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Peace in Jugol?

Azraq

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“And spend of your substance in the cause of Allah, and make not your own hands contribute to (your) destruction; but do good; for Allah loveth those who do good"

***​
Palace of Peacocks
Jugol
Empire of Azraq


The Palace of Peacocks was perhaps the most grandiose of the Imperial properties in Jugol, built in the late 19th century as the First Azraqi Empire emerged. The complex merged a mix of architectural styles from across southern Toyou, the Implarian and northeastern Himyar as a symbol of the Empire's growing reach, influence and prosperity.

The building's name stems from the extensive gardens that are home to many to many a peacock and peafowl, who have since been joined by other exotic birds that made the vast estate their home. When the Emperor wasn't in residence and the palace not in use for official business, it proved popular with tourists keen to witness either Azraq's famous historical extravagance or listen to the birdsong and cries of the many avians that had made the gardens their home.

As one of the newer - and arguably more impressive - imperial properties, the Palace of Peacocks was frequently the first choice of host venue for foreign dignitaries.

The Palace of Mud, unusual for borrowing from termite nests in its architecture, was considered to be too outlandish and uncomfortable for overseas guests. Meanwhile, the Palace of Bones, named so after the extensive collection of animal skeletons and ivory tusks that filled its hallways and corridors, was reserved only ever for ceremonial purposes, such as coronations or formal addresses.

While the imperial capital of Azraq, ironically Jugol was perhaps the least Azraqi city of them all. The sprawling mass was mostly inhabited by refugees and migrants from Loago, Port Stanley and beyond, who were kept away from the official centre where the majority of imperial institutions were based, by being housed in vast shanty towns on the city's fringes. There was an unwritten agreement between the slums' inhabitants and the Azraqi state: agree to work as effectively slaves and your right to residency wouldn't be questioned by the authorities. So many worked doing informal jobs in the economic eco-system that had emerged in Jugol to feed the wants and desires of the Azraqi elite.

The city had long been an important place to meet and trade, being sandwiched between three lakes - a blessing in a landscape marked by mostly desert and scrubland.

Jugol's historic markets attracted traders from southern Himyar passing along the Seashell Route through Loago, as well as merchants from the Dawamali port cities bringing goods from the East, and caravans from the West bringing goods from Pelasgia and beyond. The discovery of early human remains there in the 20th century, including those believed to have been of important tribal chieftains, only seemed to underline its almost mythical place in Azraqi history.

The name Jugol stemmed an ancient Hasremotic word meaning walled city, a reference to the random remains of forts that had been built and destroyed there over time as the metropolis' rulers tried to defend - often unsuccessfully - its lucrative markets from outside raiders

The city had only been chosen as the imperial capital as a compromise between the Dawamali city states that had forged the first Empire. By then the city was a relative backwater, its fortunes gone with the changing patterns of trade. Even today it still lagged behind the Dawamali cities in wealth and key infrastructure, except for in the imperial and governmental districts.

These would be the only parts of Jugol the foreign delegations attending the mediation talks organised by Emperor Tiirka Illah personally would see.

The Emperor - and entire Azraqi establishment - was desperate to try and avert war between Justosia and a coalition of assembled states, fearing an upset in the Implarian balance of power.

Justosia was due to confirm participation any minute now after intense, private lobbying by the Emperor himself with his Justosian equal, who he had met last year in a trip to Avalon.

Ambrosia agreed to participate after Azraq said it was "open" to the idea of its fighter pilot being deliberately shot down by Justosian forces, while Pohjanmaa, which also had military assets near Justosia, was on the verge of formally requesting attendance as well, which would be quickly accepted by Jugol.

Sylvania, the other key protagonist, had been the first to agree to mediation talks when they were first proposed.

There was a lot riding on this summit for the Emperor.

First there was a lot of popular anger domestically over the monarch's dramatic political interventions, including dismissing Azraq's first leftwing Shamo-majority government before ordering three indecisive elections only to then to force the creation of a new single party - the Pan Hasremotic Peoples League - to take power. The League was widely seen as largely s a vehicle for the Emperor's personal agenda and little else and its reign a major blow to Azraq's nominally constitutional monarchy and parliamentary democracy.

