worried. I’m so, so, frightened that my grandmother is going to find out and hurt me for it. Because, well, from what I know of the Empress, I kind of like her… and I worry I’m getting my hopes up that one day I can actually go to Shen.”

“Xia…” Olivia began gently, taking the other woman’s hands again. “If your grandmother tries to hurt you for this, I promise I will do everything in my power to protect you. What you are doing is good. You are trying to end a pointless feud, and you are trying to make sure your family is safe in the future. There are no rewards without a little risk, and you should be proud of the steps you’ve taken.”

Xia squeezed Olivia’s hands and managed a small smile. “Thank you, Olivia. I am glad you’re here. Also I, uh… well, I heard that some of the Daughters like to get together and discuss policy. I was wondering…” she trailed off.

“Would you like to come? We would be more than happy to have you. We’ve been developing a new proposal, a way to bring together the reformist and traditionalist elements on the Council to move forward in a united fashion. We would welcome your input on the proposal,” Olivia smiled.

“I’d love to,” Xia replied eagerly. “So far, I’ve mostly tried to stay out of politics, but I can’t do that any longer. I think I’m finally realising that things need to change. They’ve become so much worse recently. I… I don’t want to be ashamed to be a Chiu anymore.”

“The fact you’re willing to take such risks to change things makes me certain that you belong in our group. There’s quite a few of us at the moment, including some people you wouldn’t expect. We’ve been working with Councillor Arnott, she was a member before her mother became President.”

“Your group existed before then?” Xia said, surprised.

“Secretly, yes. When Greenwood was President, we had to be very careful, but now we can meet openly. You’ll like it, I promise. When are you planning to return to Kerlile?”

“I… I don’t know. I haven’t got a plan, really.”

“I’m leaving on the 29th, you’re welcome to join me. We plan to propose our plan to the Council sometime in the new year. It’s been delayed because of whatever this crisis nobody will tell us about is. Rosemary says it’s ‘bad’ but I don’t know what she means by that.”

“Yes, I’m curious about that too. They gave Letitia and Electra proxy votes on it. I mean, whatever it is, it must be serious. I expect we’ll find out. And I’d love to join you. I just… well, I don’t know what I’m going to do if Empress Wu writes to me and my grandmother finds out!”

“You still live with her, yeah? I live alone, if you want, you can have them delivered to my place and I will pass them on to you.”

“I… thank you. I’ll see if that’s possible. You’re a good friend Olivia,” Xia said, suddenly hugging Olivia.

Olivia hugged the other woman back, slightly bemused. The two of them had never been particularly good friends in the past, but it seemed to Olivia like that was about to change. They now had something in common, something entirely unenviable – being afraid that their family member, a Councillor of Kerlile, was going to kill them.

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Re: Council of Kerlile: Behind the Scenes

Post by Lauchenoiria » Tue Dec 31, 2019 7:53 pm

Olivia Pierre’s hotel room, Shuell
29th December 2019

“Just one moment, I like to check I haven’t left anything,” Olivia said to her bodyguards and slipped back into the room. Her belongings had been packed, and were sitting in the corridor ready to be taken to the airport. The room was empty and ready to be cleaned, and Olivia knew fine well she hadn’t forgotten anything.

She walked into the bathroom, however, and reached under her shirt, pulling out an envelope she had hidden there earlier. Then, she placed the envelope down on the counter, a name on the front of it, and slipped back out, shutting the bathroom door.

“Nope, just being paranoid. Let’s go,” she said to her guards as she exited once more, smiling and gesturing for them to head down the corridor. She pulled the hotel door shut behind her.

*

Airplane, en route from Shuell to Kerlile
29th December 2019

Councillor Electra Georgiou sat, reading a book on the history of Shuellian art. She was engrossed in the book, and so when Xia placed her sleeping 5-year-old daughter Jia nearby and asked Georgiou to watch her, she received a vague noise of assent from the Councillor and took it as permission. There were plenty bodyguards and servants nearby as well – she did not actually need the Councillor to look after Jia, but it was general tradition to ask another member of a Council family.

