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The Queen of Cities

Pelasgia

Established Nation
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Sep 30, 2014
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4,200
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Athens, Greece
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Demos
«Στημμένη 'ς τὰ μπροστὰ τοῦ πλοίου, κρατούσα τὰ μάτια μου ἀνοιχτὰ παρὰ τὴν κόπωση καὶ τὴ νύστα, ἀναμένοντας τὴν ἀνατολή τοῦ ἥλιου. Καὶ πράγματι, γύρω 'ς τὶς ἐφτὰ τὸ πρωΐ, ἔλαμψε ἐμπρός μου ὁ ἀνατέλων ὑπέρλαμπρος δίσκος, καὶ ῥόδισε μὲ μιᾶς ὁ οὐρανὸς ὑπὸ τὸ ζεστὸ φῶς τῆς αὐγῆς: ἡ Προποντίδα! Ἡ "Βασίλισσα αὐτὴ τῶν Πόλεων ἡ χιλιοτραγουδισμένη", ποὺ ἔλεγε ὁ ποιητής, πρόβαλε μπροστὰ 'ς μάτια μου. Ὁ τροῦλος τῆς Ἁγια-Προνοιᾶς ἔλαμπε καὶ τὰ ἀμέτρητα καμπαναριά της ἀνέγγελαν μὲ χαρὰ τὸν ἐρχομό τῆς μέρας, καθῶς ἦταν Κυριακή, καὶ καλούσαν τοὺς πιστούς νὰ ἐκκλησιαστοῦν. Ἐγώ, σὰν νὰ ἔβλεπα γιὰ πρώτη φορὰ τὴν πόλη ὁποῦ ζούσα ἐδῶ καὶ κάποια χρόνια, ἔμεινα ἔκθαμπη· γύρισα τότε καὶ κοίταξα τὴν Ἄρια, ποὺ ὅντως πρώτη φορὰ ἀντίκριζε τὸ θέαμα αὐτό. Τὰ λαμπρά της μάτια ἔμοιαζαν σὰν ἀπὸ χρυσάφι!»
"Standing in front of the ship, I kept my eyes open despite the fatigue and sleepiness, waiting for the sunrise. And indeed, around seven o'clock in the morning, the rising brilliant disc shone before me, and the sky glowed with the warm light of the dawn: Propontis! The 'thousand-sung Queen of the Cities,' as the poet used to say, appeared before my eyes. The dome of Hagia Pronoia shone and [the city's] countless belltowers happily announced the coming of the day, as it was Sunday, and they called the faithful to church. I, as if I were seeing for the first time the city where I had lived here for some years, was stunned; I then turned and looked at Aria, who was actually seeing this sight for the first time. Her bright eyes looked like gold!"

Diary entry of Viktoria Farkas, a naturalised Pelasgian from Pannonia, regarding the visit of her friend Aria from @Radilo to Propontis on --/--/2023
(Imperial Museum of History, Modern History Archive - Specimen No. 5667/20--, p. 93)
 
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Pelasgia

Established Nation
Joined
Sep 30, 2014
Messages
4,200
Location
Athens, Greece
Nick
Demos
(OOC: For those who are not familiar with characters from this thread, see the - This RP is not a continuation of that, but many of the characters or storylines reappear or "rhyme," adapted to this iteration of Pelasgia.)

Cathedral District, III Urban Region, Propontis, Propontis M.P.

"I told you she cooks well!" Viktoria told Aria, in between the other's pleasured moans as she took deep bites out of the rice-staffed squid on her plate. Anna smiled and looked on from the far end of the dining room, occasionally glancing at her baby son in his stroller—one day, he would be as old as these girls were. "Why, yes!" Aria had to admit, biting on the curled tentacle of the long-dead mollusc. "I just have never tried this sort of food—it's not Pannonian and it's not Radilan either. Anyway, how did you become friends with Mrs. Geraka?"

Anna had no idea what the girls were saying in Pannonian, and though speaking in a language one's host did not understand would normally be considered rude, she did not mind. It was one of the rare chances they got to speak in their native language to someone other than their immediate family. And, anyway, the name of her mention at the end gave her an idea...

"I accidentally startled her baby son in a bookstore in Scutari," Viktoria explained, blushing slightly. "But she let me hold him and helped me get back to Propontis, so we became friends." She paused and glanced at the salad at the centre of the table—it was what the Pelasgians called "horiatiki" meaning "peasant" or "village" salad, though foreigners referred to it as "Pelasgian salad," as if there was only one kind for some reason. "I asked her to teach me to cook local foods, because my grandfather only knows how to cook Pannonian foods, and we gradually became friends. People here say I should refer to her as an aunt, because that is what one does with such friends."

"You cook?" Aria said, raising an eyebrow. "You've never cooked for me!" she added, half-teasingly. Viktoria responded in kind: "It's because you want to try every restaurant we lay eyes upon, genius. I'll cook tomorrow, when you meet Andreas and my friends from school." The apartment's door opened, interrupting the two girls' chattering, and in walked a pale man with dark hair and eyes, who was dressed in a gendarmerie officer's greyish-green uniform. "Hello, Mr. Kavallaris!" Viktoria said reflexively. A stunned Rigas Kavallaris smiled awkwardly and greeted the girls in turn, before shouting the customary "Anna, I'm home!"

Aria, for her part was a bit perplexed. "Shouldn't it be Mr. Gerakas?" she wondered out loud, in Engellsh, only to be met with honest laughter from the rest of the home's occupants. "By law, Tiburian women keep their last names after marriage," Anna explained, as she took her husband's coat, kissing him lightly on the cheek. "Though, socially, people often call me 'Mrs. Kavallari.'" Rigas sat down with the girls and turned to Aria, who was blushing with embarrassment. "And you would be, young lady? It's the first time Viktoria brings a friend." he asked, with a somewhat heavy Pelasgian accent.

"Aria," the girl replied. "Nice to meet you, sir." Rigas nodded. "Likewise," he said, before standing up to go to check on his baby son. An awkward silence reigned for a few moments, before Viktoria's eyebrows shot up, as if a light bulb had turned on in her mind. "Mrs. Anna!" she cried out, as if she had known the woman of the home since childhood. "I almost forgot: I got you a little something from Himyar square!" She jumped off her chair, to her schoolbag, and the into the kitchen, carrying with her a quaint little book with pictures and words. "It's for teaching little kids words," Viktoria explained as she handed the small book to Anna. "Epaminondas might need it one day soon—and it's vintage, an original edition from the 1950s." As Anna skimmed through the book, a smile appeared on her face, growing brighter with every page. "I never thought I'd see one this old..."

Aria, who had sneaked behind her friend took a peak over Viktoria's (admittedly rather large) shoulder. "What is 'Himyar Square'?" She wondered out loud. "It's a square in II Urban Region, near the Central Municipal Market, where a lot of antique and pawn shops are located. They say you can find anything there..." Another realisation dawned on Viktoria, as she turned around and seized her friend from the shoulders. "We should go to Himyar Square! You'll love it! And they have the best souvlaki in town there..."

"First!" Anna said, politely but decidedly. "Desert!" She brought out a plate of galaktoboureko and headed straight for the table. In the corner of her eye, Viktoria saw Mr. Kavallaris staring at the plate—alas, he would have to eat the squid before savouring this delicacy.
 

Pelasgia

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Athens, Greece
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Demos
Megali Panagia, Diospolis, Theme of Pelagonia

The Pelagonian highlands were the natural frontier separating the Empire from Thrakia, and from the rest of the Haemus Peninsula. Though not as fertile as the flatlands below, the mountain range boasted plenty of mineral resources and a network of rivers that made transportation between its many villages easier than would otherwise seem apparent. Where the rivers did not suffice, a network of bridges and roads dating all the way back to ancient Tiburan times had done the job of connecting the innumerable human settlements that dotted this rough patchwork of land. Administrative reforms and an outflow of the local population toward the larger cities of the region due to industrialisation had abolished most of the ancient municipalities occupying the Pelagonian highlands, subsuming them to the deme (municipality) of Diospolis, a middle-sized industrial and mining city that stood at the mountain range's foothills. Still, for most of the locals, the great village of Megali Panagia (a town, really, based on its population) was their unofficial capital, dominating the Pororaia, the mountain valley right at the middle of the highlands.

A town of some near forty thousand souls, Megali Panagia was known to the just over half the locals not by this Pelasgian name, but as Marea Fecioară Maria, a Tiburiote term meaning the same thing: "Great Virgin Mary." As Stathis Petroglou had discovered shortly after his assignment to this region as a newly recruited trooper of the Tiburan Imperial Gendarmerie, for most of the locals, the Empire's Pelasgian majority were seen as a foreign, occupying force, whose domination of the region was only tolerated because it kept the Thrakians and the Serbovians out. Driving through the mountain roads of the Paroraia, Stathis and his partner, Hypenomotarchis (Second Sergeant) Markos Prokopiou—a native of the isle of Cyparissus who had been in the region for some four years now. «FRONTUL DEMOCRAT AL TIBURANILOR» would read some graffiti written in blue on the mountainside, celebrating the FDT, the local quasi-illicit separatist group, which masceraded as an NGO. The writing on a nearby barn would be even less subtle: «Pelasgii afară!», meaning "Pelasgians out!". At the sight, Petroglou sighed loudly and shook his head.

«Εἶσαι καινούργιος ἀκόμα,» ("You're still new,") Prokopiou told him. «Ἀν κάνεις ἔτσι ἀπὸ τῶρα δὲν θ' ἀντέξεις οὔτε χρόνο ἐδῶ.» ("If you're acting like this already, you won't last a year here.") Petroglou, for his part, was unmoved by his partner's intervention. «Μᾶς βρίζουν ὅσα προνόμια καὶ νὰ τοὺς ἔχουμε δώσει, ἄλλα κάθε φορὰ ποὺ κάνουν μαγκιὲς οἱ Θρᾶκες ἔρχονται σὲ μὰς τρέχοντας. Γιατὶ ἀπλὰ δὲν τοὺς γράφουμε;» ("They keep insulting us no matter how many privileges we grant them, but every time the Thrakians start acting out, they come running back to us. Why don't we just ignore their demands?") Prokopiou kept staring out the window carelessly as he answered. «Γιὰ τὸν ἴδιο λόγο ποὺ ἔστειλαν ἑμὰς τοὺς δύο ἐδῶ καὶ δύο ντόπιους στὴν Πελασγία. Μόνο ἔτσι μπορεὶ νὰ λειτουργήσει μία πολυεθνικὴ αὐτοκρατορία.» ("For the same reason that they sent us two here, and two locals to Pelasgia. It's the only way a multiethnic empire can function.")

The younger of the two gendarmes had not yet had a chance to retort when the radio of the green SUV they were driving went off: «Πρὸς ἄπαντας τὰς μονάδας: 417 καὶ πιθανόν 308 ἐν ἐξελείξει ἐν τῷ τομεῖ 332, εἰς τὴν διασταύρωσιν τῶν ὁδῶν Προφήτου Ἠλία καὶ Βασιλέως Τιβηρίου. Σπεύσατε ἀμέσως, Κ-3.» ("To all units: 417 and possible 308* ongoing in sector 332, at the interesection of Prophitou Elia and Vasileos Tiveriou. Respond immediately, Code 3.") Reflexively, Prokopiou picked up the radio and barked back into it. «Κέντρον, ἐδῶ 117, σπεύδομεν.» ("Control, this is 117, we're en route.") Simultaneously, Petroglou turned on the emergency lights and siren of the vehicle and floored it, heading into the town, toward the small town square outside the Church of Prophet Elias, where sector 332 was centered. At 3 p.m., when most Tiburians, regardless of ethnicity, were busy enjoying their main meal of the day, a man and a woman were shouting at each other on an otherwise deserted street.
*The Penal Code articles for disturbance and domestic violence, respectively.