Second there was a growing perception in the Azraqi establishment the country was punching below its weight. Pelasgia, a long running historical rival, continued to be seen as Himyar's premier power while Natalia had quickly grown it's influence in eastern Himyar. And now Nedernesia was entangling itself in the Dune Sea Dominion.

A major foreign policy win could vindicate the Emperor's interference in electoral politics and his 'friendly relations with all' foreign policy, which had been criticised after state visits from Serenierre and Ostmark, two communist countries, and an imperial visit to Justosia, whose exclamatory diplomatic statements and obsession with shipbuilding were a continual source of tension with other nations.

Avoiding conflict in the Implarian would be a serious triumph, and undermine much of the previous criticism.

But peace was not guaranteed. The Justosians were a hot headed, proud people and the other nations serious in trying to teach Avalon a lesson.

Having pulled of a coup in all but name, could Emperor Tiirka Illah secure a settlement in the Implarian?
 
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Ambrosia

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Secretary of State Dean Doyle arrived most intentionally early to Jugol, Azraq in order to push past any reception pleasantries with time to spare. Doyle quickly relayed to meet with the Ambrosian ambassador to Azraq, Maxad Tadalesh, and his team of dedicated analysts to the far flung Empire.

Tadalesh hailed from the Ambrosian west coast state of Siskiyou and possessed a Dawamali face and stature behind a customary dark blue suit and gold tie. After an hour of briefings led by the ambassador Doyle now intended bring Maxad to the peace conference as both an advisor and translator, understanding that the third generation Dawamali-Ambrosian would easily immerse into the Azraqi ambiance unlike himself: caught off guard after a career spent in East coast boardrooms between Ambrosia and Sylvania as the one time CEO of Westerly’s, a drug and corner store chain that might “incidentally” rise to become the largest drug store chain in Westernesse.

Another rationale for arriving early yet holding back from actually entering was that Doyle intended to defer to Farraday or whomever the Sylvanian representative might be. Sylvania had committed the largest force to the conflict and would be afforded some measure of leadership inside. Doyle and Tadalesh informed the Azraqi’s that they would follow after Sylvania and patiently awaited a call to proceed.
 

Pohjanmaa

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Communiqué on the Jugol Peace Conference
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The Commonweath of Pohjanmaa with assets and interests in this region with its alliance partners formally requests attendance to this conference in Jugol.

We thank the Azraqi people for their assistance and commitment to peace in the region and are committed to finding a peaceful solution to this impasse.



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Venla Säkkinen

Pohjanmaan Ulkoministeri
Pohjanmaas Utrikesminister
Põhjamaa välisministeer
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Pohjanmaan Ulkoministeriö / Pohjanmaas Utrikesministeriet / Põhjamaa välisministeerium
Merikasarmi, Laivastokatu 22, Katajanokka, 00160 Haaga
 

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Avalon, Justosia

The Imperial Court at Avalon had been a mess in recent days. The flurry of activity had outgrown the palace. A nearby hotel had been converted into an administrative annex. The late May rains had brought further gloom to the annex. The Imperial Foreign Minister looked coldly at Angelo Almani, the chosen Imperial Envoy.

"DO YOU UNDERSTAND?" resonated through the room as Almani looked out the rain spattered window. Almani nodded and puffed his cheeks. The septuagenarian brought his head around and stared at the minister with an equally cold gaze. "You've really brought me out of retirement for this?" he asked, tilting his head as if he were a dog investigating something curious. The 71 year old Almani had seen everything. The longtime diplomat was fairly respected in international circles. His reputation was by no means grand in nature. However, Almani had made many friends in many circles and had gained a reputation as a man who kept his word and saw things through. He became aware that the minister was not going to answer his question and was staring at him with dull gray eyes. Almani sighed as he dug in his pocked. "You know, this is not the type of thing that I do. I negotiated trade and transport treaties. You've hired an architect and not a surgeon" he said, opening his mint box and retrieving two peppermints. It had been his habit for 3 decades since quitting smoking. He popped the mints in his mouth and swished them briefly.

