The Sun Made of Water

Discussion in 'The World Stage' started by Gunnland, Nov 1, 2010.

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  1. Gunnland

    Gunnland FTR

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    November 1990

    "Flags are made from the tapestry of memories, and so we must remember they are powerful, but not so powerful as the wind, especially these cold winds that shriek, winter, winter! Look, the radiant cloth that enfolds the shadows of our forgetfulness is always shifting, like sun and shadow on the surface of the seas off the fjords of Issverth. What is forgotten will be remembered, what we know know will be forgotten. Rivers of light run forth from the sacred mountains of the great citadel, Yungdrung Gutsak, because I am a sun made of water."

    The rigpa is insane, the young man thought, and put down the book. It was frequently thought of the Exalted Great Soul in the fishing villages of the west coast, where Tagzigs were seldom to be seen except when they ventured down the fjords to collect taxes. And when the thought was shared, it was said in the coast-dwellers' home tongues, dialects of German and varieties of Norsk not so strange as Tagzig. Here, who could he share that with? Frost collected on the windows in tiny ice fractals, like suns made of water.

    He took out his easel and began to paint.

    "Niels Niklausson..." The strange Tagzig patronymic, he realized, was his name.

    Niels turned to see that the speaker was a monk in long brown robes.

    "...son of Olmolungring until the Geirtrae withers to ash and the mountains of Gjinsjang crumble, may you walk in the footsteps of the thousand fathers."

    Patriarchial twaddle. This religious nonsense was all over Yungdrung Gutsak, all he heard since he took the Long Train here from Issverth. If the Capitollium didn't offer the premier courses, and scenes of course, in Europe... if I hadn't been born by some sick joke within the borders of this semifeudal almost-theocracy, I would be at the Sylnarsson or paiting dawn over Würzburg, thought Niels. He bowed his head slightly, in a respectful, but quizzical gesture.

    "If it would not tax you greatly, Our Exalted Fifty-Third Lord Rigpa, Thorlakur Feargusson Gunn, begs that you will accept his invitation to dinner in the Freehold tonight after Vespers."

    Niels raised an almost-imperceptible eyebrow.
     
  2. Großlausitz

    Großlausitz New Member

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    November 11, 1990

    It had been an unlikely warm autumn day in Franken with the sun's beams gently pushing people's sadness about the coming winter away. Yet not everyone had been able to enjoy a warm lunch break. For example, Robert Beaumont, recently promoted senior assistant to the head of the Political General Directorate 1, which coordinated the Foreign Office's efforts in Central Europe, had to spend the better part of his working day inside, preparing an in-house-meeting on Central Europe. The 28-year-old boss' was to present the status quo of Central Europe, in other words, Franken's back and front yards, to the foreign minister of the day.

    To this day Franken had operated but a modest embassy to the neighbouring theocracy-anarchy called a foreigner could best pronounce as OLR. Whereas the Foreign Office's top brass had continue to maintain there was nothing to gain from Franken supposedly uncivilised neighbour. However, the young diplomat had only recently concluded his second appointment of his career as a secretary to the ambassador in Capitollium. Due to the small size of the mission this meant he would occasionally represent the ambassador himself. During his service in Olmolungring Beaumont had ample time to get in touch with the elites and make some occasional trips to the countryside. It was then when he realised there was potential for Franken. The country had only a weak central authority and many factions squabbling for power. If Franken wanted to have a say, it was vital to expand the diplomatic and intelligence presence there.

    Convincing his boss of his ideas wasn't as difficult as the young scion of a middle-ranking Montelimar-originating thought. The real issue was that the Generaldirektor-PGD1 was one heck of a tub-thumber. Thus, to make the Foreign Minister adopt Beaumont's point of view it was necessary to act as the Generaldirektor's prompter.

    And that was why the aspiring diplomat wouldn't be able to make it in time to his financee's birthday celebration. In lieu thereof he was sitting at the conference table busy steering his boss clear of too excessive swaggering. Alas, Josefine, I will come, I will come. And I'll crank up a perfect excuse. Isn't the fact I talked my staunchly Catholic father into accepting a Lutheran daughter-in-law a testimonial to my rhetoric acumen?, Beaumont smirked about his reckless indulging in self-praise.
     
  3. Gunnland

    Gunnland FTR

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    November 1990

    The three men had been bound together and wrapped in a massive white sheet such as you still saw on the clotheslines of Yungdrung Gutsak, and which were ubiquitous in the villages around the other citadels. There was blood all over the sheets, which looked like some sick parody of the Oelarian flag. And it was wet with something else. He smelled the air. Kerosene.

    Thorlakur Feargusson Gunn emerged from a memory of the world he still knew. That was 1959, he remembered. An improbable ad-hoc army of teachers closed down their schools, picked up their rifles, and fought to restore the Heavenly Kingdom. An improbable warrior-lord-turned-scholar at their helm became rigpa the next year. The 1960s in Olmolungring were very the cultural opposite of what that decade represented in much of the rest of Northern Europe.

    "I understand so little of the world," the rigpa said aloud. He felt old, four days shy of his sixtieth birthday. In the corner of one of the great stained-glass windows, he caught a glimpse of the sun setting behind the Eagle Tower and the first mountains of the Gjinsjang Range to the west. Time for Vespers. He pulled his robes up from the floor and knelt to pray.

    Across town at the Capitollium, Niels Roerich was painting that very same sunset from one of the towers of the storied university. The red son glinted gold off the eagle's talons, producing little drops of light that seemed to saturate the noble bird. The great belfry of the university tolled vespers.

    Niels pulled up his leather boots and the tin cloth field coat that he thought made him look like a highlander from the horse country along the Pakshi River, north of Yungdrung Gutsak. Part of him was still resisting the idea of dinner with the rigpa at the Freehold.

    Tomorrow night, he consoled himself, he would go down to the fashionable Skirringssal district and paint the quaint, bustling teahouses and pubs, interspersed with the stately, snow-covered foreign missions. All well-lit by gas lanterns. The only place to paint a nightscape in Yungdrung Gutsak, actually. The Franconian consulate was particularly elegant.
     
  4. Großlausitz

    Großlausitz New Member

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    November 1990

    Was it a dead end or was it just their way of telling him "Prove us you can endure any environment"? They being his respectable employer, Das Auswärtige Amt des Königreichs Franken. Only last month he had been transferred from deputy department head position at the Foreign Office to the position of consul general in OLR's capital. Strictly seen this was no sign of disapproval by his superiors, as diplomatic service members usually rotated every two to three years between internal positions and posts at missions. Technically his appointment was another step on the ladder to success for the young nobleman.