After leaving her sleeping daughter with the Councillor, Xia made her way to the back of the plane, where Olivia Pierre and Reena Patel were whispering. Olivia gestured for Xia to join them, and she did. Reena, however, crossed her arms and looked suspiciously at her.

“You have shown no indication of being in favour of reform before this trip,” Reena said in an accusatory tone.

“I…” hesitated Xia. “Well, no, I haven’t. I mean, I hadn’t really been involved in politics much at all. I just…”

“Oh, Reena, you can skip the interrogation,” sighed Olivia. “You know we need as much support as we can get, and Xia has a vested interest in helping us. We could also do with a diversity of opinions and political backgrounds.”

“What ‘vested interest’?” Reena said, curious all of a sudden.

“None of your business,” Olivia and Xia both said at the same time.

“Touchy,” noted Reena, but she leaned back, evidently a little more relaxed. “So, anyway, we need a new plan. We have to show that reform is a success so far – which is going to be kind of difficult given the economic figures.”

“The state of the economy is due to the sanctions, not the reformist economic policy,” argued Olivia.

“Yes, but people aren’t going to believe that. They won’t interpret things how they really are, they see what they want to see, or what they are told to see, and the traditionalists still have control of Kerlile’s media.”

“So, how do we get the message across given that the media is even more tightly controlled since the Trive incident and that Xiomeran censorship thing was installed?”

“Well, I have a couple of ideas. While I was in Xiomera I was speaking to a lot of people who were involved in the media, and I managed to learn quite a bit about operating under such a system… Xia, are you okay?”

Xia had been sitting, staring open mouthed at Olivia and Reena as they debated. The two women were younger than her, and should have been less experienced in the political affairs of the Matriarchy, and yet they spoke so fluently on the topic in a way that she just… couldn’t. She had spent so much of her life ignoring the rights and responsibilities she’d had placed on her by an accident of birth. It was time she paid attention.

“Sorry, I’m just struggling to follow. Could you start at the beginning, please?” she asked, calmly.

“Oh, yeah, of course,” nodded Reena. “So basically, we want to make Kerlile a better place. We have a plan for doing so. Here’s what the first part entails…”

*

Grapevale, Kerlile
30th December 2019

They had been in the car for some time before Xia realised where they were going. Upon arrival at the airport, a car had been waiting for them. It had been expected, she was second-in-line to a seat on the Council, after all. She had expected it to take her back to her current residence, a large house in the suburbs of the city… but she suddenly realised that her driver was heading for her grandmother’s.

“Um, sorry, Jia is tired, we weren’t planning to go to the family residence tonight,” Xia called to her driver, a nervousness growing inside her.

“Sorry, ma’am, I have orders from the Councillor to take you there immediately,” the driver responded.

“Sure, no problem!” Xia said with false cheer. She tried the door. Locked, naturally. She had the feeling she was in big trouble.

Upon arrival at the Chiu residence, her sister Mei appeared and called to Jia. The girl ran towards her aunt, excited to see her, and oblivious to the fact her mother was clearly terrified. She glanced around. There were more security personnel than usual. Still, she knew that for all her own sins, her family would not hurt Jia. Xia turned, about to run, when someone reached out and grabbed her arm, roughly.

“The Councillor wishes to see you immediately,” the woman, one of her grandmother’s high-ranking security guards said, and began pulling her towards the house. She glanced back at Jia, who was being led inside by Mei. Her sister met her eyes, and then turned away, a look of betrayal in them. Shit.

Xia was led into her grandmother’s office, where the Councillor sat behind her desk. The other chairs in the room had been removed, forcing Xia to stand.

“Xia… do you care to explain this?” said the Councillor, calmly, and placed a photograph on a table. It was Xia entering the Shen Embassy. “Or what about this?” she added another photograph, of Xia sitting near Wu Genbao and speaking with him.

“Grandmother…”

“You spoke with that man, Wu Zhou’s son. He paid for your meal. A Wu. He could have poisoned you, and your daughter! Thankfully he is dead, along with his mother. But then you didn’t stop there. You visited the Shen Embassy multiple times! And Chloe tells me you ordered her not to tell me this. You will explain what you were doing in that Embassy, immediately.”

“I was merely paying back the money for the meal, I did not ask him to do that.”