He chewed them slowly, allowing the fresh coolness to coat his mouth. "Why me?" he asked casually, with no hint of emotion. The minister shrugged as if digesting the question but did not pause too long- telling Almani that the minister had prepared an answer. "You were a naval officer. You are a well respected diplomat. You have the sense to do this" the minister said- clearly rehearsed. Almani nodded and slipped his mint box back into pocket. Scratching his nose, Almani thought for a second. "I wrote paychecks in the navy, Minister. You already knew that. I barely graduated from the officer school. I don't know why you've chosen me. But if I take this job I want guarantees" Almani said, offering open hands as an invitation to the minister to follow his reasoning. Instead, the minister folded his hands and raised an eyebrow. "If?" asked the minister. Almani shifted in his seat and wiped some fuzz from his knee. "Certainly you did not expect me to jump at this? This is a shit heap. Everyone knows it. How many?" asked Almani. The minister stood from his seat he had taken on his table and walked very slowly to his chair behind the desk. As he sat, he muttered "2". The minister was quiet, expected Almani to talk when he didn't, he continued. "They threatened to resign rather than take the job. Our A team has quit. We need you".

Amani nodded slowly and turned to the window. He watched as raindrops pattered off the glass. "Very well. My guarantees?" he asked. Almani turned his head and stared into the minister's eyes. "What guarantees?" the minister asked, a hint of suspicion in his voice. Almani sat stiff in his chair. "First, I want the Empress's word that I have full authority to make any deal I see appropriate. Second, I want it in writing that I have such authority. Third" he went on, holding up a third finger as he continued counting on his hand for emphasis. "I want assurances that any agreement that I make will be upheld. Finally, I want it in writing that I am not to be held responsible if these talks fail" said Almani- offering 5 fingers to the minister. The minister was quiet for a moment. He chuffed before letting out an explosive "WHO THE FUCK DO YOU THINK YOU ARE?". Almani did not flinch- his expression that of stone. A moment passed before the minister waved a hand. "Fine, you will have it" he said, his face a sneer.

Almani stood. "Good. I have a flight to Azraq to catch. Be so good as to let the foreign fleets know that I'd rather not be shot down" said Almani as he made his way to the door without looking at the minister. The minister rose and began shouting but Almani was already closing the door behind him.
 

Azraq

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Communiqué on the Jugol Peace Conference
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The Commonweath of Pohjanmaa with assets and interests in this region with its alliance partners formally requests attendance to this conference in Jugol.

We thank the Azraqi people for their assistance and commitment to peace in the region and are committed to finding a peaceful solution to this impasse.



Yestäväallisesti,


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Venla Säkkinen

Pohjanmaan Ulkoministeri
Pohjanmaas Utrikesminister
Põhjamaa välisministeer
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Pohjanmaan Ulkoministeriö / Pohjanmaas Utrikesministeriet / Põhjamaa välisministeerium
Merikasarmi, Laivastokatu 22, Katajanokka, 00160 Haaga
.
Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Wasaarada Arimaha Dibada
وزارة الشؤون الخارجية



The Commonwealth of Pohjanmaa is most certainly welcome to attend the summit in Jugol and we look forward to receiving and hosting their delegation.
 

Sylvania

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It had been decided that the Continental Republic would not be represented by Katalin Faraday, who had already had enough of the Justosian sense of superiority in their last meeting where the Justosians attempted to blackmail the director with false information of what had occurred in the meeting. The Justosian blackmail had failed and had caused a complete breakdown in communications between the Breckenridge administration, who had warned of Justosia's offensive shipbuilding spree once before and had grown very tired of it when the fourth fleet was announced to be under construction. Instead, diplomat Martin Koskinen , who was a personal friend of the President and trusted man, which after the disaster of the last presidency was saying a lot.

There was still much inexperience within the Sylvanian government as most of its current politicians had found themselves thrust into service after the scandal that rocked the country almost a year ago and that inexperience had shown during this entire Justosia situation. Breckenridge had been to quick to order military assets into the region and Faraday could be an abrasive representative of Sylvanian policy and wants. That inexperience had led into poor communication between the Sylvanian military and DDI allies as well as the new budding alliance with Ambrosia. On top of that the peace conference while a positive thing to occur out of all the negatives, what the DDI and Ambrosia wanted to achieve with their attendance was up in the air. That was why Koskinen had arrived early, though not as early as the Ambrosians had come to discuss with the allied representatives the face they wanted to show at the meeting. Such a discussion would be necessary, even if rushed, otherwise the Justosians would see the disarray and would be bolstered by seeing the alliance as weak and uncoordinated.

