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A tale of two Princes

Pelasgia

Elder Statesman
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Athens, Greece
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Demos
"Every country has its own scourge: Engellex has fog, Hajr has eye infections, Kurkhazia has locusts and Pelasgia has the Pelasgians." The words echoed through the narrow private room of the jet as Theodoros read them out. Over a century and half later, was as relevant as ever. Theodoros was a man approaching fourty years of age, of relatively strong build. Tall and broad, he was still fit enough to appear elegant in dark blue three-piece suit that he wore, sitting with his body facing half-away from the reading table before him. "Theodore," he heard a feminine voice say. As he looked up, his deep blue eyes gazed upon the slender figure of a blonde woman in a white dress. "Yes, dear?" he asked Natalja, closing the book before him. "The captain says we should be there in half an hour or so." She seemed stressed. He put his book away and stood up to comfort her.

"All will be fine dear," he said, "we have plenty of friends in Pelasgia still." She did not seem reassured. "And plenty of enemies," she added. "Yes, but they cannot hurt us; the Prime Minister himself wrote to me, as did the President. They have vowed to protect us." He caressed her back. "Last time they vowed that you had to leave the country," she pointed out. "And I had the pleasure of meeting you. Princess Natalja Smirnova, of the Tarusan landed aristocracy. I'd do it again." She smiled and teased him: "Most Pelasgian Sovereigns would do better than a distant cadet branch of the Imperial House." He teased her back: "Most Pelasgian Sovereigns were not from a cadet branch of the House of Laskaris themselves. They were born into the purple... as our youngest one will be." She laughed. "Come then," he said, seizing the moment, "all will be fine. They need us, this time around. This assures it." He held out a tablet from the website of the Pelasgian Common Parliament. She looked up dazzled; "Yes, they're finally reforming the electoral law. Which means that the liberals will need the Right on board, to keep the Left out of power. And what do you think the Right will ask for, since the Constitution is getting amended anyway? Old Admiral Notaras is getting tired of sitting in another man's chair." Natalja was positively ecstatic: her husband would no longer be a "tolerated" runaway, another man's glorified guest. Evidently, that had great implications for her own standing in the world.

He took her to a nearby seat to rest as the luxury jet began its descent to its final destination, near the border between the Meridian and Basilisk seas: Propontis International Airport "Attalos the Great". The plane would land in the VIP section of the airport, where it would be greeted by a guard of honour and the Prime Minister's right hand man: Stylianos Theoktistos, the Minister of Foreign Affairs. "Your Majesties," said the Minister discretely, revealing his (widely suspected) sympathies. He escorted the couple inside an armoured black SUV with dark windows, which formed part of a motorcade of similar cars. The motorcade headed for the Palace of Selymbria, an old imperial residence in the outskirts of the city, which had been kept as a secondary residence by the President of Pelasgia, who mostly resided in the Grand Palace of Propontis. Evidently, he was more than willing to house the palace's proper occupants there. For now, none of the Pelasgian public new of the welcome, as scenes of the whole endeavour had only been recorded by PERT, the state broadcaster, and then handed over to the Internal Security Directorate. The coming weeks would determine how that would change.

------------------------------

"Don't fuck me, Alexandros," said Nikolaos Angelopoulos, as he leaned over the balcony of the National Opera House's VIP lounge. "You know I hate those pricks as much as you do," he added. The Prime Minister's language and demeanour did not match his elegant formal wear one bit. "Well, Mr. Prime Minister, you're going to have to compromise one way or the other," said Gavriilidis. The leader of the opposition knew very well that his demands to support a liberal minority were untenable. What he wanted was to hop in, appear legitimate, then hop out, and hopefully win an election. "If you push me to the Right, I will deal with them then," Angelopoulos threatened, "I won't enjoy it, but I will. It has happened in the past, when the Left was equally intransigent." Gavriilidis laughed after taking a sip of champagne. "Oh really? We both know the condition they have for any such cooperation, since constitutional revision is on the menu. At least you can find the articles I want removed. Can you find a Laskaris?" Angelopoulos stood up straight and looked Gavriilidis in the eye. "Where there's a will, there's a way. I offer you one last chance. Don't make me do this. We're this close to a Pelasgia free of this medieval nonsense." Gavriilidis met his gaze defiantly for a short moment, but then looked away and laughed again. "You're bluffing, Nikolaos. We both know that your career is over. Enjoy the show," he said, and started walking away. The Prime Minister spoke under his breath, almost red with anger. "My career might be over," he said, "but I sure as hell am not bluffing."
 