Amidst the angered roars of the man and woman in question, the police car parked at the side of the street and the duo of gendarmes exited, their uniforms and caps green like the livery of their vehicle. «Ἥσυχα σᾶς παρακαλῶ!» ("Be quiet, please!") shouted, Petroglou. «Μὰ τὶ συμβαίνει πιά;» ("What is the matter anyway?") The disputing parties seemed to ignore him; a woman looking on from a nearby balcony, however, shouted at him and Prokopiou in Tiburiote: "Tiburani, nu ca voi, javre Pelasge!" ("We are Tiburans, unlike you, Pelasgian bastard!"). Thankfully, perhaps, Petroglou did not understand the comment, and Prokopiou pretended not to have. «Ἐλάτε, ἥσυχα τῶρα μὴ σᾶς πᾶμε στὸ τμῆμα!» ("Come on, quiet now, or we'll take you back to the station!") the latter barked, finally catching the attention of the two residents at the heart of the dispute.

The man, a tall, pale and quite skinny individual with bright blue eyes and silver-grey hair, answered first, speaking with a heavy accent. «Τούτη 'δῶ μὲ συκοφαντεὶ κύριοι χωροφυλάκοι! Μὲ λέει πὼς τάχα τς ἔκλεψα τ'ν κληρουνομιά τς!» ("This here woman slanders me, officers! She says that I allegedly stole her inheritance from her!") No sooner had the man spoke than the woman, a pale, but curly-haired and short woman with visibly Pelasgian characteristics, retorted, from her place atop the elevated threshold of the stone home. «Μὰ μὲ ἔκλεψε, κύριοι χωροφύλακες!» ("But he did steal from me, Messrs. gendarmes!") she explained, in fluent (albeit slightly provincial) Pelasgian. «Ὁ ἄντρας μου, ὁ γιός του, ἔχει χαθεὶ ἐδῶ καὶ τρία χρόνια στὰ ἀνοιχτὰ τῆς Μεταξένιας Θάλασσας, κι ἀντὶ νὰ μου δώσει τὸ μερίδιο ποὺ τοῦ ἀντιστοιχεὶ γιὰ νὰ ζήσω τὰ παιδιά μας, τοῦτος ἐδῶ μὲ προσβάλλει καὶ μοῦ συμπεριφέρεται σὰν ξένη! Μέχρι καὶ στὰ δικαστήρια τὸν ἔχω πάει!» ("My husband, his son, has been missing for three years now on the Silk Seas, and instead of giving me his share of the inheritance so I can support our children, this man here insults me and treats me like a stranger! I've even taken him to court!") The man spat on the ground. «Στὸ διάολο καὶ 'σὺ καὶ τὰ δικαστήριά σου! Τὰ ἀμπέλια μου εἶναι δικά μου καὶ τοῦ σογιοῦ μου, οὔχι τς φάρας σ'! Καὶ τὸν γιό μου μὴν μοῦ τονὲ ἀποθάνεις ἀκόμα!» ("To hell with you and your courts! My vineyards are mine and my family's, not your kind's! And don't count my son for dead just yet!")

Finally, as the woman prepared to shout back a curse of her own, Petroglou found a chance to intervene. «Μὰ εἶναι σωστὰ πράγματα αὐτά, κύριέ μου, νὰ προσβάλετε ἔτσι τὴ νύφη σας μέρα μεσημέρι; Θὰ σᾶς συμβούλευα νὰ γυρίσετε σπίτι σας καὶ νὰ μὴν ἐπαναληφθεὶ ἀυτὸ τὸ σκηνικό, εἰδαλλῶς θὰ ἔχετε ἕνα ἀκόμα δικαστήριο στὸν σβέρκο σας, μὲ ἀντίδικο τὸν Εἰσαγγελέα Πρωτοδικῶν!» ("Do you honestly think it is proper for you, sir, to be insulting your daughter-in-law in this way in the middle of the day? I would advise you to go home and to not repeat this scene, or else you will have one more proceeding on your mind, this one opposed to the First Instance Prosecutor!") Roaring and fuming, the silver-haired man kept his mouth and slowly but surely took off, mumbling insults in Tiburiote under his breath. The woman watching from the balcony weighed in once again. "Bineînțeles că ai luat-o de partea acelei târfe din insulă!" ("Of course you took the side of that islander whore!") This time, Prokopiou did not let the matter drop, shouting back: «Σκασμός!» ("Shut it!") That seemed to silence the rest of the street for a bit, allowing Petroglou time to respond. «Καὶ ποιὰ εἶστε ἐσεὶς κυρία μου; Τὶ συμβαίνει ἐδῶ;» ("And who are you ma'am? What's going on here?")

The woman answered without a moment's hesitation. «Ἕλενα Χρηστάκη, κ. χωροφύλακά μου. Ἤρθα ἐδῶ ἀπὸ τὸ Ἀρχιπέλαγος πρὶν ἑπτὰ χρόνια, καὶ τὸ μετανιώνω κάθε μέρα.» ("Elena Christaki, Mr. gendarme. I came from the Archipelago seven years ago, and not a day goes by that I don't regret it.") The answer seemed to have satisfied the officers, for the overarching bitterness in the woman's tone could not have been anything but genuine—and, to give the noise onlooker her due, perhaps they were more inclined to believe the story of their co-ethnic (who was also a woman), with fewer questions asked. «Καλῶς, κυρία μου. Ἀν ξαναϋπάρξει κάποιο πρόβλημα νὰ μᾶς ἐνημερώσετε καὶ θὰ τὸν συλλάβουμε ἀμέσως. Θὰ σᾶς συμβούλευα πάντως νὰ τὸν ἀποφεύεγετε.» ("Very well, ma'am. If there's any such issue again, please contact us and we will arrest him at once. But I would advise you, at any rate, to avoid him.") The woman shook her hear and allowed a faint smile to appear on her face, as if Petroglou had said something childishly innocent. «Δύσκολο κ. χωροφύλακά μου, διότι τότε θὰ ἔπρεπε νὰ ἀποφεύγω ὁλόκληρη τὴν κωμόπολη.» ("That's a bit hard, Mr. gendarme, because then I would have to avoid the whole town.")

Prokopiou, who had let Petroglou regurgitate his training passively, finally seemed to rouse himself. «Ὀρισμένες φορὲς εὔχομαι νὰ μπορούσα ἐγὼ νὰ ἀποφύγω τοὺς πάντες σ' αὐτὸ τὸ μέρος...» ("Some times I wish I would avoid everyone in this place...") he mumbled, before feigning a cough and raising his voice. «Ἀς ἐλπίσουμε πὼς δὲν θὰ χρειαστεὶ αὐτό. Θέλετε νὰ ἔρθουμε μέσα γιὰ νὰ κάνετε καταγγελία ἢ νὰ ἀφήσουμε ἐσὰς καὶ τὰ παιδιά σας στὴν ἡσυχία σας;» ("Let us hope that that won't be necessary. Would you like us to come in for you to file a report, or should we leave you and your children alone?") Thankfully for Prokopiou (and perhaps not to the surprise of anyone who was familiar with the shame associated with intra-family litigation in Tiburia), Mrs. Christaki opted for the latter. Regardless, Petroglou had a sense that this would not be the last time they would be hearing from her or from her father-in-law.
 

Pelasgia

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Sep 30, 2014
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Athens, Greece
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Demos
Nea Lykaonia, Propontis M.P.

It was a rainy day in the Propontine Straits. The band of sea that separated the Haemus Peninsula from Himyar, was dark, almost black, quite unlike the pictures that tourists snapped from the bridge that connected Propontis and Scutari. Still, the ceaseless flow of ships and cargo of all sizes through the crucial seaway continued unabated, under the watchful eye of the Imperial Tiburian Coast Guard and the indifference of the near-twelve million locals who were as accustomed to the size of a Toyou-max freighter sailing past their city as they were to that of a totally domesticated pigeon walking through endless masses of men in this or that metro station. Many of the ships stopped at the harbour of Hagios Simeon, Propontis' main cargo port, to unload or take on new cargo and sometimes even a new crew. Anything from cars to petroleum and from phones to steel entered or exited Pelasgia's shores in this way.

Some other ships, however, continued south and then east, past Galatopyrgos Bay and the Tiburan Catholic Cathedral and into Dromones Bay, which was almost entirely closed off from the Archipelago by the Islet of Skiras, which was known to the locals as Psaronisi or "Fish Island," due to its once bountiful catches of fish. These days, amidst all the industrial pollution, one would struggle to find even a single fish; instead, one could see oil refineries, heavy factories, shipyards, warehouses and natural gas storage facilities on the different sides of Dromones Bay, where the Propontine Sovereigns had constructed and maintained their fleets since the Empire's earliest days.

One large freighter, the PFSC Arcturus, was among the ships that took this second, rarer course. On its bow, the ship bore the Southern Cross, the emblem of the Propontis Far Southern Company or PFSC. That same symbol appeared on the large pier where it docked, which was reserved solely to ships belonging to the PSFC—a nebulous entity as wealthy as powerful as a small state, that acted as the long arm of the Pelasgian state across the world, with plausible deniability provided by corporate interests that co-owned the entity, in exchange for immense profits.

To Nikos Palatianos and Stergios Karaoglou, the politics of the whole thing were either irrelevant or far too complex to bother with. Taking shelter under the waterproof yellow coats and helmet given to them by the Company, the two men waited for the ship to dock before they could assist with unloading the empty cargo containers and replacing them.

«Ἀπὸ ποῦ λὲς νὰ μᾶς ἦρθε τοῦτο;» ("Where do you think this one came from?") asked Karaoglou, his round, deep eyes bearing the unmistakable Toyou-esque mark of all Lycaonians, as his olive skin attested to the Pelasgian and native Himyari admixture that completed their mix. As if his name was not proof enough that he hailed from the original population that had been brought to the industrial suburb of Nea Lykaonia to work in the factories and mines over a century ago, the short, kind-hearted man never neglected to toy with his amber-yellow worry beads or komboloi as the ship drew closer.

«Ὁ κατάλογος λέει πὼς ἐπιστρέφει ἀπ' τὴν Ὑπερποντιάδα.» ("The list says that it's returning from @Oltremare.") said Palatianos, instinctively inclining his head as he saw the belltower of the Catholic Cathedral way off in the distance. Though he had not been to mass in forever, he had still been raised in the traditional Catholic minority of the Archipelago. Poverty had brought him to Propontis "for a short time to make some money," but fate had placed the golden wedding band on his finger that had kept him there since. «Δὲν μᾶς λέει βέβαια ἀπὸ ποῦ πέρασε στὸ ἐνδιάμεσο διάστημα, ἀλλὰ καλὸ μάλλον θὰ ἦταν νὰ μὴν τὰ μελετάμε αὐτά.» ("Of course, it doesn't tell us where [the ship] passed through on the way there and back, but maybe we should not look into these things.")

Karaoglou lowered his voice and leaned closer. «Πιστεύεις δηλαδὴ τὸν Μπενλεβῆ, ποὺ λέει πὼς ἡ Π.Ε.Α.Ν. πάει ὅπλα 'ς τὸν Χρυσὸ Ποταμό;» ("So do you believe Benlevi, who says that the PFSC smuggles weapons to Rio d'Oro?") (@Ebria )

«Ὁ Μπενλεβί ὁ Ὀβριὸς ψέματα δὲ λέει, ἀλλὰ γιὰ τὸ καλὸ καὶ τῶν δύο μας θὰ σὲ συμβούλευα νὰ ἀποφεύγεις νὰ τοῦ μιλᾷς καὶ νὰ ἀναμεταδίδεις ὅ,τι φῆμες σοῦ μεταδίδει.» ("Benlevi the Jew doesn't lie, but for both of our sakes I'd advise you to avoid talking to him and regurgitating all the rumours that he relays to you,") came the natural response from Palatianos, who scanned their surroundings discretely. They were alone, of course, but the sight of a Coast Guard cutter passing by made him uneasy. «Ἀπὸ πότε στέλνει τὸ Λιμενικὸ περιπολικὰ μέσα 'ς τὸν Κόλπο τῶν Δρομόνων;» ("Since when does the Coast Guard send cutters into Dromones Bay?") he asked.