Koskinen invited the allied representatives to meet with him in the suite graciously provided to him and his team to discuss the matters of what should be achieved in the peace process, what could be given up and what they had to stand firm on. It was clear that the Justosian naval build up without any real clear enemy and its erratic and dangerous actions in foreign policy was what had caused the allied nations to take such an aggressive stance with Justosia, its navy was the clear issue in all of this and the Sylvanian government saw the Justosian navy as a threat to its movements between itself and the western reaches of Touzen and the Long Sea. A treaty would need to include limits on the Justosian navy, perhaps even a scrapping of the uncompleted ships destined for a fourth fleet. Vanguardia was also an issue and Koskinen expected that Justosia would make no concessions on Vanguardia's place in the so called Continental Empire. What was paramount was creating a safe path through the Justosian "sphere" for DDI vessels to Touzen and the Long Sea as well as stopping disruptive military exercises that Justosia had in the past held without notice and in important trade lanes, stopping these antics was also an issue that Koskinen had been tasked with. What else was up to the other participants, but for Koskinen it was a small but good foundation for starting off the DDI side of the talks.
 

Elben

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Imperial Chancellery

His Imperial Majesty, with his possessions the Augustine Islands close at hand, and aware of the efforts to reach a peaceful solution in Jugol, requests permission to dispatch a personal envoy to Jugol to observe the proceedings as an interested bystander who wants only peace in the Implarian region.
 

Azraq

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Imperial Chancellery

His Imperial Majesty, with his possessions the Augustine Islands close at hand, and aware of the efforts to reach a peaceful solution in Jugol, requests permission to dispatch a personal envoy to Jugol to observe the proceedings as an interested bystander who wants only peace in the Implarian region.
Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Wasaarada Arimaha Dibada
وزارة الشؤون الخارجية


The Northern Tiburan Empire is welcome to observe talks in Jugol but we must stress direct participation should be reserved for the countries currently in the midst of dispute.
 

Pohjanmaa

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It had been decided that the Continental Republic would not be represented by Katalin Faraday, who had already had enough of the Justosian sense of superiority in their last meeting where the Justosians attempted to blackmail the director with false information of what had occurred in the meeting. The Justosian blackmail had failed and had caused a complete breakdown in communications between the Breckenridge administration, who had warned of Justosia's offensive shipbuilding spree once before and had grown very tired of it when the fourth fleet was announced to be under construction. Instead, diplomat Martin Koskinen , who was a personal friend of the President and trusted man, which after the disaster of the last presidency was saying a lot.

There was still much inexperience within the Sylvanian government as most of its current politicians had found themselves thrust into service after the scandal that rocked the country almost a year ago and that inexperience had shown during this entire Justosia situation. Breckenridge had been to quick to order military assets into the region and Faraday could be an abrasive representative of Sylvanian policy and wants. That inexperience had led into poor communication between the Sylvanian military and DDI allies as well as the new budding alliance with Ambrosia. On top of that the peace conference while a positive thing to occur out of all the negatives, what the DDI and Ambrosia wanted to achieve with their attendance was up in the air. That was why Koskinen had arrived early, though not as early as the Ambrosians had come to discuss with the allied representatives the face they wanted to show at the meeting. Such a discussion would be necessary, even if rushed, otherwise the Justosians would see the disarray and would be bolstered by seeing the alliance as weak and uncoordinated.

Koskinen invited the allied representatives to meet with him in the suite graciously provided to him and his team to discuss the matters of what should be achieved in the peace process, what could be given up and what they had to stand firm on. It was clear that the Justosian naval build up without any real clear enemy and its erratic and dangerous actions in foreign policy was what had caused the allied nations to take such an aggressive stance with Justosia, its navy was the clear issue in all of this and the Sylvanian government saw the Justosian navy as a threat to its movements between itself and the western reaches of Touzen and the Long Sea. A treaty would need to include limits on the Justosian navy, perhaps even a scrapping of the uncompleted ships destined for a fourth fleet. Vanguardia was also an issue and Koskinen expected that Justosia would make no concessions on Vanguardia's place in the so called Continental Empire. What was paramount was creating a safe path through the Justosian "sphere" for DDI vessels to Touzen and the Long Sea as well as stopping disruptive military exercises that Justosia had in the past held without notice and in important trade lanes, stopping these antics was also an issue that Koskinen had been tasked with. What else was up to the other participants, but for Koskinen it was a small but good foundation for starting off the DDI side of the talks.
It was a very very long day. Jugol is far from Pohjanmaa and having a layover is Eiffelland wasn’t particularly desirable. Only the Foreign Affairs Minister got to use special government plane for meetings and she decided to fly to Sylvania to confer with colleagues there on improving communication links.