    Since there was rarely anything exciting happening at the consulate general, 33-year-old Graf Peter Solms had made a habit of having an afternoon tea at the teahouse juxtaposed to the truly elegant consulate. De iure Graf Solms' supervisor was the ambassador to the court of Arendaal, who was co-accredited as ambassador to OLR, but the young aristocrat soon figured out ambassadors only visited the country to present their credentials. All but in name he was ambassador. Wasn't that something to be proud of?

    Other than the Schlesnitz-based aristocracy, Graf Solms' family had no connections whatsoever to this slightly lunatic country. Why on earth didn't they pick one of those families' scions for this office? Being a member of the diplomatic service was a time-honoured tradition for Franconian lords. Instead, the consul general hailed from the Duchy of Upper Bamberg, where it had been for over 1000 years. In fact they were part of the Uradel (most ancient nobility). Amongst this sub-class there was no 'von' preceding the family name.

    Today the earl read a personal letter he had received from his father. The old patron of the Solms family had written to his heir-apparent in matters of business and politics. According to his letter the local MP would cede his seat in the lower house of parliament come next election, which was about 1 3/4 years away. Graf Thomas Solms recommended his scion to consider running for parliament. A sigh escaped Graf Solms' lips when he put down the sheet of paper. "[...]You have four to five months to ponder, if my estimates and information are correct, son." Then the local CVP association with gather to select a nominee for the constituency. Think carefully, but don't hesitate. [...]" Apparently absent-mindely he drank his tea, sip by sip.
     
  5. Gunnland

    Gunnland FTR

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    November 2010

    What happened in that room? The streetlamps had gone out, which reminded Gregor Samsonsson of yet another lost cause he had fought, back in the early 1990s, to keep the lamps lit until dawn. The journalist pushed his hand back into a thick head of oily blond hair. Shower. Sleep. That had followed a string of murders, some of students at the Capitollium, dark times in Olmolungring's generally peaceful capital. Dark times. And not long after the two men whose younger photographs lay strewn across his desk, a 60-year-old Tholakur Feargusson Gunn and a 22-year-old Niels Niklausson Roerich, had met for the first time in the Freehold. He scratched his beard.What happened in that room?

    Clipped headlines from his paper, The Capitollium Journal and Review of Books, lay around his desk. November 10: "Nationalist Poet A. A. Himmelright Exiled For Attack On Student". He scratched his beard, his fingers feeling the places where they had put his jaw back together that same night. He had just seen Himmelright, that sonovabitch, at the panel discussion on Upper Schlesnitz at the Capitollium. Had Arthur Arthursson taught Roerich? It wasn't exactly a lead, but Gregor admitted to himself (with the brutal honesty of a journalist) that he had other reasons for looking into the firebrand poet.

    Most stories that bore the byline G.S. Stoker were simple matters; that night there appeared to be a story, but where were the clues? It was twenty years to the day that an apolitical student, undistinguished except for his undeniably extraordinary talent as a painter, from a fishing village just north of Götaköping, had been summoned to meet the Great Rigpa. Today, N.N. Roerich was prime minister. What was the connection? What happened in that room?

    Outside his window, he caught a glimpse of the security forces agent who tailed him each day, smoking a pipe on the bench in the park. He waited until the man, in a long well-worn wool coat and plaid woolen hat, looked up. A peasant recruited from the Sindhu Valley, he had guessed. Oelar, the rest of the world has moved on, and look at you: dirty and poor beggars at some clan lords' feast. The two men waved to each other.
     
  6. Großlausitz

    Großlausitz New Member

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    November 2010

    Foreign Minister Robert Beaumont was sitting in his spacious lavishly furnished office in the top level of the Auswärtiges Amt, which he commanded. In the large computer monitor in front of him there were several digital dossiers by the Landesnachrichtendienst (LND; foreign intelligence service) on the developing situation in OLR. If it wasn’t Franken’s neighbour, the diplomatic presence in Olmolungring would be far less visible nor would the embassy be host to an own large branch office of the LND. In size the diplomatic representation rivaled the Franconian missions to the Council of Nations, the Empire of Wiese or Arendaal.
    The dossiers the Foreign Minister did peruse largely ignored the regularly surfacing Upper Schlesnitz debate, which was considered an amusing running gag in Nürnberg. Not even the yellow press ‘journalists’ bothered to ask Prince Regent Jakob, who co-ruled the country alongside his old father and held the dukedom of Schlesnitz, about his opinion on the possible expansion of his own realm. Instead, this week’s intelligence reports focused on the recent appointment of a new foreign minister, Margarethe Hjovarthursdatter Alvitr. Again and again Robert Beaumont had read the information on his new counterpart, her family, her professional background as well as her political beliefs. He shared the LND’s assessment Roerich had influenced the choice, but Beaumont wasn’t sure whether his old friend could control the new foreign minister, who was from a powerful background and used to exercise power.

    Pondering about what to make of it and when to invite Alvitr, he stood up and went to his spirits cabinet, where he helped himself to a glass of Henessy whisky. While he enjoyed the taste of the excellent beverage, he recalled how he got in touch with Roerich for the first time. It had been about six months after that fateful Foreign Office meeting, where Beaumont’s erstwhile boss had convinced the foreign minister of the day to expand Franken’s diplomatic presence in Olmolungring. De facto the arguments the then young diplomat had written down for his own had won the contemporary foreign minister’s favour. A few months later, freshly-wed to his young wife Steffi, who also happened to be expecting, he was sent off to take over the consulate general, which had been promoted to an embassy. Armed with a handy sum of money he was to re-build and prepare the new embassy. Furthermore, he was to select his personal staff from promising and aspiring diplomatic service members.

    Roerich had been sent to the embassy to welcome him on behalf of the Rigpa’s government. At that time today’s prime minister had been but a senior member of the OLR’s spiritual and political leader. To Robert Beaumont this meeting was somewhat unsettling: He sensed that Roerich was driven by something powerful, as if someone had only recently lit a large beacon in Roerich’s soul. Little did the newly appointed ambassador know when and how Roerich had been ‘enchanted’ by the Rigpa. His surprise when later learning about Roerich’s excellent painting talent wasn’t much smaller, either.​
     
  7. Gunnland

    Gunnland FTR

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    November 2010

    "A Laphroaig 1990."
    "A Mimir for me."