Karaoglou cracked his back as the ship finally docked and gave a last, hushed answer. «Ἀπὸ τότε ποὺ ἔχει μυστικὰ νὰ διαφυλάξει.» ("Since [the Bay] got secrets worth keeping.") As the noise of the crane covered all in the Bay, the Lykaonian turned to his partner and asked an honest question. «Ἄκουσες πὼς μπορεῖ ἡ Δέσποινα Ἀναστασία νὰ φορέσει τὴν πορφύρα ἔναντι τοῦ ἀδελφοῦ της;» ("Did you hear that Despoina* Anastasia may wear the purple instead of her brother?")
*A title for a female child of a reigning emperor, equivalent to a princess

«Τὸ αμφιβάλλω φίλτατε,» ("I doubt it, good friend,") replied Palatianos. «Δὲν ἔχει βασιλεύσει 'ς τὴν Τιβυρία γυναίκα ἀπὸ τὸν καιρὸ τῆς Ἁγίας Εἰρήνης.» ("A woman hasn't reigned in Tiburia since the times of Saint Irene.")

Karaoglou shook his head. «Μὰ ἀν ὁ Διάδοχος ἔχει μοιάσει 'ς τὸν ἀδερφό του...» ("But if the Diadochos* has taken after his brother...")
*The main title for the Heir Apparent

Palatianos slapped his colleague in the back of the head. «Δὲ σοῦ εἶπα νὰ μὴν ἀναπαράγεις φῆμες ρε Καραόγλου; Νὰ μπλέξουμε προσπαθεῖς;» ("Didn't I tell you not repeat rumours, Karaoglou? Are you trying to get us in trouble?")
 

Pelasgia

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Sep 30, 2014
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Location
Athens, Greece
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Ixus, Propontis M.P.

Making up most of X Urban Region of Propontis, on the city's far eastern border with the Theme of the Optimatoi, Ixus was a quiet, forested region, known for its villas and the wealth of its citizens. A model city by any measure, it boasted architectural marvels from each period of Propontine history, each with a tall fence and a large garden, and each home to a well-off family. The southernmost part of the district was more urban and had multi-unit residences, but even there gardens, parks and forests gave the impression that the suburban condo buildings were somehow lost inside a lush oasis of green. Perhaps the jewel of Ixus was none other than Ixus Park—the largest public area and green space in the entire Metropolitan Prefecture of Propontis.

"You weren't kidding!" Aria remarked as she gazed at her own reflection inside one of the duck ponds near the middle of the park. "This really is like a forest."

"I was only going off what others had told me," Viktoria admitted, with much relief. Ixus stood at the very end of the Propontine metro, and to get to the park one had to take the bus or the tram that regularly went between Ixus Railway Station and the rest of the suburb; the whole trip was quite long, and having made it only to be disappointed would have been quite the let down, after all the fun the two had had thrift-shopping at Himyar Square, peddling with local merchants and enjoying a mix of souvlaki and the various traditional foods local residents from the rest of the Ebony Continent had brought from as far away as @Natal . "I still don't believe that there are deer, though... or jackals."

"Jackals?!" Aria exclaimed, shooting up straight. "We should leave!"

Viktoria laughed. "Oh relax, buta lány, I'm only kidding. The deer are real, though. Them and the owls." The duo continued through the path, under the shade of tall pines and the watchful gaze of the few non-migratory birds that remained as winter drew closer. "We should come back in the summer," Viktoria admitted, as she observed an owl gaze at them, half-asleep.

Aria, however, seemed to ignore her and seized the map that was protruding from Viktoria's tote bag. "What's that?" she said, pointing ahead and then to the map. "It's a... church?"

"A chapel, more like," Viktoria said, reading from the legend. "The 'Chapel of the Dormition of the Virgin,' built as an offering by the Saint Empress Irene." She had hardly finished her sentence before Aria had started forth for the mysterious medieval religious site. "Hey, wait for me!" Viktoria shouted, running after her friend.

Apart from a small plate of loukoumia (or "Pelasgian delights") left at the entrance for visitors (as is custom in Pelasgian churches and monasteries) and from a few prayer candles that still burned in the courtyard, the chapel seemed wholly deserted. "Not even a priest is here," Viktoria murmured, as she and Aria slowly walked through the fencing and into the church yard. (Neither girl neglected to take one... or a few loukoumia.) Aria, suddenly having lost her explorer's spirit, seemed less inclined to keep going straight all the way to the New World and more to turn back and flee for the Park. A deer, too, had stopped just outside the church and was observing the two girls quietly. Viktoria, sensing her friend's fear, raised up her broad shoulders ("like a bouncer's" as Andreas had once joked, earning himself a slap) and pushed the ancient, wooden door of the church in.

"Come on in," Viktoria said, in Pannonian. "It's just a-

«Ἔχεις χαθεῖ, κοριτσάκι μου;» ("Are you lost, my little girl?") asked a soft feminine voice. The softness of the woman's tone made little difference, for Viktoria recoiled at once, only barely holding back a scream. The woman wore a beautiful Tyrian purple dress of the finest silk, with gilded threads forming the decorative motifs of eagles—a masterpiece of southern Pelasgian silk-weaving if Viktoria ever saw one. From her pale neck hanged a golden cross with a beautiful stone of amethyst in the centre, surrounded by four dark sapphires. Viktoria had never seen so fine craftsmanship, and could not help but admire the jewel. It was only the soft touch of the woman that made Viktoria look up: the mysterious woman was pale, not just for a Pelasgian, but even for a Pannonian or a Scanian. From her milky white face stood out two hazel green eyes, while long locks of reddish brown hair hanged to the middle of her chest. The top of the woman's nose seemed to merge seamlessly with her eyebrows, so that one could scarcely tell where the nose ended and the skull began, while her chin was clearly visible but still feminine and soft. Viktoria had never seen a more beautiful woman in her life—so stunning was the sight that she almost failed to notice that the woman's back and shoulders were covered by a dark coat, which she wore over her dress but under her hair.

As Viktoria seemed to have lost her voice, it fell to Aria, who had sneaked from behind her friend's shoulder to answer. "Sorry for sneaking, miss," she said in accented Engellsh, "we didn't know if we were supposed to be here." The woman smiled and took the two girls by the hand. "Why shouldn't you be?" she answered, in her own accented Engellsh. "What's the point of a church if it's not open to all?" She led the girls to the small table that stood by the entrance of the church, placed a banknote in the opening for offerings, and handed each girl a pair of candles from the pile on top of the table.

"What are those for?" Aria asked, scratching her head. Viktoria bumped her discretely, blushing with embarrassment, but the woman laughed and kissed Aria on the forehead. "You aren't Orthodox, are you?" she asked, without expecting an answer. "They're prayers. One for you, and one for someone else—whoever you want it to be, just make sure you think of them when you light the candle."

"Thank you, miss!" Viktoria exclaimed, and she took Aria by the hand to go outside to light the candles from those that were still burning. "What is your name? I'm Viktoria and this is my friend Aria, visiting from @Radilo ."

"Nice to meet you, Viktoria and Aria! My name is Anastasia," replied the woman, and after showing the girls around the old church, she bid waived them goodbye and stayed inside as they left to light their candles. For a moment, pondering the tiny flames on the candle stand, Aria thought to go back inside to talk to Miss Anastasia some more... but the deer that had been waiting for them got closer, catching the two girl's attention, and before they knew it, they were off to the park again, chasing after the beast, which seemed to stop and then start running only as soon as they caught up with it. Back inside the chapel, Anastasia went about making the sign of the cross and kissing each of the icons; it was as if she did not notice the heavy steps that drew closer... or perhaps did she pretend not to?

«Πρέπει νὰ σταματείσετε νὰ τὸ σκάτε ἔτσι μόνη σας, Ὕψηλότατη,» ("You need to stop running off on your own like this, Your Highness,") said a man, whose shadow was taller than hers. Without turning around, Anastasia could already picture him from his voice, which was all too familiar: wide-framed, with thick, dark hair and brown eyes, the protruding chin that was so common among their native race and that pigmentation which was neither pale nor olive, but was just light enough in the winter and tan enough in the summer. «Ὁ πατέρας σας ἀνησυχεῖ, καὶ εἶναι δύσκολο νὰ στείλει χωροφύλακες νὰ σᾶς βροῦν δίχως νὰ τὸ πάρει εἴδηση ὁ κόσμος τῆς Βασιλεύουσας.» ("Your father worries, and it is difficult for him to send out gendarmes to find you without people of the Capital realising what's afoot.")

«Ἐ τότε ἀς πάψει νὰ ἀνησυχεῖ καὶ ἀς μὴν τοὺς στείλει. Δὲν εἶμαι πιὰ μικρὸ παιδί.» ("Then he should stop worrying and not send them. I'm not a child anymore.") came the simple response from the Despotess. Having laid eyes on man behind her, Anastasia saw her suspicions confirmed in the unmistakable likeness of Senator Tivyros Argyropoylos. The onetime protégé of Megas Doux* Nikephoros Andrianopoulos and the youngest man to ever reach the rank of Commodore in the Imperial Navy thanks to the Meridian Sea Piracy Crisis, Argyropoulos still wore his uniform, despite having left the Navy quite some time ago. The medal adorning his chest had been personally given to Argyropoulos by Anastasia's father the day the Despotess had first laid eyes upon him. With that memory in her mind, the Despotess started to turn away, only for the Senator to softly restrain her by the arm.

*The Grand Admiral of the Empire

«Αὐτὸ ἀκριβῶς εἶναι τὸ πρόβλημα.» ("That is precisely the problem.") Argyropoulos replied. «Ἔπρεπε νὰ ἔρθω τρέχοντας ἀπὸ μία δεξίωση τοῦ Ναυτικοῦ γιὰ νὰ σὲ βρῶ, ντυμένος ἔτσι. Ἄλλη φορὰ μπορεῖ νὰ μὴν εἶμαι 'ς τὴν Βασιλεύουσα... Ὅλοι περιμένουν νὰ γίνεις ἐσὺ Αὐγούστα ἔναντι τοῦ ἀδελφοῦ σου. Σκέψου πόσο θὰ ντροπιαστεῖ ἡ οἰκογένειά σου ἀν μαθευτεῖ τὸ ἀνεύθυνο αὐτὸ συνήθειό σου.» ("I had to come running from a Navy gala to find you, dressed like this. Another time, I might not be in the Capital... Everyone expects you be made Augusta instead of your brother. Think of the shame that your family will incur if this irresponsible habit of yours is found out.")

Anastasia turned around and looked Argyropoulos in the eye. «Ἡ Αὐγούστα θέλει Αὔγουστο καὶ ἡ Βασιλεία Βασιλιᾶ. Ντροπὴ εἶναι καὶ νὰ λὲς πὼς ὁ ἀδελφός μου δὲν θὰ διαδεχτεῖ τὸν πατέρα μας ἢ νὰ μὲ ἀγγίζεις... καὶ βλέπω πὼς μοῦ μιλᾷς καὶ 'ς τὸν ἑνικό. Ἣ θυμάσαι τὴν ντροπὴ μόνο ὅταν σὲ συμφέρει;» ("An Augusta needs an Augustus and the Empire needs an Emperor. It is also considered shameful for you to say that my brother will not succeed our father or to lay hands upon me... and I see that you're addressing me in singular* as well. Or do you only remember shame when it suits you?"

*Since the 19th ce., due to Gallo-Germanian influence, Pelasgians use plural in formal contexts or to address people of a higher social status

Argyropoulos took a deep breath; his gaze shifted to his hand but he did not let go. «Δὲν μᾶς ντρέπομαι. Ἀπλὰ ξέρω ὄτι ὑπάρχουν κανόνες.» ("I am not ashamed of us. I just known that there are rules.")

«Ἀφοῦ δὲν ντρέπεσαι, νὰ μὲ ζητήσεις. Καὶ μὴν ἀρχήσεις πάλι νὰ μοῦ λὲς πὼς δὲν προβλέπεται τάχα λόγω τῆς θέσης σου. Οὔτε νὰ ἀγαπιόμαστε προβλέπεται τότε, ἀλλὰ αὐτὸ δὲ σοῦ στάθηκε ἐμπόδιο...» ("If you're not ashamed, then ask for my hand. And don't start about how you're not supposed to ask for me due to your station. If that's the case, we're not supposed to love each other either, but that never was an issue for you...") As the Despotess answered, she placed her hand over his.