“No, you didn’t, but you didn’t object either,” her grandmother hissed, standing and walking around the desk until she was face to face with Xia. “And you would not need to visit the Embassy multiple times to do that. Why were you in that Embassy?”

Xia remained silent. The Councillor paused, and then raised her hand, and slapped Xia across the cheek, hard.

Why were you in that Embassy?

“I won’t tell you.”

“Then I will call some of our former Restricted Region employees and have them extract the information from you by force,” said the Councillor, reaching for the phone on her desk.

“You can’t do that!”

“Oh, I most certainly can. I guarantee nobody will stop me. So, if you want to spare yourself a world of pain, I suggest you answer my question.”

“I’m pregnant, you’ll kill the baby!”

The Councillor paused. “How do I know you’re not lying?”

“Get me a pregnancy test,” Xia replied.

The Councillor pressed a button, summoning an assistant who was sent for a test. The Chiu family kept some on hand: they were rather keen on expanding their family, it was not unusual for someone in that household to want such a test.

A few minutes, and a trip to the bathroom later, Xia was seated in the Councillor’s office, while Lia paced back and forth.

“Well, congratulations. However, you have still behaved in a very concerning manner. I may not be able to force you to talk – yet – but I will keep my eye on you. You will remain here for the duration of your pregnancy.”

“No, I won’t,” Xia said, standing up, and opening the door. She didn’t get far. Two of her grandmother’s guards grabbed her by the arms. At a signal from the Councillor, they began to drag her towards a staircase. She struggled against them, screaming and fighting, but it was futile.

She was taken to the top floor of the mansion, and marched along a corridor. She knew this wing, it was extra guest rooms that were rarely used. Struggling, she was pushed into one of the rooms, and the door was locked behind her. She banged on the door, but it was strong and didn’t budge. Exhausted, she sat down on the bed and examined her surroundings.

The room was nice enough, she supposed. It wasn’t overly fancy, but it was tastefully decorated. The bed was large and comfortable, and there was an en-suite bathroom. The window did not open. She lay back on the bed, staring at the ceiling, a prisoner in her grandmother’s home.

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Re: Council of Kerlile: Behind the Scenes

Post by Shen » Thu Jan 02, 2020 3:23 pm

12:05PM, JAN 1ST, Heavenly Palace



A small group of Imperial advisor sat around a large table in one of the many dining rooms of the Heavenly Palace. Trays of Red Lobster freshly caught that morning in New England placed on the table as well as mountains of butter and various side dishes for the all to eat.

Beat now far more sober former president of the matriarchy had become a more frequent visitor at these meetings as she had gained a small amount of favor with the empress.

" I trust you have recovered from your celebration of the new years" wu Zhao said as she dabbed a napkin against her lips

"Yes, I had a good night. One of my daughters actually picked up the phone this time, which was a pleasant surprise for me," replied Joanna Greenwood.

" oh really? See Biyu someone wants to spend International New Year's with their mother" the empress said playfully scold in her youngest who rolled her eyes and continue to eat her own Lobster.

She turned her attention back towards joanna " witch one, if i can ask?"

"Elisa, my middle daughter. She is less... involved in Kerlian politics than the other two," Joanna said.

" sounds like my oldest. Did she just called to wish you Happy New Year, or did you talk about other topics?"

"We touched upon other topics, but not in great detail. Mainly the state of the economy. She had a business which collapsed during the Lauchenoirian war. She was rather devastated," Joanna sighed.

" oh how sad. But at least she has the gumption and the determination to start her own business. Maybe I should send my eldest to talk to her. It would hopefully Inspire him to do less of what he calls world traveling... What I Call Living a Playboy lifestyle... and find something more productive to do with his life. Or at the very least call his mother. All I got from him was a text" she said making a small joke to try and cheer the former president up

"Well, perhaps the new year will inspire Elisa to try again," Joanna said. "Although, the Kerlian economy does not seem to be improving anytime soon."
" unfortunately it seems like improving your economy is well outside of your power. International International treaties and sanctions have seen to that. Hopefully she's doing all right during this time of recession in your Homeland"

"She is surviving. I think she is still rather depressed by the whole thing though," Joanna shrugged, helping herself to a little more food.