    As the barmaid moved swiftly, with grace to the low fiddle music, to fetch drinks for the two most famous patrons of the dusky pub, the provost cocked an eyebrow. "A Mimir, Prime Minister?" The dark, swirling abbey-brewed ale was already swirling under N.N. Roerich's nose when he ironically deflected the charge. "The 1990 was no year for a whisky, Lord Provost Halvbefaren. Now if they still had a 1973... Alas, I would rather drink this peasant's mother's milk than have that goat piss they brand 1990!"

    It didn't take the land's most eminent philosopher and it's great artist-turned-head-of-government to know arguments about spirits in Oelar could be endless. The subject was changed. "Stunning girl, really. Too svelt to be one of our Oelarian girls, Niels Niklausson. You should really pass some sort of incentives to get more Franconians and Arens and Suionians to work in the city."

    Too well dressed, too.Roerich smiled. I get it, Jens, is it because I am a homosexual? The wild-eyed exotic Oelarian beauty, reportedly one of Europe's most frequent pornography searches, unfortunately was a rare sight indeed, either a fiction or off in the mountains protected by jealous, illiterate men. Only as a prime minister in Olmolungring is your influence dwarfed by a haughty university rector, a mad abbot, a sleepy bishop, and a threesome of clan lords! Only here or in the thirteenth century. The rigpa, admittedly, was different.

    "Prime Minister, I need Margarethe Hjovarthursdatter out of the country next week. And Svava Pallsdatter if you can manage that somehow, too."

    Roerich nodded. The Capitollium would be hosting a party for the Rigpa's 80th birthday and the 50th year of his reign. He imagined feminist demonstrators smashing icons in Skirringssal, Margarethe quietly encouraging them. Svava loudly encouraging them. Brown-robed monks throwing rocks and burning cars. "You're right, Jens Yvosson. I will send our new foreign minister to Nuremberg. Someone has to invite the Franconians. And who better than our progressive women?"

    Halvbefaren smiled wryly. "Correct. Rambunctious intellectuals, not like the staid scholars misruling this country. Like myself..." It was true, of course, that none of the advanced countries were ruled by a clique of university professors, priests, poets, and painters. So much the better for them, Roerich knew from personal experience.

    "Niels Niklausson," the provost started, "on second thought, have the ladies consult with the Franconians. Perhaps they will need to distributes invitations in Vistrasia and Free Union as well, Batavia and even Kryobaijan. We could use the peace! And there is that business with the Arens and Suionians." Jens Yvosson laughed heartily and began attempting to light his pipe.

    Roerich imagined Margerethe Hjovarthursdatter, of all people, hammering out the terms of special guest worker permits. Free visa applications and subsidized lodging... no, ma'am, only for lithe blondes, aged twenty-one to thirty-five. And some dark-haired girls too, sure. He chuckled. What a bunch of barbarians they were.
     
  8. Batavië

    Batavië New Member

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    November 1990

    Yungdrung Gutsak. A shit hole. A nothing so-called city situated right in the middle of a mountainous land full of backwards, religious idiots. Karel Haas trudged on through the narrow streets of the city, bracing his body against the chilly wind coming down from the mountain peaks. His warm breath pierced the still air. Fidgeting within his jacket pocket, Haas finally found his cigarette pack. Do his great disappointment there was only one left. It would take a week or two for him to get new ones ordered in from his handlers. No, there was no point in waiting that long for some smokes, surely not the Vangalan 'worker's party approved' brand. He's buy some real Franconian cigarettes on the street like everyone else.

    Lighting with a match, he took a long drag, wincing against the cold as the smoke filled his lungs. For some reason the act made him feel warmer, or just enough to get him back to the embassy. Not quite and embassy, not officially at least. The communist De Graaf regime placed a great deal of time and money into the building. It was bigger than many of the Batavian embassies in the world, but this building was just an Honourary Consulate.

    Haas finished his cigarette and threw it into the gutter running along the pavement opposite the embassy of Franken. The gate guard gave him a curt and respectable nod. Haas obliged. Across the street, as if they were staring each other down, was the Batavian Honourary Consulate. The two majestic buildings were both architectural wonders in their own ways. Grand, specific in their respective country's traditions. But the Batavian building was just slightly larger, the windows taller, the gate wider and the well-kept garden and trees in front provided much privacy for the workers within. Haas punched in his code at the gate and walked up to the main door; a massive black wooden contraption that one man alone could never open without the assistance of the hydraulic attachments hidden inside.

    The Comissariaat van Buitenlandse Zaken officially owned the building, but its staff was relatively small for such a large building. That was, of course, due to the fact the the SV (Staatsveiligheid: State Security) occupied most of the rooms and offices. Karel Haas was one of five full-time agents, under cover. Then there were the support staff, drivers, eyes and ears, communications staff etcetera, etcetera.

    It didn't matter that Haas was seen walking in and out of the Consulate five or six or seven times per day. Everyone knew that the SV had a large game going on here. The Franconians knew, the Cornavians knew and the bums that called this jagged mess of a land their home knew. It was an acceptable practice because everyone understood that everyone was going to spy and operate whether they wanted others to or not. So they coexisted and politely ignored each other, unless it got tricky or important.

    Today was one of those days when it became important. On Haas's desk, which lay in a large room with all the other agents' desks and many of the secretaries as well, was a report. Haas unwound the string keeping the C4-size manilla envelope closed and removed a rather thick set of papers. He quickly looked around at the other agents' desks. They, too, had the same envelope.

    So the bastards at headquarters in Vlaanderen finally wanted the communists in the mountains to be brought on board. Karel Haas took the report with him to the Consulate's luxurious and quiet common room. He would need a while to read his report before heading off into the mountains to meet with his 'comrades'.
     
  9. Gunnland

    Gunnland FTR

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    November 9, 1990

    Forty-five minutes after the most famous punch in modern Oelarian literary history.

    The Spot was no longer the "socialist pub", really, since the power of the student movement ebbed throughout the 1980s. (Nor was Sally's "the Franconian pub" anymore). But The Spot was tucked behind the Batavian consulate, and Sally's did sit beside the Franconian consulate, so it was ingrained in the more political students.

    So it was out of old habits that a young Gregor came trudging down the snowy street towards The Spot, a handkerchief wet with clotted blood over his jaw, and a throng of sympathizers trailing him. Others were leading the way to The Spot, shouting slogans into the night. ("Look out, fascists!" is melodic, if uncreative, in the Tagzig language.) The next day someone would convince Gregor to go to the hospital. But November 9th felt like revolution, or at least (more sensibly) like he instantly became the most popular poet in the only European city in the 20th century where literature was still the preferred entertainment medium.