There was a big discussion at the Ministry over whether or not Venla should go to Jugol as she led the Ministry but ultimately it was decided that a fresh face should go to Jugol. Some of this had to do with the fact that this was an election year. President Noora Lepomäki would be up for re-election and it wasn’t really known who would run again her. She wanted to send a fresh face to Jugol to prevent Venla from growing her profile. Venla herself felt that this could be the case, but really did not want to travel to Jugol either. Senior staff at the Ministry wanted her there though, making the case that it was best for coherent policy.

So instead after the long flight with Pohjair, the new Special Envoy to the Justosian Peace Process was now entering the Palace of Peacocks. She walked up to Martin Koskinen in their special suite to prepare for the meeting and introduced herself. — “Moi! I am Anneli Lahtinen. My name might be familiar because my father was President of Pohjanmaa during the Strathclyde War. I have been told that we are to confer here about our tactics and priorities for this meeting... before we start it.”

Attached to her were a few other staffers of various shapes and sizes. They spoke about how ultimately it was a desire to get Justosia out of Vanguardia, but they conceded that was unlikely to happen at this venture. Since Vanguardia was entirely devoid of native inhabitants as Justosian sources stated, there was some desire to seek territorial concessions there in order to avoid war. Never mind that Pohjanmaan sources felt the claim was entirely rubbish.

Realistically with what was actually in the realm of possibilities, they wanted to seek some kind of concessions. A desire to limit the ability of the Justosians to create ships and give unlimited access to DDI nations that needed to transit towards the Claret Sea. As much as the world made a fuss about Pohjanmaan ships taking part in Freedom of Navigation Missions in the Claret Sea, these missions transited the globe and were also geared towards keeping the passage into the Silk Seas open.

If that failed, she felt that it should be clear what concessions were needed in the event of hostilities. Essentially making it clear if it came to blows, the DDI would prevail and the concessions would be this: x. She felt that x should be the entire forfeit of Vanguardia to the DDI and Allies. Knowing how a lost war would end up before it was lost could result in getting favorable terms without any further shots fired. At least in her mind. She didn’t want to float any sense of regime change. Once that came up a line would be crossed that could not be reserved from. Making the conflict an existential one would create a conflict 100x larger than it needed to be and would force them to fight to the last man. The DDI in such a scenario would have take over all of Justosia. Nobody wanted that and she wanted to make it clear that was a threat that could not be made... even if they had the theoretical power to do so.
 

Ambrosia

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Secretary Doyle asked for his Ambrosian associates in Azraq to meet him again at the later conference and opted to visit with the DDI duo in Jugol alone. He tried to do this as often as possible while traveling, to walk alone without someone blabbering or some cellular device attached to his ear. These well paved and manicured streets were meant to be viewed by tourists through a car window Dean recognized. The reality of this city would only be found some several alleys away.

Dean entered the hotel and looked for the stairs. His doctor and wife would be proud, but alas the search was cut short when a hotel employee ushered him towards an elevator.

Approaching the suite, Dean recognized the white-skinned DDI personnel buzzing outside until he reached their periphery with a cough. "I'm Dean Doyle, and well, I'm the Ambrosian." Dean informed. Within the suite he listened and nodded along with the DDI personnel and had very little to add, instead he reiterated that “the new Justosian fleet being worked on must halt, and if that fails it must be subject to monitoring. What I mean to say is: the Justosian Empire must submit to monitoring and the same freedom of navigation courtesies that other armed forces are subject to.”

“Until now they have lived in a self contained bubble,” Secretary Doyle said “but with the expansion into Vanguardia and more on the horizon with swelling fleets - we are here to burst that bubble before it encroaches any further.”

Doyle shook his head and pointed at the window, “They are going to switch masks and perform a new routine, I do not need to remind you but I will: the Justosian regime will lie in there today, and we mustn’t fall for it.”
 