" I suppose the knowledge that you failed because of factors far beyond your control, cannot put off all of the hardship and pain she must feel after watching her business collapse"

Just as the empress spoke guards opened up the door to the hallway outside.

Ancient Nemo walk through the doors following his head towards the table of high-ranking government officials and advisors

" my Empress my apologies for disturbing you but I have news about Xia of house chiu"

A look of confusion passed across Joanna's face. She knew the name, but she didn't understand the significance.

" hmm? " the empress says

"... her grandmother has placed her under house arrest."

The emerald eyes of the empress were filled with concerned that she turned her attention towards Nemo

" are you certain?"

" yes my empress. We have multiple confirmation from sorces within her security detail. From what we can tell she was unharmed"

" of corse... they're not going to risk the baby"

" baby? Is she pregnant?"

" yes" Zhoa replied as she sat back in her chair

"... curious empress. I didn't expect for you to know something i dont"

"Forgive me, Empress," Joanna said. "I'm somewhat confused. Xia is Councillor Chiu's granddaughter, yes? Why would the Councillor arrest her?"

" if I could be so bold as to hypothesize Madam president..." agent Nemo said

"... I would assume her grandmother discovered that she had enter the Imperial Embassy in central. With a paranoid psychosis as deep as that woman, such a small offense could easily set her off"

There was so much cold and so much hatred in his voice when he spoke of her

The empress looked back up at the agent before looking back at the president "... I disagree with the terminology but the basic premise of his hypothesis seems correct.”

"But... why would Xia enter your embassy? From what I remember of her, she showed no signs of rebellion as a child and, well, her family do rather... fear you."

" a chance encounter with my brother made her question that assumption. After my mother died... she wrote me a letter. We've been corresponding by letter ever since"

A look of complete surprise appeared on Joanna's face. "I would not have expected that, Empress."

" perhaps you don't know them well enough. I lived in kerille for years, first as a citizen and then as a spy. This level of heartlessness is quite commen"

The empress slowly Rose from her seat

"... I have to make a call. I will be in my office. Do not disturb me"

as the empress left most of the other advisers and government officials began to finish off the remaining food on their plates and make their way out of the room

As Joanna left, she pondered what she had heard. She had barely ever spoken to Xia, and she was curious as to what would turn the quiet girl she'd seen into someone who rebelled quite so greatly against her family. Nemo's analysis, however, of Kerlian heartlessness was unfortunately accurate. She felt a pang of sympathy for Xia, and what might happen to her in the future.






_____________

jan 1st 7:05 am local time, Olivia pierres bedroom.


Olivia Pierre was lying in her bed, sleeping after the stress of the party that had gone on until the early hours of the morning. She hadn't touched a drop of alcohol: she never did when her mother was present. In fact, she hadn't eaten anything, or drunk even water, suffering the pangs in her stomach after she had seen her mother's face. Pauline had looked even more murderous than usual. Still, she had survived, and now she lay, sleeping, her phone beside her. Suddenly her phone began to ring. An unknown number with no area code she could recognize

She woke, startled and looked at her phone. She frowned a little, and stifled a yawn, answering it.
"Hello?"
Not having the time or the patience to offer any pleasantries to this girl the empress just told her exactly what she needed to hear.

" Xia has been placed under house arrest by her grandmother"

Olivia froze. The voice sounded familiar, but she couldn't quite place it. "What? That would explain why she wasn't at the party, but... who is this, sorry?"

" you know who I am. How many people with this accent would call you concerning a chiu" the empress said offering Olivia a little mind exercise to wake herself up(edited)

Olivia frowned, and then her eyes went a little wide in the darkness of her room.
"... Empress?"

" God-Empress to you, ms. Pierre" she replied confirming Olivia's suspicion(edited)

Olivia jumped a little, sitting up straighter.
"My apologies, God-Empress. I was not expecting a call at this time. Uh, so, Councillor Chiu has placed Xia under house arrest? That is worrying to hear."

" yes it is. She instructed me to get into contact with you if anything happened to her. The first thing you need to do is head to her house and collect her mail. There's a letter from me that cannot fall into the hands of her grandmother. "

"Of course, God-Empress. I can go there today. Uh, do you know if she's okay?" Olivia asked.