«Εἴμαστε μέσα σὲ ἐκκλησία.» ("We're inside a church.") the Senator retorted, offering some final resistance. «Καὶ κατάγομαι ἀπὸ Πατρίκιους δεύτερης κατηγορίας. Μόνο χάρη 'ς τὸν Μεγάλο Δοῦκα καὶ τὸν Μεγάλο Λογοθέτη ἔγινα Συγκλητικός.» ("And I'm descended from second-class Patricians. I only became a Senator thanks to the Megas Doux and the Grand Secretary.")

«Ὁ γάμος εἶναι μυστήριο τοῦ Θεοῦ.» ("Marriage is a sacrament.") Anastasia offered. «Καὶ 'μεις οἱ Κομνηνόπουλοι δὲν ἤμαστε παρὰ ἕνα μάτσο ἐπαρχιῶτες, μέχρι νὰ πάρουμε τὴν πορφύρα.» ("And we Komnenopouloi were mere provincials as well, until we seized the Purple.")

Almost fuming, Argyropoulos exhaled and admitted defeat. «Ἐ τότε θὰ σὲ ζητήσω! Ἀλλὰ ἀν μὲ ἀρνηθεῖ ὁ πατέρας σου, θὰ πᾶς σὲ μοναστήρι!» ("Fine, then I'll ask for your hand! But if your father denies me, you'll go to a convent!") The Despotess was now smiling widely, partially out of satisfaction and partially to tease her suitor. «Μὲ μεγάλη μου χαρά, καὶ μάρτυς μου ἡ Παναγία! Μόνο νὰ 'ναι κοντὰ 'ς τὸ μοναστήρι ποὺ θὰ πάει ὁ ἀδερφός μου!») ("With pleasure, and the Virgin Mary be my witness! Only, as long as it's close to the monastery where my brother will go.") The Senator's grip had tightened on the Despotess' arm, and he was now truly holding her. Yet, with the same ease that she had taken the two Pannonian girls' hands before, Anastasia took Tivyros' hand off her arm and then held it into her own, walking with him outside and toward the park. For a few moments, they walked like this, as if to seal their promise before the chapel's Lady. It was only when the voices of a few park guards sounded in the distance that they let go.

Somewhere deep in the park, the deer had let Aria and Viktoria catch up with and pet it, resting calmly. Perhaps it had fulfilled its goal.
 
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Pelasgia

Established Nation
Joined
Sep 30, 2014
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4,200
Location
Athens, Greece
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Demos
Valls, Ebria

Nikoletta had lived in @Ebria for almost a year when . Until then, her father had been an afterthought, a distant memory: a vague, tall figure appearing at the threshold of her home, back she had been only slightly taller than the base of the coat-hanger that stood beside the door. Photos of him dotted the family home back in Propontis, and his office remained empty, with degrees, certificates and notable achievements adorning its walls—all neatly dusted and cleaned by Nikoletta's mother, but never used. Nikoletta had long dreamt of meeting the man himself, even after she had come to accept that that would likely never happen; and then, one day, he called her. It had been four months since then, and every day she had patiently waited in the mail for a postcard or letter of some kind, which would tell her and her mother where to move and to meet him. Her mother had hoped for @The Federation , a place where freedom of speech was held to an almost sacred status, and thus a journalist fleeing prosecution would be welcomed and never sent home; for her part, ever the adventurer, Nikoletta thought of @Tianlong , a country large enough to withstand pressure from the whole world combined (much less Propontis) and with enough trade links that the Empire would think twice before causing a fuss over a single escaped dissident. Deep down, however, she hoped there would be some realistic way of staying in Ebria, where she had come to feel somewhat at home, even if she knew the Ebrian Crown Lands' proximity to the Empire's Meridian Core made such a trip on the part of her father almost suicidal.

Day in and day out, Nikoletta went to her classes the University of Valls (where she was still formally on "exchange" from the Imperial and Patriarchal University of Propontis), socializing with both the locals and the countless foreigners who came to the Reino Unido to study, including many Pelasgians. The people of Valls were a liberal sort, and though she did not divulge her family history to them, she knew that they would mind, if the time ever came that she would have to explain. She went out to the city's world-famous nightclub district, partied, enjoyed herself and laughed, as befits a young woman. In only a handful of months, Nikoletta had come to learn the road grid and metro system of the Ebrian royal capital better than many locals, according to her friend, María. "It is only proper," Rodrigo, another friend had pointed out in turn. "I doubt most locals have been to as many bars and concerts in three years as Nikoletta goes to in three weeks." To pay for all this fun and games, Nikoletta worked not one, not two, but three jobs: she was an assistant to a professor, she waited tables at the university club and she even tutored the children of a couple of Pelasgian expat families in Valls. It was while waiting tables that she had met Aleksandar, a Serbovian music grad student who also worked at the university club, and with whom she had gotten quite close.

"You know," Aleksandar said, as they were walking home (her home) one night after their shift. "You're the first expatriate I ever meet who's not missed home. It's been half a year already, and you're still in the... how you say, 'moon of honey' phase?"

Nikoletta laughed almost maniacally—Aleksandar's Engellsh was what his fellow Serbovians called 'so bad it's good,' and she loved it. "It's 'honeymoon,' Alex! And yes, I'm sure I'll miss Tiburia at some point, probably next summer, but by that point... who knows." The duo paused before the door to her apartment building, and Aleksandar frowned, no doubt wondering whether he could come up or not. "Is, uh..."

"My mother here?" Nikoletta asked, having heard this line in the exact some accent seven times already, every time as if it was their first. "No, she's likely out with co-workers. They have some cocktail for a retiring colleague, so she'll be out for a while." Her words seemed to put a smile on the Serbovian's face, and he could not resist kissing her then and there. Nikoletta humoured him for a moment or two, but then she softly pushed him off and unlocked the door, taking the stairs to the third floor, confidently and without trying to soften their steps at all.

"You've got protection, I imagine?" Nikoletta asked, wishing to avoid the embarrassing late-night run to a pharmacy of the previous time. "Why, yes, my love," Aleksandar replied. "Safety is first priority!" Nikoletta laughed and unlocked the door to her apartment—only for her jaw to drop at who was inside. "Mother?" she asked, blushing so hard she could feel the vessels pumping blood through her face. "What- " She turned around and realised Aleksandar had already come in. "This is Aleksandar, my boyfriend..."

Her mother looked up, shocked, almost as if she had not realised that the pair had come in. "Good evening, my love," she said, visibly holding back tears. As if she had not heard her daughter's words, she extended out an unsealed envelope that she had been holding in her hand, inviting Nikoletta to take it. "It's from your dad." Nikoletta's eyebrows shot up and she rushed forward to read the letter—only, she never got past the cover of the envelope before the postage stamp caught her eye. It had been sent from Pelasgia!


Propontis, Pelasgia

Somewhere in the distance, an ever so slight vibration shook the ground above. As was well known, line 4 of the Propontis metro passed just beneath the point where the government buildings housing the Imperial Gendarmerie's National Headquarters and the Imperial Secret Service (or Krypteia) met. It was said that that location had been chosen because the works undertaken to reinforce a nearby medieval cistern had made working through the area easier, as it was already well-known and mapped by the state engineers who had planned the project. Others, of course, suspected that it had also been chosen to give the Krypteia a way into the underground transit networks, connecting them with its own, classified subterranean railway lines, which linked various key points across the capital and provided an easy evacuation route in case of war. Whatever the case, the whole thing was a feat of engineering—but for those held in the Krypteia's deep underground cells, it certainly did not appear that way.

«Τ' ἀκοῦς;» ("Hear that?") said Sergeant Neapolites, as he rolled down the sleeves of his shirt and prepared to put on his tunic. «Εἶναι ὁ Χάρος ποὺ ἦρθε νὰ σὲ πάρει!» ("It's Death*, he's come to take you!"). The Sergeant must have found his own joke particularly funny, for could not help but laugh. The prisoner, for his part, showed no reaction, other than slightly nodding his head. Tied to a chair for so many days and nights he had lost track of time (how could he not have, stuck in a cell inside the bowels of the earth, even beneath the metro?), he was barely certain whether anything he saw around him was real. Perhaps Death had come for him already, and this was Hell. The pain certainly felt real. He almost fell out of consciousness again, before the sharp clicking of the Sergeant's heels on the floor roused him.

*Charon, the ferryman of the ancient Arcadian underworld is still used as a metaphor for death in Pelasgia

«Κύριε Ἀντισυνταγματάρχα!» ("Lt. Colonel, sir!") cried out the gendarme in the half-buttoned up tunic, hastily saluting. «Δὲ μοῦ εἶπαν νὰ σᾶς περιμένω.» ("I wasn't told to expect you.") Rigas returned the salute and motioned the Sergeant to stand at ease. «Δὲν προανήγγειλα τὴν ἄφοιξή μου.» ("I did not announce my arrival in advance.") he replied simply, moving closer to inspect the prisoner. To the untrained eye, the man chained to the chair must have seemed mostly alright, even if tired. Sleep deprivation and starvation for days rarely leave visible marks on the body, and neither do castor-oil feeding, blasting loud music, sensory deprivation, sleeping in a frozen cell or the other favoured methods of the Emperor's Own Krypteia. A closer examination would perhaps reveal marks of beating under the soles of the feet or of a baton coated in rubber and fabric, to avoid leaving marks. Alas, Rigas had no need of forensics: he knew the trade and the methods of his fellow gendarmes seconded to the Secret Service all too well. The man had been tortured, but in a way that could never be conclusively proven in court: a few days of good feeding and sleep before any trial, and he would appear good as new, ready to give his confession. «Λύστε τοῦ τὰ χέρια καὶ βάλτε τὸν νὰ κάτσει καλὰ 'ς τὴν καρέκλα.» ("Remove his restraints and sit him upright.")

The Sergeant could not help but be shocked. «Παρακαλῶ;» ("Excuse me?") Rigas only turned around and stared at his subordinate angrily, and the order was carried out. «Ἀφῆστε μας μόνους.» ("Leave us alone.") came the next order, which was obeyed without question. Rigas removed his coat and put it over the shoulders of the half-naked prisoner, before taking another chair and sitting across from him. «Καλησπέρα σας, κ. Ἀπόστολε Τιβεριάδη.» ("Good evening, Mr. Apostolos Tiveriades.") Rigas asked.

«Ἀν ξέρεις ποιὸς εἶμαι τότε ξέρεις ὄτι μπορῶ νὰ σὲ σκοτώσω μὲ τὰ ἴδιά μου τὰ χέρια.» ("If you know who I am, then you know that I can kill you with my bare arms.") responded the other. Rigas' gaze shifted to the prisoner's mighty muscles, hardened by almost a decade of hard labour, almost instinctively. His response, however, was calm and collected, showing not a hint of fear. «Ναί. Μὰ ξέρω ἐπίσης γιατὶ δὲ θὰ τὸ κάνεις.» ("Yes. But I also know why you won't.")

Finally, Apostolos looked up, his deep, brown eyes staring right into those of the pale officer across from him. «Γιατί;» ("Why's that?") Rigas could not help but smile and place his right leg on his left knee perpendicularly. «Διότι εἶμαι ὁ μοναδικὸς ἄνθρωπος ποὺ μπορεὶ νὰ σὲ βοηθήσει νὰ ξαναδεῖς τὴν οἰκογένειά σου.» ("Because I'm the only man who can help you see your family again.") Apostolos' look softened and he leaned in, covering himself with Rigas' overcoat, which had the black and silver markings of military intelligence at both edges of the collar. «Τῶρα ποὺ ἔχω τὴν προσοχή σου, ἀς πάρουμε τὰ πράγματα ἀπὸ τὴν ἀρχὴ. Σὲ ἔπιασε τὸ Λιμενικὸ λαθραία ἐπιβαίνοντα 'ς τὸ φορτηγὸ πλοῖο "Ἄντγιε", σημαίας Σαλίας, ὑπ' ἀρ. ἐγγραφῆς 7121113, σωστά;» ("Now that I have your attention, let's take things from the start. The Coast Guard caught you incognito aboard the freighter Antje, Salen-flagged, registration no. 7121113, correct?")