    It was later joked by Stoker and his friends that the swarm of left-wing students at The Spot that night, in which some of the young comrades got behind the bar and ousted the bartenders, was the only time in Oelarian history that socialists successfully seized control of the forces of production. "If we can't stand up and read a poem, how can we stand up for anything in this country?" made perfect sense given the drunken revelry of the occasion. A flag, white with red letters reading "WORKERS OF HUMDRUM SHITSAK" was hung from the back wall. (The owners, having a sense of humor, have left it there until the present time.)

    At some predawn hour, Gregor Samsonsson fell asleep under the bar with one of his classmates. Someone said, with the tone of deep common sense, that the likelihood of being woken by some Batavian attaches in the morning (another joke was that the foreign diplomats were the only ones in the city who ever woke up for work on time) than by the night watchmen.

    This would be true only in the strictest sense. The security forces had been watching Gregor Samsonsson Stoker. Because he was a bright young socialist with a penchant for saying things like "Upper Schlesnitz". And more probably because (unbeknownst to him) he had just put his hand up the shirt of the garrison commander's daughter.

    But, since the sentries could not reach their garrison commander by radio, it would be the Batavians who would see them first in the morning.
     
  10. Batavië

    Batavië New Member

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    10. November 1990

    Gregor Samsson and his band of untroubled and boisterous crew were a difficult bunch to miss on the usually boring streets of Yungdrung Gutsak. As they marched along to the Spot the CCTV cameras surrounding the Honourary Consulate picked up all of their lovely and engaging chants, to be recorded and filed away for decades back in the dark archives of the SV in Vlaanderen, storeys underground.

    Karel Haas was not amused when at 5 O'clock in the morning he was awoken from what little sleep he was allotted during the week and told by his 'boss' (really just an officer one rank higher than Haas, who also happened to be a good friend), that he needed to get down to the Spot before the sun rose.

    'Fuck you too, Lars. But I'll do it for you, love.' Karel dropped the phone back on to its receiver cradle and quickly showered. Even his homeland, a communist jail cell, had hot water. Only the luckiest seemed to get that here in Oelar. With no time for coffee or a quick bite to eat, Haas made do with one of his newly bought Franconian-brand cigarettes. Fresh tobacco from Cathay, higher quality than the Vangalan stuff his comrades back home were reduced to smoke.

    Gregor Samsson was completely out of it. The barkeeper was still sleeping, having until at least eight that evening to clean up the place for the next round of literary-inspired carousing. Karel found his 'focus object' snoring softly underneath the bar counter with one hand sprawled gingerly across the breasts of his latest lass (her bra and blouse to be found as head decoration for a chap nearby) and the other clutching a nearly empty bottle of local whiskey; the only product in the entire damned country, thought Haas, that they should bother exporting.

    Thanks to his sedated state and general grogginess, Gregor Samsson complied with Haas's quiet demands given in Tagzig to get up and follow him. The lad was happy to oblige after seeing the man standing above him. They had met once before in a slightly less drunken encounter, possibly even in this very establishment.

    After schlepping the hung-over communist student to a nearby café and giving him enough coffee, pastries and cigarettes to bring back some colour and life to his inner being, they began to talk. The café was quiet at this early hour on a Sunday morning and Haas set down his coffee when the baker brought over a bowl of hot water and a hand towel for Gregor to clean his blood-caked face with.

    'Well, Gregor Samsson, you sure know how to party.' he gave the kid a joking smile. Karel Haas himself was only 33 years old, but his service with the SV made him feel already double his age, if not older.

    'Do you remember me? Markus van Dam, at your service.' he used his street name, of course, and after listing off a bunch of extremely private and personal facts of one Mister Gregor Samsson, memorised from the rather large dossier composed by the SV on this student (much of which Haas had himself written), he had gained the undivided attention of his new pupil.
     
  11. Großlausitz

    Großlausitz New Member

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    November 2010

    The November 9th riot at the pub called The Spot had provided him with another argument for his case to turn the Olmolungring consulate general into a fully-fledged embassy. With only one LND agent placed at the consulate, who was the chief of security by the country’s diplomatic convention, the intelligence gathering from Franken’s vast wild neighbour was but slim and slow. If Franken wanted to acquire serious leverage instead of just being the object of idealistic admiration by fringe group intellectuals, Beaumont had told his boss right before that fateful in-house conference with the contemporary head of the Foreign Office. Only in the morning of November 11th a dossier on The Spot incident arrived on Beaumont’s desk. That was too slow compared to OLR’s role as potentially unstable neighbour. Nevertheless, until everything had been decided and settled, another three months passed. Luckily proceeding speed had improved over the past two decades, Franken’s Foreign Minister concluded.

    He poured himself another glass of whisky, which he drank slowly while watching autumn sun set over the ancient capital of the Königreich Franken. Having finished it Beaumont went over to his desk and scribbled a note reminding him of having the new foreign minister of Olmolungring invited for a working visit. Maybe I could arrange for the Duchess of Schlesnitz to meet with Alvtir, who could provide me with a female impression of my dear colleague., he pondered.

    Early night of November 10th 1990, several hours before dawn

    What kind of noise is that?! – these were the first thoughts of Consul General Graf Peter Solms when he was awaken by unusually loud noise in the middle of the night. He had gone to bed relatively early, since yesterday night’s paperwork exhausted him. The fuss he heard was unusually loud even by this city’s standards. Whereas his wife was blessed with a deep and sound sleep, the young diplomat was nothing of that kind. Why did he forget to put on his earmuffs?!

    With a sigh on his lips he got up, dressed himself and tiptoed down the staircase to his office, where chief of security Josef Fischer expected his superior. To Graf Solms he seemed to be obviously excited. At last there was something big going on, Fischer’s mimic suggested to the earl. “What is it, Josef?” As Fischer found Olmolungring almost as dull as himself, the two men quickly became friends after Graf Solms’ arrival and thus addressed each other by name unless at formal occasions. “The Spot became the location and origin for a most interesting chain of events, my informants told me.” Since it was easy to acquire assets among the civilian population, Fischer was able to keep tabs on many events in OLR’s capital.