" the chiu are fanatical about the propagation of their bloodline. As long as she's pregnant she's safe. At least physically"


"Pregnant? I didn't realise she was. Uh, what do you want me to do with the letter if I find it at her house... God-Empress?"

" my apologies I thought she told you." The empress at. Her voice obviously flustered which was a surprise for a woman in her position "It's considered very rude to accidentally reveal a pregnancy." She explained before continuing "The one that she has is a photocopy printed off at the embassy. I still have the original so I can just send it again. So burn it"
"I will head over there and try to get the letter. I only hope her grandmother doesn't already have it."

" thank you. I'll have my agents listen for more whispers about her. The real question is how do we get her... short of an act of War"

Olivia swallowed nervously. "Uh, well, I think I should be able to establish contact with her through a... network of mine in this country. I'd, uh, advise against taking any action before then, God-Empress." The thought of even a chance of a war with Shen terrified Olivia.

" I'm not planning on doing anything rash. I don't plan on starting a war over one girl even if I consider her a friend. But getting her free is a matter of Honor because she is imprisoned because of her attempts to contact me. "

"I will help you. If this sets a precedent that Councillors can imprison their family members without charge... I imagine my own future looks rather bleak. And Xia is my friend, too, and an ally in my quest to change certain policies in this country."

" I'm well-versed in your nation's internal politics. I hear many Whispers coming from the counselors family and I can call on Greenwood anytime I like. if you are able to help my friend I will return the favor, at some point"

"Thank you, God-Empress, but I will help her regardless. Let me speak with a few others I trust and formulate a plan. I can contact you in a few days to let you know what our thoughts are, if you wish?"

" I would prefer to be kept in the loop. Thank you Olivia. Now I will let you get to burning that letter"

"Uh, of course. I'll let you know if there are any complications, God-Empress."

" thank you. I suppose I don't have to remind you that this conversation never happened. You're a controversial figure in the politics of your nation. The knowledge that I'm in contact with you could send the wrong message"

"I understand. Goodbye, God-Empress," Olivia said, and then exhaled. She was not used to speaking with foreign leaders.

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Re: Council of Kerlile: Behind the Scenes

Post by Lauchenoiria » Thu Jan 02, 2020 7:57 pm

Near water fountain, Grapevale Park, outskirts of city
1st January 2020 – just after sunset

Reena Patel stood shivering in the cold as she waited by the fountain. The park was closed, deserted, and the ground was slightly icy. She wished she’d worn her warmer coat, the one she’d taken to Shuell, but it was at the dry cleaners. She glanced around in the darkness, afraid to switch on a light lest someone notice it. She couldn’t see very far in the moonlight, and it was rather eerie. Her fingers brushed against the knife she had hidden on her person for protection as a figure approached.

“Evening, Reena,” Olivia Pierre said, sauntering casually over with her hands in her pockets. Olivia was dressed in a dark coat and blended so well into the background that Reena had barely recognised her until she was very close. Reena knew that the woman was almost certainly carrying at least one gun and had perfect aim. It made her feel slightly better: her own aim was terrible, she was much better at hand-to-hand combat.

“Why did you ask me to meet you in such a strange location?” Reena whispered to the woman. She was nervous about being caught, her mother tended to punish her harshly, and the fact she was a legal adult would not help her in a society like Kerlile’s.

“Not just you, a few of us. We have a problem,” Olivia replied, leaning against the fountain and looking up at the stars. “I’ll explain once the others arrive.”

“Who else did you invite?” Reena enquired.

“Me, apparently,” said a voice behind Reena, causing her to jump. Councillor Rosemary Arnott, the young 19-year-old who had inherited President Arnott’s seat was standing there, looking confused and out of breath. “Do you have any idea how hard it was for me to sneak away from all the bodyguards?”

“You’ll get used to it,” Olivia said, still keeping her voice calm and relaxed. She had been sneaking around half her life, since she was 12, and she was a master of it by this point. “We’re just waiting on Carolyn; however, I gave her a time later than you two. I am not sure I want to involve her yet.”

“What’s this about?” Rosemary asked, shivering, but her eyes were sparkling with excitement. She was finally being included in something again, which hadn’t really happened since she’d joined the Council.