Pelasgia

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Frankokastellon was a quaint suburb on the outskirts of Thermi, the second largest city of the Pelasgian Union. Founded by Frankish crusaders (as indicated by its name), the locality was built around the remnants of an old castle, which had largely come to ruin. The surrounding estates, however, rich and built on fertile land perfectly suited to vines, stood firm and prosperous, providing Pelasgian and foreign markets some of the finest wine on the continent. As the bright, warm rays of the Pelasgian sun pierced the windows of many a château, one could hardly notice that the calendar on the wall said "January". Built around the mid-eighteenth in the then popular baroque style, Villa Vatatzou had a beautiful exterior mixing limestone, marble and walls painted in gold, blue and red motifs, typically drawn from Pelasgo-Tiburan mythology. Standing two floors tall, with an attic inside the spacious tile-covered roof with the traditional griffons and anthemia on corners and other side sections of the tiles, the Villa was surrounded by a large garden and tall shrubs covering a steel fence, all of which was contained within the larger grounds of the famous Vatatzes estate (renowned far and wide for its sweet red wine).

Entering such an elegant country residence one did not find, however, paintings of artistic interest, vases, or other trinkets showing off the cultural refinement of the occupants. Instead, one was immediately confronted by paintings of martial scenes, busts of generals, and sets of armour and other military memorabilia of high historic (and pecuniary) value, reminding him instantly of precisely who had built and who dwelled in this illustrious edifice: the Vatatzes family, a noted aristocratic and military dynasty of centuries-long renown in Pelasgia. Hailing from Thermi, the Grand Dukes of Vatatzes had even once sat on the Imperial Throne of Propontis; those those days were long past them, they had still managed to put out great mathematicians, generals, and even two pioneering airmen with every generation. Certainly, in so far as Pelasgian nobility went, the House of Vatatzes was all but deserving of its prestige (a compliment which much of the Pelasgian aristocracy could not unfortunately lay claim to). Nearly seventy years after the abolition of the Pelasgian nobility as a legal class, the Grand Dukes still displayed their arms, and the locals, commoner and notable alike, still respected them. One could find these arms ( ) carved or painted at various notable locations around Frankokastellon, including the local town hall and parish church (both of which had been constructed and expanded largely with the funds of the House of Vatatzes).

It was then unsurprising that the large rural street leading to the Villa was named Odos Vatatzou (Vatatzes Street), or so Lt. Col. Aristarchos Akolouthos, the Regional Director of the External Intelligence Directorate, thought as he exited the car chauffering him to the old dynasty's residence and headed inside, to be greeted by the aforementioned assortment of armours, sabres, and other military history paraphernalia (along with the obligatory ornate icons that decorated every Orthodox home in the country). Lt. Col. Akolouthos was a man of average height, relatively pale and with piercing blue eyes, his hair trimmed somewhat short at all times. He always wore a formal suit and walk with one hand by his side, so as to be able to quickly retrieve his sidearm if necessary. His face was noted for its lack of expression, while his colleagues noted that he rarely showed emotion. In other words, he was the arch-typical asphalitis, a Pelasgian securocrat. His light step was nevertheless perceived by another man, quite his opposite, as he approached the domicile's reading room.

"Come in", he heard the man say before he had even knocked. He walked in to find General Leon Vatatzidis (of the last surviving cadet branch of the House of Vatatzes): a tall, broad man, with a slightly darker complexion than himself and with dark eyes and hair, the general had a prominent chin and a somewhat large Pelasgian nose. He sat comfortably next to a reading table in his uniform, seemingly comfortable in it as if it were an extension of his skin, with a laptop on the table, evidently reading the latest issue of the Chronographos, Thermi's newspaper of record. "Well, Aristarchos?" he asked calmly, inviting the man to sit across from him without breaking eye contact. "The boy and his wife are here," the securocrat replied, rapidly taking a seat. "Well, that was to be expected. One can't promise or threaten with neither stick nor carrot. The question is how far Mr. Angelopoulos is willing to go with his threats and promises." Akolouthos took a sip of water from one of the two glasses that lied on the table before him; years of knowing the Lt. Col. had allowed Vatatzidis to know this to be a sign of anxiety in his subordinate. "How far do you think that he will go, Aristarchos?" he asked.