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Touzen

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"I concur", the diminutive gray excellency reclined in one of the lounge chairs in the far corner of the suite added with ever the slightest hint of an accent after Doyle had cautioned against Justosian trickery. "The positions presented here are generally what the Shinkyô wishes to see resolved here today as well, so it should be easy to present a determined united front during the negotiations."

Officer of Revolutionary Defense and State Relations Kato, in effect joint minister of foreign relations and defense in the nomenclature of the Anti-State, had arrived relatively late to the talks in Jugol without much fanfare, yet still early enough to spend a few moments of socializing with his DDI allies. The Anti-State had taken on a generally passive role in the Justosian crisis, leaving the allies in Göötehamina and Charleroi to conduct much of the public talking in the affair. It was no secret in diplomatic circles that Shinkyô felt that the developments in the Long Sea were far more concerning and that is where the officer had subsequently devoted the majority of his attention, and, more than that, Kato himself was privy to the fact that what seemed like ages ago the Justosians had been keen to form an alliance of sorts with Hayabusa at a time when they had isolated themselves across the world with their wacky antics. And while Hayabusa had been intrigued by an offer that would have added a much needed voice to his side during one of those prior Long Sea crises, it were ultimately these antics that made him resolve to make those advances result in nothing. Yet it was in a way regrettable that things had come to turn out like this, even if it were the direct results of the Justosian government's notorious imbalanced foreign policy.

"Nobody is going to die on the Justosian hill over an affair that ultimately does not concern them. I hope to resolve this issue swiftly. Let us just hope that our Justosian counterparts are blessed with the same power of insight."
 

Madurja

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Angelo Almani had arrived early. The Peacock Palace was ornate but it was simply too much for the aging diplomat. 'A grandiose palace for diplomats with delusions' he though, a thin smile crossing his face. It would not be an easy negotiation. Furthermore, Almani had only just become aware that observers were to be present. "Lovely for others to be invited without us being consulted. This is the type of thing done in Ivar" he said to his assistant who smirked.

Almani leaned against a wall and put on his worn glasses. He reviewed the latest reports that the Justosian embassy in Azraq had prepared for him. Leafing through the pages, he scanned for any major developments or cues from the Imperial palace in Avalon. He tittered in dark humor as he read the disappointing economic outlook for the next fiscal quarter. He glanced down at his watch. In only a few minutes, he would be likely dealing with the worst of offers. He had no doubt that if things did not go their way, the other parties would sabotage the entire talks and blame Justosia. It would be a very careful dance indeed. Concessions would be possible, he admitted to himself. However, these concessions would be a two-way street. Almani righted himself and stuffed the papers into his tattered leather briefcase. He stared at some gold-leaf adorning the wall and entered into deep thought. While previous Justosian diplomats had failed, Almani was determined to get his last job done right.
 

Sylvania

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Martin Koskinen nodded his head, it was good that they were all in agreement. "Alright then, there should be nothing else to really discuss then. I agree Secretary Doyle, we should be on our guard when it comes to the Justosian's, they will attempt to fool us and they will most certainly play the victim. The only thing they are a victim of is their poor decision making, let us not forget it!. Also as has been brought up before this meeting began, we must not back down on the spilled Ambrosian blood, the Justosians murdered Lieutenant Spalding and we must not forget it or let them forget it either."

Koskinen sat back in the couch he had been sitting on. 'Well since we are all in agreement I suggest we use this time to mentally prepare ourselves until our Azraqi friends call upon us to officially start this meeting. The hotel staff has graciously provided refreshments."
 

Azraq

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'Whoever kills a soul unless for a soul or for corruption [done] in the land – it is as if he had slain mankind entirely. And whoever saves one – it is as if he had saved mankind entirely'

***​

Palace of Peacocks
Jugol
Empire of Azraq


Emperor Tiirka Illah was nervous. More nervous then he'd ever been before.

Even during the worst of Azraq's two-year long political crisis, when he was facing riots in the streets and rumours the Imperial Convention would remove him from the Ivory Throne, he had not felt this unsure or uncertain about the consequences of his actions.

Now, just as his position was secure, having overseen the formation of Azraq's first single-party government that was personally loyal to him, the brewing conflict in the Silk Sea region threatened to derail his ambitious plans for Azraq, which he hoped would finally see the Himyari empire reach its full potential.