“Xia. As I mentioned, she was going to join our group. However, there’s been a complication. Her grandmother has placed her under house arrest, it’s why she wasn’t at the party last night,” Olivia explained.

“Oh no!” Reena said, horrified, her voice becoming slightly panicked. “What has Councillor Chiu done to her? I still have scars from when my grandmother punished me, we have to help her!”

“She hasn’t been hurt,” Olivia said, trying to soothe Reena. She knew that Anita Patel had punished Reena harshly for her involvement in a Teenagers Against Torture protest in 2017, but she wasn’t sure what it had exactly entailed. “And it is unlikely she will be hurt, at least not for a while.”

“Why?” asked Rosemary.

“It is not my place to say. However, regardless of the likelihood of such things, we need to help her. Now, I’ve left Natasha out of this one, she is far too young. But I am uncertain whether or not to include Carolyn, given the situation with President Greenwood.”

“This is about Shen, then?” Reena sounded grave.

“It is. Xia has been conversing with the God-Empress, which her grandmother cannot be allowed to find out about. We must somehow get her out of that house as soon as possible. Four of us can do that more easily than three, however I am going to need to know Carolyn’s views on her grandmother before I can involve her.”

“So, when she arrives you’re going to interrogate her?” Reena asked.

“Well, not in the way interrogations usually proceed in this country, but yes. We must know where her loyalties will lie in this matter. It is imperative we help her as soon as we can, lest the God-Empress take matters into her own hands.”

“What do you mean by that?” frowned Rosemary. “Do you know something we don’t?”

“Knowledge is dangerous,” Olivia said, mocking the voice of Councillor Viallamando, who often used the phrase.

Rosemary opened her mouth to respond, when she spotted another shape walking through the darkness towards them. Olivia’s hand went to her gun, while Reena’s went to her knife, and Rosemary just moved back behind them.

“It’s freezing!” hissed Carolyn Greenwood as she stepped out of the darkness towards them. The group all relaxed. “Why are we meeting here!?”

“I need to ask you some questions, Carolyn,” Olivia said calmly. Rosemary stepped closer to Reena, who had moved away slightly, watching. “What do you think of your grandmother?”

“Her policies were ill-conceived. She did damage to this country that will take us many years to repair, perhaps even decades,” Carolyn replied, frowning. “But why do you want to know about her?”

“What about her exile in Shen? What are your thoughts on that matter?”

“I think she is a coward. She feared imprisonment, even though she had condemned so many to that same fate for virtually nothing. If she wishes to run and hide, let her, but we should not welcome her back.”

“And the Shen themselves? Your thoughts on the Empire?”

“What’s with the interrogation?” Carolyn said, stepping backwards. She was feeling rather uneasy. “I dislike them, their culture is extremely patriarchal even if their laws are not. My grandmother is a traitor for going there.”

“You joined our group, which stands in opposition to many of the Council’s policies,” interrupted Reena. “Some would consider us traitors for that.”

“We stand in opposition to policies which are corrupting the mission of the Matriarchy,” Carolyn argued. “You know I do not share your views entirely on some matters. I am against that corruption, and believe that reform is necessary in order to accomplish that mission at this juncture.”

“We know you only support reform as a means to an end,” Olivia said calmly. “However, I was asking about Shen. Do you believe we should seek better relations with the Empire?”

“What? This is a really weird place to bring me just to ask about that,” Carolyn shook her head, irritated now. “No, I don’t. They only took in my grandmother so they could use her to undermine us. The Chiu are correct not to trust them, or those who work with them.”

“Go home, Carolyn,” Rosemary said suddenly, the first thing she’d said since the Greenwood heir had arrived. She shared a look with Olivia, who nodded.

“You brought me here to ask me questions and then tell me to go home?” Carolyn said incredulously.

“We merely wished to know your views on your grandmother,” Olivia said. “It may come up when we are presenting our proposal, and I wanted to check if you would have strong opinions on the matter which would upset you.”

“Well, I don’t particularly. That still doesn’t explain why we had to meet so late in such a strange location.”