    Nevertheless, he lacked the equipment and manpower to penetrate the Rigpa’s government, let alone fully analyzing their Batavian neighbour’s motives and tail their spooks. Josef Fischer, who held the diplomatic rank of first secretary, was a senior LND agent and he knew quite well that the ‘security department’ of the Batavian consulate was far better equipped than the Franconians’.​
     
  12. Gunnland

    Gunnland FTR

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    November 10, 1990

    "Mister Van Dam..." The foreign word Mister sounded odd on Gregor's lips. To be formal, Oelarians used their patronymic: Gregor Samson's son or as it was written, Gregor Samsonsson Stoker. Soon enough he was talking politics, which felt less odd. With the air of a suddenly famous leftist poet, he took a box of Franconian cigarettes out of his pocket and laid them on the table.

    "The students will never take to the streets in Yungdrung Gutsak, Mr. Van Dam. Coffee-shop revolutionaries, you know? Sure, you can read our great socialist novels and poems, but you will never read about us taking to the streets in the class struggle." Gregor sighed and put his hand to his jaw, visibly pained by speaking, but too exuberant to stay silent. "If they draw our blood, you see, it's because it's our poems they object to!"

    Markus van Dam nodded and smiled. Even if he did not study the prospects of revolution in Olmolungring -- and even G.S. Stoker's opinions about it -- for a living, every factory worker in Vlaanderen would know this by a single stereotype. Gregor took out a tin of snus from his back pocket and put a large pinch on his upper lip. Only Oelarians would waste good Franconian tobacco by slobbering all over it.

    "It is different where I come from, in the more remote valleys of Upper Schlesnitz, where the miners still talk about the struggle," Gregor thumbed his teaspoon, "the Eir lords built their power networks from the technics of the marketplace, and they grow rich with the Franconians on the backs of the miners. It's plainer there."

    Van Dam began to look with increased at the thin, bearded poetry student. The soft underbelly of Franken. The economic heart, albeit congested and tremulous, of Oelar. He knew these by heart from SV strategy manuals.

    "Gregor Samsonsson, do you think we might..."

    But from the corner of his keenly trained eye, the Batavian agent caught the rare sight of two security forces officers with automatic rifles ambling up the Skiringssalstrasse towards them. Gregor turned around as the two men approached.

    "Gregor Samsonsson Stoker? Come with us, please. We have some questions for you." Gregor looked suddenly diffident. How did they know about the intelligence officer? As backwards as the Oelarian authorities were! Van Dam looked momentarily concerned as well, but the officer, bearded like an 19th-Century Franconian hussar, smiled.

    "You didn't realize that Margarethe lass was an Alvitr daughter, did you, son...?"

    Several doors down the street, they could see four more security forces officers gingerly packing the young girl with whom Gregor had spent a drunken night into a little electric truck (the closest thing to a real full-sized car in Yungdrung Gutsak). Gregor sighed and gave Markus a telling look. Only in Olmolungring...

    "...a pretty thing, though the district commander won't be too happy."
     
  13. Batavië

    Batavië New Member

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    10. November 1990

    Well that was a sloppy job, thought Haas to himself as he reached for his diplomatic passport when the armed men arrived. They had barely begun their conversation. He flashed the passport, causing the men to all but ignore him as they took care of Samsonsson. As they dragged the poor lad out to the so-called car (a Batavian Trabant was better built than those tin cans), Haas calmly followed the procession.

    'Don't worry. I'll take care of this, just this once.' Haas, or Van Dam, gave Samsonsson a wink as the cars drove off. It was time to head back to the consulate, there wasn't a damn public phone in the city, not easily found, at any rate.

    Back in his office, Haas went straight for the main secretary's desk and called for a runner. The building was large enough to require such a service. The young man, 20 at most, rushed up to the SV agent.

    'Take note of everything I say, kid.' the runner removed his consulate-issued notepad and pen and Haas began to spew out his memo.

    'Headquarters is to wire me a sum of money suitable to bribe the officers and other men involved to get a one Gregor Samsonsson out of this quite embarrassing situation. That won't amount to much, any way, even our currency is worth more here. Don't write that last bit down. Now, make sure that this is sent as a telegram priority 2 class A, deadline ASAP. Off with you, then.'

    As the runner whirled around the corner to the communications department, Haas made for the common room to get himself a drink of the local spirits. Despite it being a Sunday the room was not empty. Agent van Pels was there, reading a local Tagzig newspaper. Haas liked using them to kindle his fires at home or perhaps clean up after himself in the toilette. To read the damn thing? You had to be senile.

    'Nice job at the café this morning, Haas. Ya really got 'em, didn't you?' Van Pels put down the toilet paper. Haas resisted giving an outright glare and instead poured himself a scotch.

    'How the hell do you know about that already? No, don't bother telling me. I was probably being tailed myself. We've got to be the only intelligence agency in the world that spies on its own agents, eh?' he didn't wait for a response and took a swig of the whiskey.

    'It's all going to be taken care of, any way. These idiots get a few hundred rand placed in their palms and they'll release the bastard and change the report. The bitch was the bartender's extra night help rather than some big shot's daughter. Easy.' he finished the scotch rather quickly and slumped into the sofa opposite Van Pels.

    'Whatever you say, Haas. Just don't ruin it for all of us. I'm having enough trouble as it is getting in contact with those supposed rebellious types in the mountains. I'm beginning to think that they don't exist and all we've got to work with are a bunch of drunken teenagers with enough time on their hands to read bloody books all day!' Van Pels let go of the kitchen rag of a news provider and lit up a cheap Vangalan cigarette. Despite Haas's general distaste for his colleague, he pitied his colleague and took out a proper Franconian cigarette for his comrade.

    'Dank je wel.' muttered Van Pels.

    Haas didn't bother to speak and instead stood up to stare out the window, across the street at the Franconian consulate. He couldn't be certain, but he thought that he could almost see a figure in the window opposite looking right back at him. LND? They were just a token presence here in Oelar. A joke. So Haas believed. He waited for the phone call letting him know that Samsonsson was released. If it ever came.
     
  14. Gunnland

    Gunnland FTR

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    November 2010

    It was a morning of sun on the water. The tributary of the Sindhu was running low and cold. It would be the last fish of the year, the three men knew, trudging up to the lodge in the little town north of Knytlingsfort. The trout had been hungry. A clean-shaven priest with a wide-brimmed hat walked with a rangy bearded man in a tweed jacket.

    The trout would go splendidly with Mimir abbey ales and Franconian cheese. The charms of "Upper Schlesnitz", for the leisure classes at least, Gregor reminded himself. From another direction, alone, came a thoughtful Gregor Samsonsson, still musing how old he looked from his reflection in the stream.