"I think that he does not wish to go anywhere at all," the intelligence officer replied, "but the Left has him cornered, which mean that the Right also does, and we both know which lesser evil he will choose." Vatatzidis shifted his gaze to the painting to the right of the entrance from whence his interlocutor had entered; there hang a beautiful painting of the Sixth Battle of Makri, also known as the Battle of the Three Himyari Princes, where one of his ancestors, Andronikos Vatantzes, had smashed two larger foreign armies and established Pelasgia once more as the dominant land power of Himyar in 1857. The Sovereign at the time, Ioannes VI, was celebrated as a wise ruler and one of the firmest in Pelasgian history, despite largely ruling through his ministers. "Tell me of the character of this boy, Aristarchos," said the General, trying to lay his own preconceptions about the latest pretender to the Throne of Propontis aside for an instant. "A rather good-looking man and clearly cultured and well-educated... but neither firm, nor strategic," responded Lt. Col. Akolouthos, "and certainly not the one wearing the pants in his marriage." Leon Vatatzidis did not avert his gaze on bit while pondering at his response.

"So an excellent museum curator," he said, "but not an Emperor." Akolouthos attempted to play devil's advocate, perhaps convinced that the "Restoration" of the cadet branch of the House of Laskaris to the Throne was a matter of time: "Well, he is a Laskaris. He is certainly next in line... maybe his son will be more fit to reign. And maybe he will reveal suitable qualities as he becomes accustomed to his new role." Vatatzidis was not having it: "And maybe his Tarusan wife will grow a cock and balls and become Emperor in his stead. Succession by blood has never been the Pelasgian way; our monarchies have always been elective. Barbarians bow to some inbred cuckold because his great-grandfather wore a Crown. Our rulers take the purple by right of their bayonets. All this 'Your Majesty' and bowing foolery is a moronic import by weak rulers and their self-important consorts. Our rulers, men and women rule because they act in a way that grants them the right to rule, not because of some stupid family tree." The General was evidently not content to allow Prime Minister Angelopoulos to restore the symbolic monarchy for political ends. "Well what do you propose? Should we revive Attalus the Great and march on the City?" asked Akolouthos, clearly unconvinced. Vatatzidis stood up and looked out the window: "Those decadent aristocrats and gerontocrats in Parliament want a Laskaris back on the Throne so he can shower them in gold and nepotistic titles and offices," he said. "The House of Laskaris came to the purple by occupying Propontis with a fleet. Perhaps it is time to remind them of how someone founds a dynasty in this country."

"That is dangerous talk," Aristarchos answered, "you should be very careful." Leon finally turned to face him before answering: "Attalus needed to march on Propontis because he had men against him. We merely have a boy and the sterile fossil that is Nikolaos Angelopoulos to face. Get me a meeting with Admiral Antoniades; I want to let him know that I'm throwing in my candidacy for his succession." Aristarchos also stood up, walking to the General's side. "You think you can win?" he asked. "I know I can win," Leon replied. "And when I do, you will be my Prime Minister---to make sure the security services are adequately rewarded for throwing in their hat with us. Go tell them. We both know they'll prefer us: the Laskaris kid will fill their ranks with incompetent aristocrats and politicians' children to keep them from challenging his power and Angelopoulos has neutered them with his careerist bureaucrats." Aristarchos agreed and went on his way. It's not winning Propontis against some foolish blue-blood that's going to be a challenge, the General thought. It's going to be to keep it and reform this rotting vessel of a state so that it doesn't sink. Pelasgia needs a monarch in all but name, rather than a monarch in name only. And I'll give her one. He sat back down and opened his email software; it was time to arrange a meeting with the latest aspirant to the purple. Reconnaissance was the first step in a battle, after all.
 
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Pelasgia

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Panagiotis Gotthos looked down at the vast fields surrounding Propontis, stretching out as far as the eye could see. The suburb of Heraclea, named after Marshal Herakleios Artopoiopoulos, a preeminent 20th century Pelasgian military officer, served as the headquarters had long been used as a centre for military agencies and a location for bases and encampments. The Central Military Hospital of Propontis, 401, was located there, as was the Ministry of National Defence, inside "Herakleios Artopoiopoulos" Military Base (which contained the Pelasgian Land Forces' Propontis garrison). Panagiotis himself was in a large complex built on the old site of the Propontine "Tessaron Agion" Barracks; having long stopped housing soldiers, the location now housed a different kind of warrior: the External Intelligence Directorate, more commonly known by its Pelasgian initials, DEP.

As he gazed outside the glass elevator, itself located between thick panels of booletproof glass on the side of the building, Gotthos noticed his elevator stopping halfway to the top, admitting a single other passenger: Lt. Col. Aristarchos Akolouthos, the DEP's Regional Director for Thermi.