“My mother has been watching me,” Reena said. “And Councillor Pierre has been watching Olivia. You saw how eagle-eyed they were at the party last night. We are concerned they’re going to do something about our group, so we need to be more careful. Councillor Arnott can help us with that.”

Rosemary made a face at the use of her title – she still didn’t feel like a Councillor, it made her feel strange to be referred to in that way. “Go home, Carolyn, before your own mother gets suspicious,” she said.

“I still have a few questions,” Carolyn argued.

“That’s an order, Carolyn,” smirked Rosemary. She may not like being a Councillor, but she would use her position when it suited her.

Carolyn paused, as if considering whether or not to disobey, then spun around and stormed off slightly angrily, in the manner of a petulant teenager which, all things considered, she kind of was.

“Well, we’re not including her,” Reena scoffed. “You sure Natasha is too young?”

“She is fourteen, and this could genuinely be quite dangerous,” Olivia said firmly. “We could get in quite a lot of trouble, or even get hurt if Councillor Chiu becomes angry enough. We are not including Natasha.”

“Okay, so what’s our plan?” Rosemary asked.

“First, we need to go somewhere else. I do not trust Carolyn not to report this meeting,” Olivia said, glancing behind her. “She is useful in getting traditionalists on board with our policy proposal, but I’m beginning to question the wisdom of her inclusion in this.”

“Does your mother still have your house watched?” Reena asked Olivia.

“Yes, though I make sure to sweep for bugs regularly. The issue is getting inside.”

“Well, if Carolyn reports us, the fact we met will already be known,” pointed out Reena.

“True enough. Okay, we’ll go there.”

*

Around 20 minutes later, the three were sitting in Olivia’s living room, sipping hot chocolate and warming up from the cold outside. A real fire burned in the fireplace, something Olivia rarely actually used. If one looked closely, one could have seen the remnants of a burned letter, but Reena and Rosemary were distracted with planning.

“It won’t work,” argued Rosemary. “Councillor Chiu vets her security detail extensively. We can’t slip a new person in there, even for a day. She would be noticed, and interrogated.”

“If it was one of us they wouldn’t torture us for long once they realised,” Reena responded. “I’d be willing to try it, I can take a little.”

“I… don’t want to know,” Olivia said, shaking her head. “But Rosemary’s right, it won’t work and there is no point in getting hurt for no reason. We need a better plan. And we need to figure out where we are going to hide Xia after.”

“Won’t the God-Empress take her, if they’re such good friends?” Rosemary said, mocking Olivia’s use of the proper title. Kerlians did not often use the proper title of a Shen Empress, especially in private.

“I don’t want that to happen,” Olivia said. “This is just my personal view of the matter, but if Xia flees the country, it will set a bad precedent that our mothers and grandmothers have absolute power over us while we are here. We need to show that is not the case. We have to fight back now for our rights as humans, and not extensions of the Councillor of our families.”

“I agree with Olivia, if I’m honest,” piped up Reena. “It could also cause a hell of a problem between the Greenwoods and the Chiu, and potentially between our two nations. As a last resort, maybe, but I think we should try and keep Xia in the country.”

“Councillor Hale,” Rosemary said suddenly.

“What about her?” asked Reena.

“The Private Property law,” the Councillor said, standing up and walking over to the window. She pointed in the distance. “I can’t do it, because my mother is still alive and can overrule me. But I bet we could convince Councillor Hale.”

Olivia and Reena fell silent, thinking. The law Rosemary referred to, among other things, contained a provision that on the private property of a Council Family, the head of that family’s word was law. It enabled Councillor Chiu to imprison her granddaughter; it let Anita Patel torture Reena as punishment in 2017, and it meant that no other Councillor could arrest someone off of another Councillor’s property.

“So, if we can get Xia to the Hale estate…” Reena began.

“She would be safe. Out of reach of her grandmother. Provided,” Rosemary added, “that Councillor Hale agrees to harbour her.”

“She will,” Olivia said confidently. “I am quite certain. We shall need to speak with her, of course, but we know she’s not afraid of angering the others, not in the way Robinson might be. We just have to find a way to get Xia there.”

Reena and Rosemary nodded, the former helping herself to a biscuit from a plate in front of them, and settling back in her chair. They were going to be there for some time.

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