But with Azraq not so far from Justosia - the island nation at the centre of this growing storm - investors who had previously expressed an interest in backing the Emperor's pet projects, including a high speed rail network connecting Azraq's major cities, had either backed out entirely, were until a clear resolution was in sight, or insisting on tougher terms then before.

Meanwhile the value of the Azraqi dahab had fallen, the Gabood Stock Exchange had seen days and days of negative trading, shipping insurance premiums were up considerably and tourist numbers down significantly. The only silver lining was the climb in commodity prices that the Imperial Treasury relied on for revenue, but war in the Silk Sea would eventually see these fall, as the outbreak of a major conflict dampened demand globally.

Fundamentally, a peaceful outcome in Jugol was crucial to getting the Emperor's plans back on track.

However, it was not just Boqor Tiirka Illah's bold vision of a new modern Azraq that was at stake, but his reputation - and that of his new government - too.

Having dissolved Azraq's first ever left-wing coalition government on grounds of incompetence, with the administration's handling of the Loago civil war being a key trigger, failure to reach a settlement between Justosia and the DDI+ - Ambrosia, the Anti-State, Pohjanmaa and Sylvania - would result in severe criticism of the Emperor and new government, and potentially even pressure to resign.

An official from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs had just sent the Emperor news clippings from the Pohjanmaan media criticising Azraq's application for observer status at the Claret Sea Council, claiming it was proof of Azraqi disregard for the DDI+'s interests and position.

While the request had nothing to do with the Silk Sea Crisis - the Claret Sea was of huge importance to Azraqi trade and so the view was to better have to a seat at the table - both the Emperor and Azraqi foreign policy establishment were sensitive to the fact they had a formal diplomatic treaty and trade agreement with Justosia but only minimal ties with the DDI+.

The fact the DDI+ had first agreed to attend mediation talks was a positive sign and proof that Azraq had successfully positioned itself as a trusted, neutral party in world affairs. The Justosian Empress wasn't even going to send anyone until she finally have in after intense private lobbying by Emperor Tiirka Illah.

Now all the parties were present in Jugol and the summit would have to start shortly. The DDI+ had insisted on some time together before the talks started while the Justosian envoys were only confirmed at the last minute.

As he walked through the gardens of the Palace of Peacocks, his thoughts interrupted only by the cries of that loud if beautiful tropical bird that gave the complex its name, an aide ran up to the Emperor to inform him the DDI+ were ready to begin.

A simple nod was all that was needed to send the aide scurrying away to get the Palace ready for guests.
 
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Azraq

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'Oh father, save me from the small one, the big one I shall manage myself'
- Dawamalian proverb


***​

Palace of Peacocks
Jugol
Empire of Azraq


When Gallo-Germanian explorers first arrived in the Dawamalian city-states, they could barely describe the nobles that greeted them.

Body modification was not uncommon in many Himyari peoples, from plates that stretched the lips and earlobes to the ritual scarring of flesh, to even more questionable practices related to the shape and sensitivity of female genitalia, alterations to your bodily form were a clear and obvious signal of your status in many societies. Yet the Dawamali elite, influenced by traditions from Toyou, Implaria and allegedly even ancient Kypht, took body modification to the extreme.

Reports described eerily tall men and women with misshapen heads and necks, stretched from birth by tight gold bandings. Many Dawamali noblewomen narrowed their eyes while noblemen hooked their noses to emphasise their Semitic origins.

Perhaps most ironic was the dyeing of skin red. While the Empire of Azraq took its name from the Urodoah word for blue, which was how the Urodoah tribes described their Nethian neighbours, the Dawamalians - along many other Phutic speakers - described themselves as red to distinguish themselves from other black Himyaris.

As Azraq slowly entered the modern world, many of these practices started to disappear, as Western norms took over. Yet some persisted, as the delegates arriving at the Palace of Peacocks would soon find out.

The Dawamalians were already a tall race, yet many nobles had their limbs and extremities painfully extended, and continued to reshape their noses and lengthen their necks. As Emperor Tiirka Illah prepared to greet the representatives from the DDI+ and Justosia, dressed in his usual flamboyant garb of animal print and silk, no doubt he'd be on the receiving end of a few funny looks and awkward handshakes.