The two men's conversation went on through the night and past noon of the next day, until Rigas finally exited at around 2 p.m. the next day. The Sergeant had nearly fallen asleep on a chair outside when knocking on the door woke him up. He opened to small window looking into the cell, with his hand on his gun for fear of who it might have been... only to see the Lt. Colonel staring back at him through the one-way glass. The prisoner, Rigas explained, had folded. He would sign a statement recanting all his calumnies about the Imperial Dynasty and exposing his collaborators as liars and frauds, and he would also acknowledge that he had spied on the Empire for foreign interests. He would give up all the sources and documents he had at his hidden away to the authorities, and he would never work in media again. He had refused to directly give up any source... though, Rigas was pretty certain that the documents he had agreed to give up would do that for him. All this, in exchange for a conditional pardon and the right to return home and live with his family.

The Sergeant was quite shocked. «Κύριε Ἀντισυνταγματάρχα, πῶς καταφέρατε νὰ τὸν πείσετε νὰ μᾶς τὰ δώσει ὅλα αὐτά;» ("Lt. Colonel, sir, how did you manage to convince him to give us all that?")

Rigas touched his wedding band and put on his cap. «Χρησιμοποίησα μία μέθοδο ποὺ μοῦ ἔμαθε μιὰ παλιά μου κατώτερη.» ("I used a method taught to me by an old subordinate of mine.") The Sergeant could not help but be impressed. «Ἀν ἐπιτρέπεται, μπορεῖτε νὰ μοῦ πεῖτε τὶ ἀκριβῶς κάνατε δηλαδή;» ("Would it be possible to tell me exactly what you did?") Rigas shook his head, for the answer seemed obvious to him: «Θυμήθηκα ὄτι ἔχω ἀπέναντί μου ἄνθρωπο, καὶ φέρθηκα ἀνάλογα.» ("I remembered that I have a human being across from me, and I acted accordingly.")
 
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Pelasgia

Established Nation
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Sep 30, 2014
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4,200
Location
Athens, Greece
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Demos
Propontis, Pelasgia

A bell loudly tolled thrice, signaling that it was three in the afternoon. The large chandelier at the centre of the church vibrated with the chiming of the bell. It was too heavy to move about, but the chains that kept it in place right beneath the church's dome mimicked the rhythm of the bell's tolling. The golden dome that stood above the centre was not adorned with the mosaic of Christ and his apostles that was to be found in the same location in almost all other Orthodox churches; instead, a simple cross, surrounded by geometric shapes and patterns, appeared. The same was true of the apse of the church, the diakonikon, in Pelasgian, where another humble cross was the only adornment. This was not shock to anyone who was familiar with the history of the city: Hagia (or Saint) Photine, one of the three oldest churches in Propontis, was the only major iconoclastic church left in the Queen of Cities. It thus still bore the decorations of that long-dead religious-political faction of the Empire's politics, having, for whatever reason, never had its walls and mosaics altered to reflect the victory of the iconophiles a millenium ago.

Under Hagia Photine's spacious dome, one would find a peculiar mix of politicians and military men: the former because the church was located inside the bouleutica district of the IV Urban Region of Propontis, which was the traditional quarter where most lawmakers lived, and the latter because the church was a mere stone's toss away from the stratiotika or "military" district, particularly the Central Military Hospital of the city. It would thus be quite an ordinary sight to see richly dressed ladies and scions of political families and humble conscripts or junior officers lighting candles side by side. Perhaps the laconic decoration of Hagia Photine allowed the former to reflect away from a life of luxury and the latter in the peace and simplicity that military men seemed to value. Whatever the case for most of the church's visitors, two of them, had neither prayer nor humble aspirations in mind that day.

«Καλησπέρα σας, ἐξοχότατε.» ("Good afternoon, your excellency.") started a man with a greying black beard and piercing blue eyes that were a rarity among Pelasgians. Wearing the uniform of a senior officer of the Imperial Gendarmerie, he kept a peaked cap lightly pressed between his arm and body, freeing up his hands to light up a candle. As he did so, the flame at the top of the candle flickered and reflected on his nametag: Angelopoulos A. Of course, his interlocutor, a silver-haired man with slightly olive skin, dressed in a fine royal blue suit and tie, had no need for the man's nametag in order to know his name.

«Ἀνδρόνικε,» ("Andronikos,") he started, «Δὲ σοῦ 'χω πεῖ νὰ μὴ μὲ προσφωνεὶς μὲ τὸν τίτλο μου σὰν ξένος; Κι ἀς εἶμαι σεβαστοκράτωρ, πρῶτα ἀπ' ὅλα εἶμαι πεθερός σου.» ("Have I not told to not address me by my title, like some stranger? Though I may be a Sebastokrator, I am first and foremost your father in law." As he said so, Nikolaos Komnenopoulos made the sign of the cross and walked away from the candle stand, with his son-in-law following him. Almost instinctively, he adjusted the pin that he wore: an eight-pointed star with wavy rays, surrounded by beautiful floral patterns—the badge of office of the Eparch or Metropolitan Prefect of Propontis. «Ἀν καί, ἐδῶ ποὺ τὰ λέμε, τὰ οἰκογενειακά μου μοῦ προκαλοῦν μεγάλους πονοκεφάλους αὐτὸ τὸν καιρό...» ("Though, truth be told, family matters are the source of many a headache these days...")

Stroking his beard, Andronikos could not held but tease his father in law. «Δηλαδὴ δὲν ἐνθουσιάζεστε ἀπὸ τὴν προοπτικὴ μίας Βασιλίσσης τῶν Τιβυραίων; Ἤ συμβασιλίσσης, ἀν ἐν τέλει ὁ μεγαλειότατος ἀδελφός σας ἀποφασίσει νὰ εὐλογίσει τὸν γάμο της μὲ τὸν πολυετὴ πλέον "σύντροφό" της.» ("So you are not enthused by the prospect of an Empress of the Tiburans? Or a co-empress, if your most majestic brother ends up deciding to bless her marriage with her multi-year 'partner'.")

Nikolaos Komnenopoulos was immune to the teasing of all, even his own son-in-law. Perhaps it had been the challenge of raising three daughters as royalty without spoiling them; perhaps it had been the discipline of the military or that of a younger brother to the Heir of the Sublime Throne; maybe it had even been so many years of running one of Europe's largest cities, managing everything from its policing to its sewers without fault. Maybe it had been all of that or none of it. Whatever the case, the Sebastokrator of Pelasgia (the sole living one, that is) was a man wholly impervious to emotional manipulation and as expressionless as a mountain, if he wanted to be, perhaps even more so than his brother, the famously stoic Emperor Theodore. Caring not for mockery, he cut straight to the chase. «Ἡ ἀνιψιά μου, ἡ Ἀναστασία, εἶναι ἄνθρωπος ἐγωμανὴς καὶ ἀπερίσκεπτος, παντελῶς ἀκατάλληλη γιὰ κάθε εἴδους ἐξουσία, ἀν καὶ ἄριστη ῥαδιουργός. Βέβαια, πῶς ἀλλιῶς θὰ μποροῦσε νὰ εἶχε καταλήξει, ἀφότου τὴν ἔχει κακομάθει ὁ ἀδελφός μου, εἰδικὰ ἀφοῦ ἔμαθε τὴν... ἀλήθεια γιὰ τὸν ἀνιψιό μου, ποὺ φέρει δυστυχῶς καὶ τὸ ὄνομα τοῦ πατέρα μας.» ("My niece, Anastasia, is a self-absorbed and careless person, wholly unsuited to holding any sort of power, even if she is an excellent conspirator. Then again, how else could she have ended up, given how much my brother has spoiled her... especially after learning the truth about my nephew, who has the misfortune of bearing our father's name.")

«Τότε σκέφτεστε αὐτὸ ποὺ σκέφτομαι καὶ ἐγώ.» ("So we are of the same mind, then.") As he replied, Andronikos could not help but smile—he had always been an ambitious and ruthless man, calculating by nature. How could he note have been? The grandson to the illegitimate half-sister of one empress and the husband of the niece of another, his very existence was the product of strategic marriages of people moving closer and closer to the Throne. The Angelopouloi had started off as a rustic cadet branch of the long-defunct Angelos noble family, only to eclipse both their parent house and many of the Capital's most prominent political and patrician households. This they had done through careful politicking and even more careful breeding. That was, in a sense, what had drawn Andronikos to the Emperor's Own Gendarmerie and to the Krypteia: the chance to prey upon powerful and skilled players of the Empire's politics in their own right. Many a coup, senatorial conspiracy or opposition group had been nipped in the bud by the Brigadier General with the icy stare—who was to say he could not aim higher?

«Τὸ σκεφτόμουν πρὶν κὰν γεννηθείς, μικρέ,» ("I was thinking it before you were even born, kid,") came to ready response from Komnenopoulos. «Τῶρα γύρνα πίσω στὴ δουλειά σου καὶ συνέχισε ὅπως πρίν. Θὰ σὲ ἐνημερώσω ἐγὼ γιὰ τὶς ἐπόμενες κινήσεις μας, ἀφοῦ μιλήσω μὲ ὀρισμένους φίλους μας στὴ Σύγκλητο.» ("Go back to work and continue as before. I'll update you on our next moves, after I speak with certain friends of ours in the Senate.")

Andronikos could not help but raise an eyebrow. «Στὴ Σύγκλητο;» ("The Senate?")

Komnenopoulos nodded, his gaze betraying a slight hint of annoyance at his protégé and legal heir. «Ναί. Ἐκείνη δὲν ἀνακηρύσσει τοὺς ἀυτοκράτορες;» ("Yes. It's the body that names the emperors, is it not?"


(OOC: Last political RP post for a bit, mostly to establish characters mentioned in the recent news post. Next up: everyone's favourite boarding school!)
 

Pelasgia

Established Nation
Joined
Sep 30, 2014
Messages
4,200
Location
Athens, Greece
Nick
Demos
Propontis, Pelasgia

Though often described as a model boarding school for gifted students, the Great School of Nation was, in honest truth, an institution without parallel in the entire world. Its grounds, especially the castle-like red brick building, with its expansive internal garden and the emblematic red tower at the very heart of the complex, put those of many universities to shame—a fact that becomes even more remarkable when one realises that the Great School is wholly funded by the State and the Ecumenical Patriarchate, requiring not an obol in fees from any students except the remarkably wealthy ones. Its selection is wholly meritocratic, taking neither pedigree nor any extracurricular activities into account, unlike many other prestigious schools in other countries. Its student body hails from every corner of the Empire (and even from Pelasgian expatriate communities abroad), instead of being the reserve of any one regional elite. The school's origins are practically ancient, dating to the 4th century when it was founded by Tiberian the Great, alongside the University of Propontis (whose grounds are located right next door)—again dwarfing most universities in seniority, let alone more junior educational institutions. For better or for worse, the Great School was one of a kind, being de jure headed directly by the Ecumenical Patriarch and taught by some of the finest scholars the Empire had to offer, many of them worthy of a university professorship in their own right.

These had all been the things that Viktoria (like any other student on this side of the Meridian) had heard back when she had decided to try for the Great School, back when her Pelasgian had been much more accented and the memory of her home in Kispest still fresh. What she had not expected, however, was the price that one paid to study at such a prestigious institution, essentially being railroaded toward a career path in the highest echelons of the Empire's government, business, culture and academia: the isolation. As she waited at the main hall, the pale, slender young woman found herself surrounded by the baggage of those preparing to head out to their respective hometowns, by train, by plane or by boat. Even the native Propontines had packed some rudimentary luggage, taking away books and other study materials from their allotted dorm rooms in case they needed to study over the winter break. Above the sea of heads in winter caps, Viktoria's deep blue eyes caught sight of the pair of portraits that hanged at the centre of the far wall: that of the Emperor and that of the Ecumenical Patriarch.