"I really appreciate this kind of architecture," said Gotthos remarking at the appearance of the DEP headquarters: white cement and blue glass with white steel panels, with flat modern surfaces designed to appear as square versions of classical marble buildings. A staple of Pelasgian government architecture, this style was simply known as "Central Government Modern" among Pelasgian architects.

"One would expect nothing less of the Vice-Director of the External Intelligence Directorate," responded Akolouthos, ever emotionless and far too serious. The two men were perhaps at the highest non-appointed offices of the DEP, high enough to know that the observation floor they were heading too was bugged by the Internal Security Directorate, but also high enough to know that this elevator wasn't. The DEP was well aware and had allowed it to remain so.

"Leon Vatatzidis says Pelasgia needs an Emperor," said the Vice-Director, without altering his demeanour.

"Leon Vatatzidis says Pelasgia needs an Emperor because he wants to be that Emperor," replied his subordinate. "He figures that, since we’ll be getting one anyway, it might as well be him."

"Well, he certainly is qualified," responded Gotthos, playing Devil's Advocate. "More so than that Laskaris kid."

"If everyone who is even somewhat qualified to be Emperor tried to take the Throne, Pelasgia would never see the end of civil war, like during the Middle Ages," pointed out Akolouthos, before adding: "Need I remind you of the rate of attrition of bureaucrats and spymasters in those days?"

"Well, what do you propose? The current system doesn’t work, otherwise it wouldn't be about to be replaced," answered Gotthos, ever the cynic.

"I’m not saying it does," responded his equally pragmatic interlocutor. "What Pelasgia needs is someone who holds power, not someone who appears to do so. And, at that, a man who wields power for the general interest, not for power's sake. Kydoniotis Electronics was saved from the brink CEO by a who wears a tie and can be removed by a Board at any time; not a pompous tinpot dictator who runs around in ermine capes."

"Well, the CEO of a country is a President," Panagiotis pointed out, hardly convinced. "What is a president but an elected monarch? There's plenty of presidents that can't be removed in any way but assassination or rebellion - just like monarchs."

"I never said that we shouldn't change what we're doing. I said that we should be smart about it. Putting a general on the Throne might make us think we're back in 1920 and about to strong-arm half of Europe, but it won't make it so. I'd much rather an Emperor in fact than an Emperor in name. And, for all his talk, we both know which Leon Vatatzidis intends to be. He's even more dangerous than the Laskaris kid - at least that blueblood knows he's supposed to be purely ornamental."

"Let’s assume I agree with you. What of Vatatzidis? Do you think you can convince him? Or do you plan to assassinate the most powerful military man in the country," the Vice-Director pointed out. "I've heard the chiefs of staff are going to petition the President to make him Marshal of Pelasgia..."

"We don’t need to do either; he’s useful for now, only he can kick out the Laskarids and their lackeys. But afterwards... he’ll need us a lot more than he thinks. And that will be his undoing. We’ll show him the way out – politely."

The Vice-Director paused before answering. His silence must have lasted a minute or two at most, but to Akolouthos it felt like an eternity: every second that passed, Akolouthos was in the void between one conspiracy and another; he was in free fall with nothing to latch on to. And yet, he had no other option: If you strike at a King, strike to kill, as the saying went. Half solutions and mincing words while trying to play both sides would not work. He needed the security services on his side, and clearly so. As the highest non-political career securocrat in his own organisation, Panagiotis Gotthos was the man who could get him that.

"Very well. I shall talk with my colleagues in the other Organs to make adequate preparations. Any candidates for the presidency? Coronation? Whatever we're planning, anyway. Might as well be a meeting of the Board of Directors of Pelasgia S.A. for all I care."

"Since I'm the one asking you for help, we both know I'm not the one who will decide this. Grants like me don't make Kings, we only serve them. You and the other power players can choose who you'll put on the Throne in lieu of Leon Vatatzidis and that Laskaris brat. I just want to convince you to make that choice, instead of leaving it to Premier Angelopoulos or President Notaras - and that, I think, I have accomplished."