    He converged with the other two travelers from the capital in the handsome log-built lodge. A waterwheel adjacent to the B&B threw water off the top that dropped like suns made of water. And the three men from the capital looked curiously at the gas-powered vehicles outside.

    "Gregor Samsonsson, my friend and rogue of the old left. Father Matteus." The two men shook hands across the table, and the handsome priest in his long black cassock nodded at the spectacled journalist. "Your reputation precedes you, Gregor Samsonsson. The students still get out their firecrackers every November ninth at The Spot, I hear."

    The stooped, bearded man smiled thinly. Momentarily, he was lost in memories. That was the last time I slept with Margarethe. He almost laughed to himself. I would have been a different man today, that's for sure. Foreign Minister. The floozy. Like any man of the Old Left, he suspected that feminists were an interest group parasitic upon the real movement for equality. Underestimate a jealous clansmen at your peril. And how did I ever get out of that jail? Then he remembered the face of Markus van Dam, clear as day. Hadn't he marched right back to Van Dam in the Batavian embassy the very next day, map of his home valley in hand? Probably not the smartest thing. I was young then. Stoker snapped out of it.

    "I was young then, Father." Time to change the subject. "How did you meet Rick?"

    After some time (it always did) the conversation shifted back to November 9, 1990. Rikarthur Gregorsson turned to Gregor. "Speaking of your old flame Margarethe..." (They hadn't been. Chuckling, Father Matteus snorted into his ale.) "...I have been asked by Lord Provost Halvbefaren to accompany her and Svava Pallsdatter on their trip to Franken. Keep those two crazies in check, you know?"

    Father Matteus looked up from his stuffed trout and winked at Gregor. "I keep asking him if it is a secret assignment from the Campanile. He won't tell me, though."

    "Hmm." Gregor the journalist pretended not to be as interested as he was. So the Great Council was keeping wraps on the progressive face of the nation? He was not so surprised. Anyone with a decent intelligence service would know Rikarthur Gregorrson Geijer was calling the shots on this so-called friendship mission...
     
  15. Großlausitz

    Großlausitz New Member

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    ErAn, Franken, ArEn
    November 2010

    A lot had changed throughout the past two decades. Firstly, since March 1991 the diplomatic representation was raised from a mere consulate general to an embassy. Every incoming His Majesty's Ambassador to this wild country was carefully instructed about the peculiar nature of his or her task for the following next two to three years. For example, when an appointed ambassador is to present his credentials, he will always have an appropriate gift for the Rigpa to show Franken's respect for Oelar. In practise this came down to bribery, but neither side cared particularly, as Franken wanted to maintain its sway in Oerlar, whereas the Rigpa and his council were glad for any assistance to uphold their claim to rule the country.

    The most significant change that was not visible on first sight, however, was the expansion of the security department. De iure it was called Referat für Sicherheit und sicherheitspolitische Kooperation (department for security and security policy cooperation) and was supposed to cooperate and consult Oerlarian security forces. De facto it was the Franconian security services' branch office. Under the leadership of the Referent für Sicherheit und sicherheitspolitische Zusammenarbeit, who had been promoted to the eminent rank of Botschaftsrat (Counsellor) and was always a LND operative, it looked after the embassy's security, gathered intelligence and forged preliminary analyses of said intelligence. Nowadays Sicherheitschef (Chief of Security) Valerian Poller commanded 30 people of different security forces' backgrounds. Most of them were from the LND and one forth each from the MAD (Military Intelligence) and the LKA (National Office for Investigation).

    While his erstwhile predecessor Fischer was left to more humble means in the aftermath of the November 9th riots, Poller had a team of three agents tail permanently Gregor Samsonsson for quite some time. Thanks to painstaking research in old files and various dossiers, the Chief of Security developed an interest in the Oerlarian journalist. Poller's search had been initially prompted by talks with Josef Fischer and his immediate successor as security leader, who both suspected the Batavians to have a remarkable stake in Samonsson's welfare and goodwill. Neither men could retrieve enough information to justify action. Diligently perusing more recent intelligence and Auswärtiges Amt files, Valerian Poller could connect some of the dots.

    To connect some more, three agents, one LND lady and two MAD roughnecks were currently on duty observing Samonsson. Disguised as Franconian tourists, who wanted to enjoy some 'pure nature', they became witnesses to a particular meeting. Sadly, they had failed to occupy a sufficiently covered position to employ some of their fancy eavesdropping gadgets. The squad leader hoped the B&B owner was curious enough to overhear at least some pieces of the conversation.​
     
  16. Gunnland

    Gunnland FTR

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    November 2010

    She gestured out of the train window at the hovels cobbled together on one of the hills. "It is a great embarrassment to me, Svava, to go begging alms for our illiterate and uncared-for." The foreign minister looks very foreign, and Svava very suave, in their immaculate suits. Geijer smiled at his silent pun with Svava Pallsdatter began to prattle about Oelarian deficits in healthcare and education. Rikarthur Gregorsson began to growl louder and louder, and when his growling became as audible as a low rumble, words became clear at least here and there.

    "Would you trade it, Margarethe Hjovarthursdatter, for their modernity? Political actors manipulating the media? Atrophied communities? Plummeting purchasing-power of the family breadwinner? The legal fiction of a justifiable monopoly on the use of force? What is the paradise we will find when we cross into Schlesnitz proper, I defy you, but a material one? It ought to be embarrassing to the moderns, perhaps you, too Margarethe Hjovarthursdatter, that they, you, cannot understand the beauty of our culture."

    Geijer turned, and saw the shacks of the poor overwhelmed by the splendor of the mountains. Foreign Minister Alvitr and her smartly-dressed special counsel, S.P. Gunn, were silent. It is quite brilliant, he admitted silently to himself, that these two are the ones being presented to the Franconians as representatives of their little northern client state. Perhaps the only two moderns in the entire country.

    In fact, the argument did not resume until that evening, when Margarethe Hjovarthursdatter arrived for dinner hosted by the prince regent and Duchess of Schlesnitz, the first stop on their diplomatic itinerary, with her "escort" Rikarthur Gregorsson. While cool and poised, she had to admit to herself it was a little strange for the Exalted Rigpa to choose her date. Patriarchy rampant.