«Ἐλπίζω νὰ ξέρεις πλέον πρὸς τὰ ποῦ εἶναι ὁ χῶρος τῆς προσευχῆς.» ("I hope you know which way the assembly hall is by now.") Said Andreas is a slightly mocking tone. It was there that they had met,
, when she had still been a newly admitted student, ironically because of her staring at the paintings. Viktoria shook her head and softly shoved Andreas, though she could not help but smile. She dodged the question, preferring to address the matter at hand, for Andreas, too, had a suitcase with him. «Πότε φεύγει τὸ τρένο σου;» ("When does your train leave?")

«'ς κανὰ δύωρο,» ("In couple of hours,") came the response from Andreas. For a moment, he almost asked her when her own train to Aspropol would be leaving, before recalling that her family had moved to Propontis to be with her. «Σοῦ λείπει ποτὲ ἡ Ἀσπρούπολη;» ("Do you ever miss Aspropol?") he asked. Viktoria frowned, having never pondered the matter before. «Ἡ ἴδια ἡ πόλη, ὄχι τόσο. Οὔτε πρόφτασα νὰ κάνω καὶ πολλοὺς φίλους ἐκεῖ. Θὰ γελάσεις, ἀλλὰ μοῦ λείπει ἡ διαδρομὴ νομίζω καὶ τὸ αἴσθημα ὄτι ἔχω ἕνα σπίτι κάπου ἀλλοῦ. Τῶρα θὰ φύγετε ὅλοι, καὶ 'γω θὰ μείνω μόνη μου γιὰ κανὰ μήνα.» ("Not the city itself, so much. Nor did I have enough time to make many friends there. You'll laugh, but I miss the journey there, and the feeling that I have a home somewhere else. Now you're all leaving, and I'll be by myself for nearly a month.")

Andreas understood better than most—though he himself had other worries. «Μπὰ, σὲ καταλαβαίνω. Κι ἐγὼ ποὺ ἔχω χωριὸ ποὺ λένε, κάθε φορὰ ποὺ γυρίζω πίσω νιώθω ὅλο καὶ πιὸ ξένος. Ξέρεις, τὶς προάλλες, μία φίλη μου μοῦ εἶπε "ἐσεὶς οἱ Προπόντιοι"...» ("Nah, I get you. Even I, having a home away from home as they say, feel more and more like a stranger every time I go back. You know, last time, a friend of mine said to me 'You Propontines'...") Neither of them said a word for a second, until Andreas leaned closer to his friends ear. «Τέλος πάντων, δὲν εἶσαι καὶ μόνη σου! Ἔχεις τὴν Ἄρια... καὶ ἀρκετοὺς συμμαθητές μας πρωτευουσιάνους. Μπορεὶς νὰ κάνεις παρέα μὲ τὴν Ἀθηνά, φέρ' εἰπεῖν.» ("Anyway, it's not like you're all by yourself! You have Aria... and plenty of our classmates are from the capital. For instance, you can hang out with Athina.") No sooner had Andreas finished his sentence than Viktoria had shoved him again, this time with her elbow and quite forcefully. Alas, it was all to his amusement, for Viktoria really had a temper when he angered her.

«Λοιπόν, ἐγὼ πρέπει νὰ τὴν κάνω.» ("Anyway, I have to get going.") Andreas remarked, after a few more shoves on the part of the ginger Pannonian woman who was almost at his height. Viktoria stopped and gave him a bewildered look, as if she had swallowed her tongue. Andreas was really taken aback, for, though he valued her friendship, he hadn't known that she had grown that attached to him. «Νὰ ἔρθω μαζί σου;» ("Can I come with you?") Viktoria asked, shyly, after a few seconds' pause. «'ς τὸν σταθμὸ ἐννοώ.» ("To the station, I mean.") The olive-skinned youngster from the Metaxadon Theme didn't give it much though, even if his friend had already seen the station a thousand times by now. «Γιατὶ ὄχι; Θὲς νὰ ποῦμε καὶ 'ς τὴ φὶλη σου τὴν Ἄρια, ἀν δὲν τὸν ἔχει ξαναδεῖ τὸν σταθμό;» ("Why not? Want to invite your friend Aria too, if she hasn't been before?")

Viktoria blushed slightly and shook her head. «Μπά, θὰ τὴν δῶ πιὸ βράδυ, ἄσε ποὺ ἔχει πάει ἤδη κάμποσες φορές.» ("Nah, I'll see her later tonight, on top of her having been a few times already.") She could feel her heart jump as she gave that answer—fortunately for her, Andreas didn't press the matter further. Much as he had enjoyed Aria's company when they all went to the football stadium together, Pelasgians didn't really enjoy hanging out with foreigners who didn't speak their own language, for it meant they had to switch between the two. The two of them thus took off for Propontis Central Metropolitan Railway Station, choosing to walk instead of taking the jam-packed metro that would be full of students like them and others heading home for the holidays. After all, the Station was not that far off from the Pandidacterium quarter of the II Urban Region, where the Great School of the Nation was located.

Between banter about who did better (or perhaps worse?) at the recent meet against the Model School of the University of Thermi and the Evangelical School of Krini and gossip about schools friends ranging from Markos to Chrysanthos, the two students made it to the Station before they even realised. Still, as they drew closer and closer to the platform, Viktoria could not help but feel her stomach turn. Just as they stopped next to the train, Andreas finished some joke about Chrysanthos getting caught sneaking out of school during gym class and being suspended, and laughed—Viktoria watched his mouth as he spoke, but the words went in one ear and out the other. It was only her friend's laughter that cued her in to the fact that he was done, and she let out a forced giggle as well.

Andreas blinked. Crap, she thought. He must know I faked it. Truly, had she been able to observe herself that day, she would have realised how... off she seemed. At any rate, the Great School's IM swimmer gave no sign of dismay, and he prepared to offer his goodbyes. «Τέλος πάντων, νὰ πηγαίνω σιγὰ σιγά. Εὐχαριστὼ γιὰ τὴν παρέα, Βικτωρία.» ("Anyway, I should get going. Thanks for keeping me company, Viktoria.") Viktoria, without even thinking, touched Andreas' arm and kept her hand there for a second. «Ἀντρέα,» ("Andreas,") she started, using the vernacular form of his name*. «Ξέρεις... Σὲ συμπαθὼ πολύ... καὶ... εἶσαι καλὸ παιδί...» ("You know... I enjoy your company a lot... and... you're a really good guy...") She wanted to keep going, but with her heart beating so loud she could practically hear it, she somehow lost her voice. Viktoria was blushing so much she could feel her skin burning—but not another word could come out.
*Antréas, where the t is pronounced d, instead of the formal Andréas, where the d is pronounced ð.

Andreas pondered at her with his deep, brown eyes for a moment, silently. «Καὶ 'γω σὲ συμπαθώ, Βικτωρία, εἶσαι καλὴ κοπέλα.» ("I enjoy your company too, Viktoria, you're a great person as well.") Viktoria could not move a muscle. As clueless as could be, Andreas leaned in to hug her, with a few "air-kisses" next to the cheeks (the customary greeting or goodbye gesture between friends regardless of gender in Pelasgia) and then walked back, turning toward his train. «Καλὲς γιορτές, Βικτωρία μου! Τὰ λέμε τὸν Γενάρη.» ("Happy Holidays*, Viktoria! See you in January!") The Pannonian girl, whose blush had now given way to a nearly sickly palour (even more than her normal skin tone) forced a hand up to waive goodbye and returned the wish so mechanically she could not even remember saying the words a second later.
*In Pelasgian, "Happy Holidays" refers to Christmas, New Year's, Saint Basil's Feast and Epiphany. It is a catch-all religious and traditional (rather than secular) seasonal greeting.

As the high-speed rail heading for the Empire's southern border sped off a few moments later, Viktoria did not even notice that it had been the same train she had taken (down to the serial number on the side), from this exact platform, several years prior, when she had first moved to Aspropol. So caught up was she in her own thoughts. A fenébe is! she kept repeating in her thoughts, cursing herself above all else. Istenem, miért vagyok én ilyen idióta?!

Only a few floors underground, a metro train pulling in from the heart of the city was bringing in Apostolos Tiveriades, now dressed in a clean shirt and a new set of clothes that had been bought only a few days prior, as a gift from a certain Colonel Kavallaris of the Imperial Gendarmerie (unbeknownst to Tiveriades, the purchase would be reported to the Colonel's superiors and reimbursed as an operational expense of the Krypteia). Not that he would have cared either way: as he stepped out of the train to see a brown-haired slender young woman and an older woman who looked like the older version of the first, he could hardly contain his tears. His wife run up to him immediately to hug him and kiss him, something which they had not done in over a decade. For her part, Nikoletta smiled but stayed back for a few moments, unsure if she even truly recognised the man who had once towered over her and used to lift her up with ease. As if she knew this through a fifth sense, Apostolos' wife, Paraskevi, walked up to her daughter, still holding her husband's arm. «Νικολέττα, γύρισε ὁ πατέρας σου.» ("Nikoletta, your father is back.") At that point, neither of them could resist a long-deserved embrace.
 
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Pelasgia

Established Nation
Joined
Sep 30, 2014
Messages
4,200
Location
Athens, Greece
Nick
Demos
Propontis, Pelasgia

For over a decade, Apostolos Tiveriades had lived away from any form of real civilisation, let alone any art. On the islet of Megali Xera, a place of exile used by the Pelasgians and the Tiburans since ancient days to displace their internal political enemies and to work them to death, the most elaborate structure was the small chapel of Saint Nicholas, which stood just opposite the firebrick complex that housed the island's inmantes, built by one of the batches sent there in the 1940s. Inside the oppressive walls of that prison, one could find nothing but the carvings of desperate men, and the occasional icon and portrait of the Emperor hanging on the wall of the assembly room. Outside, only the harsh open sea and the rocky, inhospitable terrain of that open-air prison could be seen, with the occasional seagull passing by. Even a crab or an octopus coming ashore was a rarity, for there was naught to eat.

How wild, how surreal, then, it must have seemed for the ex-convict to gaze upon the 40-meter tall Column of Tiberian, with the bronze statue of the ruler who commissioned it almost a thousand years ago, at the heart of the Forum, the civic heart of Propontis and all of Pelasgia. All around the monumental pillar were ornate buildings in a the old Propontine style, and whole seas of people, more of them in the shade of the monument than lived on all of Megali Xera at a time. Behind Apostolos, inside Imperial Museum, stood many of the great works of art and history, dating from the all the way to the world-famous Statues of Archidotus of Makri, produced in the 18th century. Or so, Nikoletta figured, as she watched her father stare out the window of the Museum's third floor in utter awe and disbelief.

Somewhere inside, she pitied him. How much must a man be deprived of to be amazed at the sight of his native city? she thought to herself. Her mother, standing just beside her, must have thought the same no doubt. For her part, Nikoletta was almost equally amazed at finally having her father in her life again. It had been nearly thirteen years since she had been told by her mother that, henceforth, she was to consider her father dead and to say so to anyone who inquired. "Lost on a maritime voyage," she would always explain to people. By the time she was old enough to understand why, it had been so long that she had given up on the dream of seeing her father again altogether. But now, after all this time... there he was. He hasn't changed all that much, Nikoletta judged, scanning the dark-eyed, wide-shouldered man from top to bottom. He has just aged.