The elevator stopped and Akolouthos got off a few floors below the Vice-Director. "Everyone knows the old neoclassical building in Pyrgos is much better," he cried, as if to cover for their conversation. Gotthos betrayed a smile: Akolouthos had passed his test. A pawn is a good pawn when it knows that it is a pawn, he thought, and with enough careful, well-planned steps, it might even take the Purple as a Queen. He pulled out his phone and sent a pre-written text to his colleagues in the Internal Security Directorate (DEA), Military Counterintelligence Directorate (DSA), and the Civil Guard's Constitutional Protection Service (YPP). An urgent meeting was needed, for the Lords of the Land to elect a new ruler. Finally, his cholesterol-infested, chair-ridden life would have some semblance of excitement, besides reading lengthy reports on Vistarikan troop movements in Canaan.
 
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Pelasgia

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Admiral Notaras caught himself coughing again; he had grown old, to the point where he could not even fool himself. It was a fine line, being old enough to be venerable but not old enough to be seen as a pitiful fossil, he thought. His eyes fixated upon the marble column supporting the corridor behind him: a large white corinthian column supporting an arch of alternating red and white stripes - many such columns formed a colonnade supporting a series of such arches, a defining feature of medieval Propontine architecture. Though the Great Palace of Propontis had been repaired, renovated and even rebuilt many times over in its nearly one thousand years of existence, these features persisted, eternal as the large dome above the Palace. Though old enough to be venerable, these halls certainly had come to seem dated to many. Newer Pelasgian palaces were almost entirely neoclassical, making the Great Palace appear old by comparison. Show me a house, and I will show you the inhabitant, he thought, noting that he was a perfect match for such a building. His retired Admiral's uniform was about as relevant outside of symbolism as the old Propontine colonnades of the Great Palace.

Finally, he stopped walking around and decided to sit down and take a long look at the document before him:

To the Attention of His Excellency, the President of the Pelasgian Union under Article 43 of the Constitution of the Pelasgian Union:

A PETITION

We the undersigned do hereby petition His Excellency, the President of the Pelasgian Union, to avail Himself of His constitutional duty to bestow honours and offices of state upon individuals, so as to bestow upon General LEON IOANNOU VATATZIDIS of the Pelasgian Land Forces the title of MARSHAL OF PELASGIA for his long and outstanding service to the Nation.

Signatories
[...]

The list of signatories included practically every major military officer and intelligence head outside of the Prime Minister's own political appointments. He sighed, knowing full well what this meant. For a moment, he considered calling the Prime Minister, but stopped himself. His role was to be a neutral figurehead, not to take sides. If one side had sought to abolish his office and another not, he could have cited the preservation of the Constitution to let Angelopoulos know in advance. But since both sides clearly had designs for a replacement office, it was impossible to choose a side. And, in any case, Vatatzidis' design probably respected the formal existence of the office of President more.

Without another moment's hesitation, President Notaras took out his pen and inscribed the bottom of the page: "Seen and assented to", adding his signature and the date below. He then called on the Chamberlain to take the petition and get him a proper decree to the same effect to sign. Vatatzidis had made his first move, and he had scored a good blow; the Prime Minister would only find out once the decree had been published.

-------------

"That's all well and good," said Vice-Director Protopapadakis of the Internal Security Directorate (DEA). Vice-Director Panagiotis Gotthos of the External Intelligence Service (DEP) listened attentively, despite looking outside the car window. The city lights of Propontis shone beautifully through the rain of the cold February evening, and Selymbrias Avenue gave one a perfect view as it descended from the hills surrounding the city. "But have you thought of Armenopoulos?"

Gotthos had thought of Armenopoulos indeed. "I have," he said, masking his finding the question redundant if not insulting, "and I think he can't be our man. He's a technocrat from the Angelopoulos administration; we'll just get Angelopoulos all over again."

"Well, whom do you propose then?" asked Protopapadakis, annoyed at his third candidate getting shot down.

"What about Akolouthos? He’s a DEP man, though soon to be a 'former' one," said Gotthos, finally content that Protopapadakis had decided to ask him for his own idea.

"There’s no such thing as a ‘former’ DEP man," said Protopapadakis, admittedly finding Gotthos' formulation somewhat hilarious.

"Exactly my point," replied the other. "He’s one of ours."

"One of DEP’s?" asked Protopapadkis, somewhat puzzled.

"All of ours. We securocrats are a class, whether we like it or not. Better us than some petty bourgeois lawyer."

Protopapadkis took a moment to think. "Are you sure Vatatzidis will go along with it?" he asked.

"I'm positive. In fact, he might even propose him to us; dig his own grave as it were."

"Fine," said Protopapadakis after another moment. The car had started to slow down, indicating that their conversation was coming to an end. "Count me in," he said. Gotthos shook his hand and offered some pleasantries, before the car came to a complete stop, and the former exited for a luxurious dinner at the Elaton, a high-end restaurant in the northern outskirts of the Pelasgian capital.
 