    Meanwhile, back at the hotel, Svava Pallsdatter was busily placing telephone calls and sending emails with various officials of the Auswärtiges Amt, reflecting it was probably larger than the entire Oelarian government. She discovered it was her job to simply repeat the simple agenda of the trip: "One: the rigpa's upcoming birthday celebration. Two: EDF affiliation and national defense policy. Three: development assistance. Four: commercial and transport integration. Five: cultural and particularly educational ties." Repeat ad nauseam.
     
  17. Großlausitz

    Großlausitz New Member

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    November 2010

    Arbeitsbesuch Ihrer Exzellenz, Margarethe Hjovarthursdatter Alvtir, Ministerin des Äußeren des Staates Olmolungring (1)

    This was the title of the electronic dossier on the visit by Minister Alvtir Foreign Minister Robert Beaumont had received immediately after his arrival in the morning of the day of the Oerlarian party's scheduled arrival date. As usual for this kind of reports it also included a large section on the current intelligence issues pertaining to the visit. With great interest the Minister read that Franconian security agents had collected information that Rikarthur Gregorrson Geijer was not only a senior advisor to the Rigpa, as he was officially labelled. In fact, the LND report concluded, there is a certain chance he will try to exert influence over Alvtir.

    After some pondering, greatly helped by a glass of Henessy whisky, Beaumont took up his secured phone and dialled the Prince-Regent's personal number. "Eure Königliche Hoheit, I hope you are well and will be able to perfectly entertain Her Excellency and her company. Do you mind if I made some suggestions for tonight..."


    In the evening of the same day


    It had been an unfamiliar sight for train passengers at Nuremberg central station this afternoon. A large detachment of security personnel had locked up a good portion of the train station, thus delaying some of the train arrival quite a lot. Most of the times high-ranking guests would be welcomed at the airport, but Oerlar was particular in so many ways. They had been kindly welcomed by Foreign Minister Robert Beaumont and were escorted to one of Nürnberg's many luxurious hotels. There they were hosted at His Majesty's Government expense. Since it was a relatively small delegation the costs would be a token for His Majesty's Treasury.

    As Franken prided itself on its ceremonies, traditions and royal pageantry, Margarete Alvtir was received appropriate to her station as foreign minister of amicable government. Together with Prince Regent Jakob she listened to the anthem of Oerlar performed by one of the two chapels of the Royal Guards in the front court or Ehrenhof of the Königsburg (Kingscastle). Then they inspected a unit of the Royal Guards, whose ceremonial uniforms were as splendid as the chapel's.

    Later, in the privacy of a small dining room within the large royal residence, Prince Regent Jakob and his wife Franziska Isabel, Her Royal Highness Duchess of Schlesnitz, exercised their collective charms to ease up the somewhat stiff Rikarthur Gregorrson Geijer. Jakob von Franken was a generally jolly and relatively tall man boasting 1.85m. Unfortunately he hadn't inherited the athletic built of some of his forebears, so he had to do a lot of sports to keep in shape. Other than Geijer he didn't wear a beard but a fancy pair of glasses and preferred to engage in honest exchange than in diplomatic hypocrisy. Nevertheless, as a future king and current co-ruler of the country alongside his father, training and using one's diplomatic skills was a necessary evil. Early in the evening's conversation Crown Prince Franziska had already explained their guests that it wasn't necessary to include the royal style in every second sentence. "[...] A simple 'Herr Prinzregent' or 'Herzogin Schlesnitz/Frau Kronprinzessin' will do perfectly. [...] (2)"

    Courtesy to a combination of gut feeling and a couple of unerring questions, Prinzregent Jakob later decided to observe Foreign Minister Beaumont's suggestion to split Alvtir from her chaperone for a bit of time. Obviously stern Geijer had a fondness for a good glass of wine or even two. Everyone has to have a weak spot, the Prince Regent concluded smirkingly. "Would you mind show you around in my private wine cellar? As we are but a foursome I find it ridiculous to have a servant pick the wine. Maybe you find one you don't know yet."

    While her husband left the room with his semi-involuntary companion, the Duchess of Schlesnitz turned to the foreign minister. In the course of the evening she had given her Oelarian guest more or less broad hints that she was interested in her agenda, even the political one.

    (1) Working visit by Her Excellency, M.H. Alvtir, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the State of Olmolungring.

    (2) There's no immediate equivalent to the British Monarchy's recommendation to subsequently address members of the royal family as 'sir' or 'madam'.​
     
  18. Großlausitz

    Großlausitz New Member

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    January 1991

    The young consul general had made up his mind about his future, at last. A few days before Christmas he had written a lengthy letter to the executive board of his home town’s CVP section declaring his intention to run for the nomination for parliament. One day later he informed the foreign minister about his plans via diplomatic mailing and asked to approve his request for suspending his public employment contract. This was a standard procedure for civil servants entering actual politics and provided a ‘safe’ cushion for Graf Peter Solms if this stint ended. He could always return to the diplomatic service.

    Two weeks into 1991 Consul General Graf Solms received answers to both letters. His suspension request was granted, hardly surprisingly. Furthermore, via phone the young diplomat was told that the Auswärtiges Amt would make use of his departure to open a new and fresh page of Oelarian-Franconian relations by promoting the status of the consulate to an embassy, effective by March. Originally they wanted him to take over as ambassador for the time being and send a promising junior diplomat to be groomed as next ambassador. According to the State Minister of Foreign Affairs, this Robert Beaumont character was a competent pundit on Oelar, whose excellent arguments convinced to step up efforts in the neighbour country. With his soon departure Graf Solms was instead instructed to brief his designated successor carefully and help him oversee the initial construction efforts to expand the Franconian compound in the capital.

    Obediently the earl tutored Robert Beaumont and had his own wife socialize with Beaumont’s young wife Steffi to guarantee them a smooth arrival in late January 1991. To Graf Solms’ astonishment Robert Beaumont wasn’t familiar with the merits of having a good drink or two in the evening. In the aristocrat’s opinion a glass of Henessy was the best catalyst for a productive discussion of matters of business.

    During one of their many evening chats Robert Beaumont inquired: “Do you expect to find something of true value in politics, Peter?” With their age gap being not that wide both men slowly but surely bonded and became as close friends as it is possible for two diplomats. As if he was caught with his hands in the cookie jar, the earl smirked and replied: “If I told you I wanted to breathe fresh air into politics and kick off the winds of change, you would correctly call me a blatant liar. Actually the desire to be a part of politics runs in my family. Sometimes the urge leapfrogs one generation or two, yet throughout our more than 1000 years of documented family history Solms have frequently played a part in leading Franken. Nevertheless, to some extent I’m an idealist. While there’s no question that commoner and nobleman alike can be good politicians, I believe that men or women from our breed of men, who was brought up in the spirit of preserving and promoting an ancient family fortune, will have an edge in convincing people they’re best suited to run our country responsibly.” Beaumont perfectly understood Graf Solms’ allusion to his origin from Franconian gentry. “To this, Peter, I raise my glass of delicious Radilean spirit!”