«Ἀπόστολε,» ("Apostolos",) Nikoletta's mother, Euterpe, called out calmly but firmly, «Θὰ πάμε νὰ δοῦμε τὸν "Νεομάρτυρα" τοῦ Πετροπουλίδη; Ἡ Νικολέττα εἶχε γράψει ἐργασία γι' αὐτὸ τὸ ἄγαλμα 'ς τὸ λύκειο.» ("Are we going to see Petropoulides' Neomartyr? Nikoletta wrote an essay on that statue back in lyceum*.") Apostolos seemed to return to consciousness as if escaping a trance and, wearing the brightest smile that he had, he approached his family. «Ἀλήθεια, ἐ; Ἐ τότε πρέπει νὰ μᾶς πεῖς τὰ πάντα γι' αὐτό, Νικολέττα μου! Καὶ ἀπὸ βδομάδα, ὅταν πάμε νὰ δοῦμε τὸν θεῖο σου 'ς τὸ Σκουτάρι νὰ τοῦ πεῖς νὰ σοῦ δείξει τὰ σχέδιά ποὺ εἴχε κάνει μὲ διάφορα ἀγάλματα τοῦ Πετροπουλίδη ὅταν ἦταν 'ς τὴ Σχολὴ Καλῶν Τεχνῶν.» ("Is that so? Well, then, my Nikoletta, you have to tell us everything about it! And, next week, when we go to see your uncle in Scutari, tell him to show you his draughts of various Petropoulides statues from when he was in the [Imperial] Fine Arts Academy.")
*Lyceum is the last level of secondary schooling, corresponding to the three last years of high school. It is preceded by a three-year middle school (Gymnasium) and a six-year Primary School (Demotikon).

Nikoletta smiled back, a bit more spontaneously than in the previous days. «Φυσικά, πάππα! Ἐπιβάλλεται!» ("Of course, dad! It's a must!") For a second, she almost said "father" instead of "dad," but she stopped herself. Nikoletta could tell that her father was doing his best to be a dad, and she, in turn, was doing her best to be a daughter again. It had been a while, but they were both working on it. Hopefully, one day, they wouldn't need to try at all.


Nea Lykaonia, Propontis M.P., Pelasgia

«Ἐπόμενη στάσις: Νέα Λυκαονία. Προσοχή στο κενό μεταξύ συρμού και αποβάθρας.» ("Next stop: Nea Lykaonia. Please mind the gap between the train and the platform.") The same, soft feminine voice rung out through the metro cart as every single day in the past, and probably every day in the future too. That the message was recorded was obvious, at least to Nikos Palatianos, though he oftened wondered whether the lady whose voice had been used was still alive. And if or when she isn't, he thought to himself, will they stop using it and find someone else? Or will she live on in audio only?

Avraam Benlevi, back to work after Hannukah, could see that his friend was lost deep in thought, trying to kill the boredom of the morning metro ride to work. Benlevi, too, was bored, but he preferred other methods to break the monotony of public transit. «Ψίτ, παπικέ,» ("Hey, Papist*,") he whispered, catching Nikos' attention. «Ἄκουσες τὰ νέα γιὰ τὸν Δεσπότη Ἀλέξιο, ποὺ πάει νὰ γίνει μοναχός 'ς τὴν Εὐξεινία;» ("Did you hear the news about Despot Alexios, who's going to become a monk in Euxenia?") Palatianos, however, was not amused at the remark. «Αὐτὰ νὰ τὰ κρατήσεις γιὰ τὶς κουβέντες σου μὲ τὸν Καραόγλου, ἀλάδωτε. Ἐμένα μ' ἀρέσει ἡ ζωὴ ἀκόμα.» ("You save that stuff for your little chats with Karaouglou, unbaptised one**. I still enjoy being alive, personally.")

*Papist is a common slur for Catholics in Pelasgia
**A common slur for Jews in Pelasgia, literally meaning "non-anointed one"


With the train pulling into the last stop on this end of the line, the two men, dressed in the reflective orange overalls of the PFSC's dockworker section, stood up and headed for the exit. «Νὰ σοῦ πὼ 'ρε Νίκο.» ("Nikos, let me ask you something.") started Benlevi, this time in a fully serious tone, as he and Palatianos climbed up the stairs out of the station and headed for the tramway stop where Stergios Karaoglou, a local of Nea Lykaonia, would be waiting for them. «Πραγματικὰ δὲ σὲ νοιάζουν καθόλου ἡ πολιτικὴ καὶ τὰ κοινά; Πῶς κι ἔτσι;» ("Do you really not care about politics and social issues? How come?") The Archipelago man stroked his thick beard and gave as honest an answer as he could. «Μπελνεβί, ὁ συγχορεμένος ὁ πατέρας μου πρόφτασε τέσσερεις βασιλεὶς καὶ τρία καθεστῶτα. Καθένα ἀπ' αὐτὰ ὑποσχέθηκε νὰ φέρει ἐπίγειο παράδεισο καὶ κανένα, ἐπὶ τῆς οὐσίας, δὲν ἄλλαξε τίποτα. Μονάχα ἄλλαξε τὸ ἀφεντικὸ γιὰ τοῦ ὁποίου τὴν ὑγεία προσευχόμαστε κάθε Κυριακή. Ὁπότε ἐγὼ προτιμὼ νὰ ζήσω ὅσο πιὸ πολὺ καὶ ὅσο καλύτερα μπορὼ ὅσο εἶμαι ἐδῶ, νὰ τακτοποιήσω τὰ παιδιά μου, καὶ ἀν εἶναι νὰ δῶ παράδεισο, θὰ τὸν δῶ 'ς τὴν ἑπόμενη ζωή. Τὶς μεγάλες ἰδέες, τὶς ἀφήνω 'ς τοὺς κυβερνῶντες, ποὺ κόβει ὁ καινούργιος τὸ κεφάλι τοῦ παλιοῦ, γιὰ νὰ τοῦ τὸ κόψει καὶ αὐτοῦ μὲ τὴ σειρά του ὁ ἑπόμενος.» ("Benlevi, my late father lived through four emperors and three regimes. Each of those promised heaven on earth and none of them, substantively, changed anything. Only the boss for whose health we pray every Sunday changed. So, I prefer to live as long and as well as I can while I'm here, to set up my children for a decent life, and if I'm to see paradise, it'll be in the next life. I leave great ideas to the rulers, who each start by cutting off the head of his predecessor, only for his successor to do the same to him.")

For once, Benlevi had no snarky remark to throw back at the islander.
 
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Pelasgia

Established Nation
Joined
Sep 30, 2014
Messages
4,200
Location
Athens, Greece
Nick
Demos
Propontis, Propontis M.P.

«Καλὴν ἐσπέραν ἄρχοντες, κι ἀν εἶναι ὁρισμός σας,
Χριστοῦ τὴ Θεία Γέννηση νὰ πῶ 'ς τ' ἀρχοντικό σας.
Χριστὸς γεννᾶται σήμερον ἐν Βηθλεὲμ τῇ πόλει,
Οἱ οὐρανοὶ ἀγάλλονται, χαῖρε ἡ φύσις ὅλη!
Ἐν τῷ σπυλαίῳ τίκτεται, ἐν φάτνῃ τῶν ἀλόγων,
ὁ Βασιλεὺς τῶν Οὐρανῶν καὶ Ποιητὴς τῶν Ὅλων.»
"Good afternoon, gentlemen, an if you would permit me,
of Christ's Divine Birth I'd speak in your household.
Christ is born today in the city of Bethlehem,
the heavens are exuberant, rejoice, o all nature!
In a cave he is delivered, in a manger for horses,
the King of Heaven and Maker of All."


The streets and building halls of all Propontis echoed thus with the angelic voices of children, as little troupes of the city's youngest residents went from door to door, triangle in hand, singing standardised carols that had been developed over centuries. The troupes would start their rounds from early in the day, targeting business and wealthier homes first, where they were more likely to receive small bills of money to split among their members. For doors knocked on later in the day, or in poorer areas, hosts gave traditional sweets instead, which the children consumed on the spot with glee. For most youngsters in Pelasgia, Christmas, New Year's and Epiphany carols represented their major source of pocket money for the season (along with the gifts of older relatives), and it was a traditional that was strong throughout the Empire, with regional variations in the songs that the children sang and the instruments that they brought with them. In the Archipelago, for example, stringed instruments and more dance-friendly songs were popular, while the songs of Euxenia sounded almost mournful (as did all music from that region).

"Aria, we're turning this way, not that way!" Viktoria explained to her friend, who had tagged along with a group of Aria's local friends for caroling. Since she spoke little Pelasgian, Aria had instead been tasked with carrying the wooden Christmas Boat that Pelasgians decorated for the season, a staple of the troupes. Aria really liked the little brown boat, with its lights and ornaments, but it was a bit tall and obstructed her view, meaning that Viktoria had to bark directions at her in Pannonian. Noticing the threshold of the apartment building that they had entered, Aria could have sworn that it was familiar... But, before she could ask, Viktoria had rung a door bell.

«Νὰ τὰ ποῦμε;» ("Should we tell you?") the children asked excitedly, referring to the news of Christ's birth.

«Νὰ τὰ πεῖτε!» ("Do tell!") came the response from the familiar voice of Mr. Kavallaris. And the singing started anew! Somewhere in between the sails of the boat, Aria could make out Mrs. Geraka holding little Epaminondas, who, for lack of a better term, seemed to be "vibing" with the carols. Once the singing was done, the couple produced a generous 500 obol-note*, along with a platter with a selection of traditional holiday sweets: honey-syrup-infused cookies with walnut pieces, known as melomakarona, and almond cookies covered in white sugar, known as kourambiedes. Each child had their favourite, except for Aria, who set the boat aside and rushed to fill her mouth with as many of both as she could at once, looking like a hamster of sorts.
*Around EM 40

"You can always come back for more," Mrs. Geraka joked at the girl, who seemed to have an unending craving for sugar. The whole corridor laughed in return, even Aria with her stuffed mouth, save for Mr. Kavallaris: he was looking at his phone, where he had just received an email from his superior, Brigadier Gen. Grammatikos of the Krypteia: Need to discuss Angelopoulos, Argyropoulos and Notaras. Please prepare report on activities, affiliates. Liaison with 3rd and 9th Directorates to ensure D.A.S.* doesn't get to follow latter two too closely. Report can wait until after Christmas, but need liaison right now. Merry Christmas. Kavallaris, keeping a sigh within him, replied as typically as possible: Understood, sir. Will handle. Then, he too, joined in the laughing, albeit a few moments late. For him, even Christmas Eve was not exactly a rest day.
*Military Counterintelligence Directorate, the Imperial Army's main spy agency


Vrysoules, Metaxadon Theme

Located in the mountainous southern reaches of the Metaxadon Theme, near the Empire's southern frontier, Vrysoules was one of those rare places in Pelasgia where the winter resembled a postcard: snow, pine trees and warm fireplaces, many of them foreign sights in the Empire's coastal core regions. For Andreas Papavasileiou, as a native of Vrysoules, Christmas season naturally felt cold and windy, and he would have it no other way. His brother, Grigoris, however, could not miss a chance to tease him as he drove him home from the train station in the nearby town of Akritai, aptly named after the volunteer border militiamen who kept watch on the Empire's frontier since medieval times. Grigoris, an akritas himself, had a small sticker identifying him as such on the back of his truck, and a rifle always inside it.

«Καὶ ποὺ λές, Ἀντρέα μου,» ("Say, Andreas,") Grigoris started, while taking a sharp turn of the mountain road at barely reduced speed, as only one who knew them so well could. «Πρέπει νὰ κρυώνεις πολὺ ἐδῶ πάνω, τῶρα ποὺ συνήθισες τὶς βροχὲς καὶ τὶς ζέστες τῆς Βασιλεύουσας, ἔτσι;» ("You must feel really cold up here, now that you're used to the warmth of the Capital, right?") Andreas stared at him with outrage, prompting a smile on Grigoris' part: his teasing had already succeeded. «Καὶ δὲ μοῦ λὲς ρε μπαγάσα,» ("Now tell me, you lil' scoundrel,") Grigoris continued. «Καμιὰ γκομενοκατάσταση παίζει ἐκεῖ 'ς τὰ βόρεια;» ("Any 'situations' with girls brewing back north?") Being significantly older than Andreas, his brother kind of acted like his dad, especially since their father had passed away, meaning that, since becoming a teenager, he had had to have these conversations with him. Not that it made it any less awkward...