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Pelasgia

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"What a farce," Natalja kept repeating, incessantly and forcefully tapping her fingers on her purse as she held it with both hands in front of her. Theodoros remarked at how well her features contrasted with her choice of apparel - She always looks great in blue, he thought to himself, smiling faintly before he noticed her aggravated expression once more. "My love, I do not like this any more than you do," he said, "but we have to put up with it. When I take the purple, we will have to attend such events with people we do not like quite often." Natalja turned her gaze toward him but seemed frustrated: "When?" she asked; "If would be more accurate. Unless 'Marshal' Vatatzidis gets his way..."

As she finished her sentence, he quickly tried to formulate a response, but, before he could say anything, a loud, masculine voice interceded. "And these must be the most prestigious newly weds in all of Pelasgia?" said the voice. Turning, they both saw the unmistakable sight of a large, late-middle aged man with dark features, in the dark blue winter ceremonial uniform of the Pelasgian Land Forces. The elegant dark blue kepi and tunic contrasted well with the golden shoulder insignia, aguillette and buttons and other details. The baton held in the man's right hand, which was clad in a white glove like his left, was unmistakable: a golden baton, with the motifs of olive branches and double-headed eagles, topped by an imperial eagle. This was Marshal Vatatzidis, of course.

"Is it not customary to bow before Sovereigns in Pelasgia, Marshal?" asked Natalja, trying to conceal her hostility towards the man under a facade of feminine innocence and inquisitiveness. "Indeed it is," responded the Marshal, masking his contempt beneath similar faux politeness; "The last time I checked, His Excellency, President Notaras was the closest thing Pelasgia had since your husband's relative passed away." The Marshal observed Natalja: she was a young and certainly beautiful woman, of fair hair and complexion, with a sharp nose and even sharper blue eyes that gave her the appearance of a kind of northern predatory bird. He had no doubt that her character matched that appearance; by contrast her husband was a typical late Laskaris: pale by Pelasgian standards with otherwise dark hair and eyes, an unmistakably southern complexion, which, though it retained some of the virility of the early Laskarids, had by now been replaced by the look of an overgrown college boy of mediocre intelligence and charisma. His assessment had proven correct.

Before the trio could trade any more blows, Prime Minister Angelopoulos intervened: "Oh Marshal Vatatzidis, Your Graces," he said, his voice betraying an anxiety much akin to that of a mother looking for her son with that of a husband caught with his lover by his wife, "please excuse this interruption - I am sure you were having an excellent conversation, but I must talk to the Marshal." As the Prime Minister quickly dragged the Marshal away before his juggling of Pelasgian politics was made any more complex by the night's events, Natalja could not help but repeat his address to her husband with a piercing bitterness: "Your Graces". Once more, Theodoros found himself interrupted before he could respond. "It is accurate, is it not?" asked another man, with a calm and deep voice. "If anything, it is a tad generous, given present legal realities," he added. Dressed in a typical dark blue two-piece suit with a light blue shirt and pale crimson tie was a pale man of average height, with tightly trimmed brown hair masking a slightly receding hairline. His deep blue eyes were piercing, betraying the sort of sharpness found in the eyes of foxes or other such carnivores. If Marshal Vatatzidis were still around he would have certainly made a slightly inappropriate joke likening him to Natalja, the sort of which Pelasgian men of his age were known to enjoy at others' expense.

"And you sir would be?" asked Theodoros, finally content to be able to speak. "Aristarchos Akolouthos, Lieutenant Colonel, External Intelligence Directorate of the Pelasgian Union." Natalja allowed herself a slight giggle before commenting: "One of the famed asphalites that seem to run this country, if my husband is to be believed." Neither Akolouthos nor Theodoros were impressed by her usage of the Pelasgian term for "security-man" or "securocrat", which was considered to be highly pejorative; nevertheless, neither betrayed any immediate emotion. Indeed, Akolouthos did not even avert his gaze to Natalja, still looking at her husband straight in the eyes. "Whose side would you be on?" asked Natalja, somewhat annoyed by this overly presumptuous and self-important glorified bureaucrat. It was Akolouthos' turn to laugh before answering: "On the side of Pelasgia, of course." Before the couple could ask him anything more about what exactly he meant, the asphalitis excused himself, bade them a good evening, and continued on to another group enjoying drinks and hors d'oeuvres. They appeared similar to him in style and in attitude; clearly the asphalites enjoyed their own company.
 
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