The Palace was now fully prepared for the summit. An army of servants was on stand by to provide the foreign dignitaries with whatever they needed, be it food, drinks, directions or temporary distractions. The Emperor, who had promised to mediate the talks as an impartial host, had an entire council of translators and advisers ready to tell him what to do or say. Yet the Boqor planned to say little - for now.
 

Ambrosia

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Dean Doyle entered with the Ambrosian ambassador to Azraq, Maxad Tadalesh, and encouraged him to interface with the Boqor.

Secretary Doyle parceled a pair of Westernesse Import Beers, ‘Prairie Delights’, and sought out Angelo Almani before anyone could sit down. Dean pressed the smooth glass out towards Almani’s sternum in earnest.

“Kill the new fleet and let DDI roam the Silk.” Dean said, offering his bottle up to clink. Dean then turned and found Mister Tadalesh and ushered himself and the ambassador to their seats.
 

Madurja

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Almani stared at the bottle thrust into his hand. He frowned, wondering what the hell had become of diplomacy. Bottles of beer. Freely invited observers. Was this a frat party or a summit? The Ambrosian had simply approached and laid out his agenda. No preamble. No diplomatic cordiality. Almani was unused to a collegiate environment for diplomatic meetings and furthermore- Almani was increasingly becoming skeptical of the commitment to a peace process. He had been warned in Avalon to assume that an attempt to torpedo the talks would happen. Yet, Almani had doubted it would happen this early. Putting down his beer, he crossed over to some fruit juice. Telling his aid to wait outside, Almani sat down and sipped his juice. There was no need for jocular discussion. Only negotiation.
 

Sylvania

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Martin Koskinen having already been slightly stressed out by the oddities of Azraqi cultural norms had been delayed as the group had entered the meeting space, only to be horrified by the actions of the Ambrosian Secretary of State as he finally made his way in. Koskinen thought that Faraday was sometimes out of her gourd, but this man took the cake with his sudden change in demeanor. Almani may have tried to keep a straight face but Koskinen could tell there was a moment of offense that had flashed across his face when Doyle had spoken to him.

Koskinen sat himself down next to Doyle, "This is a serious matter, no time for attempts at levity mister Doyle." Koskinen snapped his fingers for attention of the nearest servant who quickly came over, "The secretary is finished with his beer, thank you." The servant obliged and removed the bottle from the table. "I will not have alcohol affect this meeting he said in annoyed but quiet tone to the secretary." Koskinen thought about asking for the beer to be removed completely, in his opinion it brought about an unprofessional air to the meeting, but he decided he had flexed his authority enough in having the secretary deprived of his drink.

His aide brought over his papers and note pad and set them before Koskinen before departing to some corner of the room to be called upon later if needed. "Well then, while we all get settled if I may, I would like to thank, with the utmost sincerity, Emperor Tiirka Illah and the Azraqi people for hosting this summit. . And to you as well mister Almani for agreeing to meet with us, on this neutral ground I hope we may yet win peace from the clutches of war."
 
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Pohjanmaa

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It was awkward to watch the scenes unfold but men would be men and she didn’t figure that it would be possible to join this old boys club. Instead she grabbed a pitcher of water and a few glasses from the cart and paying no attention to anyone placed them to the other side of Martin. She walked back to the cart and poured herself some coffee for herself and Martin. She brought that over the table as well. It was quite contrary to the other attendants which has servants walking about but servants were quite foreign an idea for Pohjanmaan culture. You worked for yourself and got what you needed yourself. It was more a point of pride, but also an exercise in independence.

She shuffled her papers and took a seat. She felt that she might need to be the moderating voice in this room, yet she knew that she had a part to play. Pohjanmaans had developed a reputation for being to the point and saying exactly what they felt. No-holds-barred.
 

Ambrosia

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Secretary Doyle nodded and took his rebukes in stride. After all, his first visit to Justosia has ended without the two foreign secretaries even shaking hands. He poured himself and ambassador Tadalesh coffee from the cart Lahtinen had rolled over, returning only to give thanks to "Emperor Tiirka Illah: Guardian of the Pillars of Nearchus, Lion of Himyar, Tiger of Toyou, and Shark of Implaria" for being such gracious hosts.
 
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