    Indeed, the young earl had managed to inspire and implant some powerful thoughts in Robert Beaumont. Neither man was aware of that about two decades ago. But when Graf Solms called the dashing senior diplomat a few years later – then ambassador to Anglyn – and asked whether he wanted to join the CVP, as they needed a clever foreign policy expert, Robert Beaumont didn’t hesitate. About a year later he became a member of the House of Representatives on the CVP party ticket.

    Nonetheless, neither Graf Solms nor Robert Beaumont would forget about Oelar, their time there and the country’s general relevance in Franken’s foreign affairs.
     
  19. Gunnland

    Gunnland FTR

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    November 2010

    "The great virtue of your country, Herr Prinzregent, is that Franconian tradition whereby the bureaucracy is shot through with noblemen. Give me a man more interested in his stamp collection, the history of fly-fishing, or model trains rather than those who spend their lives lusting for the fasces! A Cincinnatus dragged unwillingly from his fields when the Volsci and the Aequi are at the city gates. You will find your land ruled by men who do not take the business of rule so seriously, who will manipulate their fellows at all costs for power, trying to direct the whirlwinds of information in mass media until they go insane."

    Geijer was following Prinzregent Jakob down the steps into the wine cellar, carrying on a conversation about the virtues of aristocracy, or, as it seemed to Jakob von Franken, some strange idea of anarcho-monarchism. It was always a surprise, especially for educated foreigners, to find the other side of Oelar's 19th-century existence; poverty and Luddism, for sure, but also an extremely literate, intellectual elite running the government.

    "The Rigpa Thorklakur wisely says that the king should be like the piece in chess, the most useless on the board, yet sacred, because the whole game is staked upon him..." There was a short silence while Jakob von Franken opened the cellar door. "...it is a dispute, I am afraid, in which he has been most frustrated with Margarethe Hjovarthusdatter. Powerful though the Alvitrs are, they are increasingly succumbing to various modernisms." The Prinzregent heard from his tone that modernism was a bad word. "But she represents the country charmingly, except of course in the rare cases when you find a nation in which you can sit down and talk with a man cultivated in the noble art of politics."

    Upstairs, the foreign minister was representing the country well. But unbeknownst to Rikarthur Gregorsson, the wine-swilling misogynist, the intrigue cut both ways.

    "Herzogin Schlesnitz, let us face it. The Rigpa, learned and noble though he is, belongs to a different era. He is no modern head of state, but a religious poet whose last major contribution to the political life of Olmolungring was his defeat of the separatist guerrillas in 1959. The poor live the same way they did in 1959, which is little different than the mountain villages in 1859. We will need some major help modernizing the country, the schools and hospitals especially."

    The crown princess smiled sadly, of course, which was only polite for anyone who had seen photographs of Oelarian rural poverty. Foreign Minister Alvitr, with the air of one of those graceful, self-confident women who let their hair to begin to go gray (even if they secretly apply very light dyes from time to time) when they reach their forties, leaned closer to her hostess.

    "But you know, old Tagzig men do pass on their obstinacy. Rikarthur Gregorsson is a wonderful writer, you might be interested in his book on Franconian septentrionalism, but he is intransigent! Highways, televisions, these things for Rikarthur and his friends will destroy Oelarian culture. One hope of mine is that I can return to Yungdrung Gutsak with support from Franken, especially the powerful women of Franken, and Arendaal, and all of our neighbors. If I can bring project proposals and funding grants back, I suspect the likelihood of a more, let us say, progressive successor for Thorlakur Feargusson would be possible."
     
  20. Gunnland

    Gunnland FTR

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    November 11, 1990

    "I am going to become a priest, Rick. Have you noticed it is only the clergy that oppose the socialists? Br. Amos at the Abbey of Mimir, for one, knows the Batavian revolution through and through."

    Rikarthur Gregorsson had guessed right about his friend. Of course the clergy are in bed with the nationalists, he thought, the socialists want to take the schools away from them. His friend Jens Kjellson shrugged, embarrassed. "There is no struggle left here for me."

    Neither is there one for me, my friend, Geijer thought. Arthur Arthursson had been banished from the city; Jens had been one of his brightest students. But even before A. A. Himmelright broke Gregor Samsonsson's jaw, the political elegiacs of nationalist poetry had been falling out of fashion. It was a thing of the 1970s and early 1980s, although it took a haymaker from its most famous literary light aimed right at Stoker's socialist jaw to confirm it. Jens Kjellson knows there is no career in teaching that 'right-wing' poetry now. His friend smiled, "I will be called Mathias, if they let me, because it is my lot to have been chosen. Or Matteus, I suppose, if they don't let me."

    Geijer frowned. This was the first time such an important Oelarian had been banished since Gunnar Sigbjornsson in 1960 for opposing Thorlakur Feargusson's rise to power. Gregor Samsonsson will probably take Jens's place at the Capitollium, he guessed. Not a bad fellow, Geijer reminded himself, although he admitted to himself that he was jealous Greg was seeing the pretty Alvitr daughter, Margarethe Hjovarthursdatter. Had the Himmelrightians still been in favor, I would have had a chance with her he mused, silently. Out with the old, in with the new. That was the great failing of the nationalists. They were romantics. Yungdrung Gutsak was taking a sweeping turn to the left.

    "Instead of going to the Abbey School at Mimir, Jens, what about switching your dissertation to philosophy and working with Halvbefaren?" Geijer asked. Jens Yvosson was no socialist, to be sure. And the benefit was that you did not have to become a celibate priest and live in the mountains of the far east, at an abbey reachable only by snowmobiles, and not at all in the deep months of winter.

    "I am no philosopher, for one, Rick. For another thing, Professor Halvbefaren is above politics. Good thing you study history, Rick. They won't be able to push you out."

    Rikarthur Gregorsson was trying to imagine his friend in a cassock, but gave up and laughed: "Sure, I may have to end up selling my soul and working for the Campanile!" and both men laughed again. We'll see."

    Time would prove Geijer's parting words ironic.
     

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