«Ἐ, τίποτα ἰδιαίτερο, ἀκόμα μιλάω μὲ τὴν Ἀθηνά, ἀλλὰ νομίζω θέλει μόνο σημειώσεις.» ("Eh, nothing special, I still talk to Athina, but I think she just wants my school notes.") the younger brother responded, staring out the window pensively for a few moments before turning to his brother with a question. «Ρὲ Γρηγόρη, νὰ σοῦ πῶ: λίγο πρὶν φύγω, ἡ φίλη μου ἡ Βικτωρία μου εἶπε πὼς εἶμαι καλὸς τῦπος καὶ πὼς τῆς ἀρέσει ἡ παρέα μου... Ἦταν κατακόκκινη ἐνὼ μοῦ τὰ ἔλεγε αὐτά. Ξέρεις μήπως τὶ ἐννοοῦσε;» ("Grigoris, let me tell you something real quick: shortly before I left, my friend, Viktoria, told me that I'm a good person and she enjoys my company... She was blushing while telling me. Do you maybe know what that was about?")

Grigoris slammed the breaks abruptly and turned and looked at his brother in disbelief. «Ρὲ αὐτὴ σοῦ τὴν ἔπεσε κανονικά, καὶ ἐσὺ δὲν κατάλαβες τίποτα;» ("Kid, she hit on you that blatantly and you didn't get a thing?") He burst out laughing and padded Andreas on the shoulder so hard he was practically hitting him. «Τὶ παίχτης ποὺ 'σαι, βρὲ μικρέ!» ("What a player you are, lil' guy!") Andreas felt his face grow hot, as he blushed—thanking God that his skin was dark and thus the blushing hard to see. Grigoris, having laughed a bit more, concluded with a very in-character remark: «Καλὰ ἔκανες πάντως. Αὐτὴ ψάχνει γιὰ φίλο μάλλον, μὰ οἱ ξένες εἶναι μόνο γιὰ ἕνα γρήγορο. Τὰ σοβαρὰ τὰ κάνουμε μὲ τὶς δικές μας γυναίκες.» ("You did well though. She's probably looking for a boyfriend, but foreign women are only good for a quick [fuck]. We only do serious things with our own women.") More so than the snow, Grigoris reminded his brother than he was back home alright...
 

Pelasgia

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Propontis, Propontis M.P.

The Great Palace of Propontis was a majestic building, or, more accurately, a complex of buildings, for each of its wings was larger than many of the state residences of other countries. The colonnade that surrounded it on all sides enclosed several domed structures, all geometrically arranged around the large, central edifice which housed the physical Sublime Throne and served as the seat of power of the Orthodox Sovereigns. Standing right across from the Hippodrome and the Hagia Pronoia, and flanked by the Imperial Gardens, the Great Palace, with its colourful, gilded marble walls and its shining bronze domes, put on the wealth and power of the Propontine Emperors on display for all to see. Housing countless administrative offices for the palatial officials, as well as ceremonial halls for the reception of ambassadors, the meetings of the Privy Council and other functions, it felt like a small town of bureaucrats. Yet, above all else, the Great Palace, like any other palace, was a residence. And thus, with Christmas right around the corner, the occupants of the said residence were preparing like everyone else.

At the central hall of the palace, between two rows of columns, a large wooden boat stood, with lights and ornaments. This was the Christmas Boat of the household, the traditional equivalent of the Christmas tree in Pelasgia, which all public buildings were required to display for the holidays instead of a tree. The labyrinthine halls that stretched out from this central point were decorated with candles, lights, and other decorations, including stylised depictions of the Nativity and other scenes of the traditional festive anthology. To the crackling of the palace's hundreds of fireplaces, the highest family in what remained of the Tiburan world sat around a table, to enjoy the meal of Christmas eve all together. Their dinner would be splendid, the epitome of Propontine fine dining, setting the standard that all families in the Empire (and, occasionally, elsewhere in the Orthodox and Pelasgo-Carian world) sought to immitate: first, it would start with a bountiful selection of appetizers or meze (primarily consisting of salted seafood), more salads than one could count (including a bean salad known as piazin, Tarusan salad known in Pelasgia as "Empress Olga's Salad," taramosalata from fish eggs and potato salad), special dolma with rice, raisins and pine nuts, and various meat delicacies such as "sountzouki" meatballs, pastirma cured meat and charcuterie, on top of warmer treats, like tyropitakia (little cheese pies) and pastourmadopitakia (pastirma pies), warm meatballs, cubes of veal liver, and fried eggplants and aubergines with tzatziki yoghourt sauce—all served with ouzo.

Then, the main dish would follow, typically deer hunted by the Emperor or Grand Despot himself on his private grounds on the island of Despotia and stuffed by the Empress or eldest Despotess with a filling typically including oranges and chestnuts. In the instantaneous case, the Empress' untimely demise due to terminal disease years prior meant that stuffing the deer typically fell to Grand Despotess Anastasia, who carried out the task with pleasure. A thick red wine from the Empire's finest vineyards in the Pera Theme would most likely accompany the food, the hymiglykon or "half-sweet" kind that Pelasgians so adored for its taste that was neither sweet nor dry. Potatoes and bread provided by the farmers of Lycaonia and Euxenia, the traditional home regions of the dynasty, would complement the feast, including Christopsomon or "Christ-Bread," the large bread that the Emperor would "cross" with a knife and apportion among the family, as was tradition in every Pelasgian household for the holidays. Finally, desert, most likely the winter favourite of kormos or "log" would close off the dinner, along with Pelasgian coffee or Propontine tea. There would be no gifts, as Pelasgians only took gifts from Saint Basil on New Year's and not on Christmas (and though some had also started giving Christmas gifts, the Imperial family was expected to uphold tradition and refuse to acknowledge any such practice). An exception would be made for the husband of the youngest Despotess from @Radilo , who would be given an icon or some other religious item that was not a gift per se, respecting both traditions at once.

Before these festivities could take place, however, one had to narrow down the list of guests. That one was the man tasked with organising the whole feast, the Kouropalates Polychronios Efkarpiou, who was in charge of the Great Palace's administration, had finalised the invitation, including all members of the Komnenopoulos Dynasty and their spouses and immediate relatives. There was, however, one sticking point: Senator Tivyros Argyropoulos. Would he be listed as the Despotess' betrothed? Would he be invited at all? There had been no formal engagement, so... The Kouropalates had garnered the courage to ask the Emperor, who had responded that he would "get back to him." To do so, the Emperor had invited the Senator in question to a cordial meeting at his private office in the Great Palace, which overlooked the serene Imperial Gardens.

«Εὐσεβέστατε,» ("Most Pious One*,") said the Senator, while bowing, upon entering the room. «Εἰς τὶ ὀφείλω τὴν τιμὴ τῆς ὑμετέρας προσκλήσεως;» ("To what do I owe the honour of your invitation?") The Emperor was standing such that his shoulder was facing his guest, as he observed a painting of the Imperial fleet during the 2006 Archipelago Crisis, where the Senator had made a name for himself. Without much ceremony, he motioned the Senator to sit down, and started for the table, with a small bottle of whiskey in hand. «Οἶνος εὐφραίνει καρδίαν,» ("Wine pleases the soul,") Theodore Komnenopoulos said, reiterating an old Pelasgian saying while pouring each of them a glass. «Τὸ γὰρ οὐίσκιν τὴν ἀνδρικὴν ψυχήν.» (And whiskey the manly soul.") That the Basileus, like his late father, was a huge fan of whiskey was no secret. «Πεῖτε μου, λοιπόν, κύριε Γερουσιαστά,» ("So, tell me, Mr. Senator,") he continued, «Σκοπεύετε νυμφεύεσθαι τὴν κόρην μου;» ("Do you intend to marry my daughter?")
*Within Pelasgia, the Emperor is known as the "Most Pious Sovereign" (Εὐσεβέστατος Βασιλεύς)

The brazenness of the question was only blunted for a second by the fact that the Emperor, in keeping with protocol, spoke in ancient Pelasgian, though the full shock of the Emperor's frankness caught Argyropoulos by surprise only an instant later. The Emperor, however, could not help but smile, and carry on affably, raising his glass for a toast. «Εἰ μήπως ἡ εἰλικρίνεια οὐκ ἀρετὴ Χριστιανοῦ Βασιλέως ἐστί; Εἰς ὑγείαν της!» ("Or is honesty not a virtue of a Christian Sovereign? To honesty!" If for no other reason than out of respect, Argyropoulos could not help but raise his glass. Still, his deep brown eyes scanned the face of the Emperor with great care: he was alike his daughter in terms of facial structure, especially his large jaw, but the dark skin of the Komnenopoulos dynasty, and their dark hair, had not been inherited by Anastasia. Her fair skin and her were the inheritance of her Thrakian mother. Ultimately, it was neither red hair nor a strong jaw that defined Anastasia, but her cunning: and that was decidedly the defining characteristic of her Komnenopoulos side.

Thus, the golden-brown-haired Senator judged that his best defence with Anastasia's father was the same that he used on her: returning boldness in kind. «Μετὰ τῆς ὑμετέρας ἀδείας φυσικῶς, ἀλλὰ ναὶ, ὀφείλω νὰ ὁμολογήσω πὼς βούλομαι παντρεύεσθαι μετὰ τῆς Δεσποίνης Ἀναστασίας, τιμούμενος σφοδρὰ εἰ μέλει γενέσθαι.» ("With your permission, of course, but yes, I must admit that I wish to marry Despotess Anastasia, which, if it were to happen, would be a great honour for me.") The Emperor seemed not at all surprised; indeed, a faint smile, a smirk even, appeared on his face, as if to mock the seriousness of the answer. «Δέσποινα σίγουρα θέλεις ὠς γύνη, μὰ τὴν ἐμὴ θυγατέρα οὐ. Τὴν πορφύραν ὠς προίκα ζητείς.» ("You certainly want a Despotess for a wife, but not my child. Your merely seek the imperial purple as your dowry.") came his response. Before the red-faced, indignant Senator could answer, the Emperor patted him on the shoulder and clarified his words: «Ἀποδείξω τό σοι: Προσφέρω γὰρ εἰς σὲ δύο ἐπιλογάς: τὴν κόρην μου, παρετημένη ἐκ πάσης διεκδικήσεως ἐπὶ τοῦ Θρόνου μετ' ὄρκου δημοσίου ἐπὶ τῶν εὐαγγελίων· ἢ τὴν κόρην τοῦ Πρωτοσπαθαρίου μου καὶ μετ' αὐτῆς τὸ κληρονομικὸν ἀξίωμα τοῦ νωβελισσίμου. Ποίαν ἐκ τῶν δύο προτιμήσεις;» ("I shall prove it to you: I offer you two choices: my daughter, provided she renounces any claim to the Throne with a public oath on the gospels; or the daughter of my Protospatharios* and, with her, the hereditary status of nobelissimus**. Which would you prefer?")

*The head of the Imperial Guard, who is usually from a trusted noble family
**A distinction that marks a patrician family as being "true" nobles, usually with a hereditary presence in the Senate


Once more, Argyropoulos was taken aback. He had loved Anastasia alright, for she was a smart and beautiful woman, who knew to use her charms well, though she was difficult to deal with. If anything, he probably took a certain pleasure in that difficult, as he had to admit. And yet, with the purple taken away, reduced to just another woman she was... well, just that: another woman. Beautiful, no doubt, but not special. The daughter of the Protospatharios (a beautiful woman from a good family, who was younger than Anastasia too, if memory served), had nothing to envy that other woman: indeed, the status associated with her meant that Argyropoulos could earn for his family the distinction among the patricianate that they had always sought. Neither option gave him a shot at the purple, but only one brought his descendants any closer to it; and it was not the one involving Anastasia. He's his daughter's father alright, Argyropoulos thought. «Τὴν δευτέραν.» ("The second one.") The Emperor smiled greatly, then dropped the pleasant expression altogether. «Καλῶς. Τότε συνεννοούμεθα. Ἐπέστρεψε εἰς τὰ καθήκοντά σου, καὶ θὰ ἐπικοινωνήσει μετά σου ὁ Πρωτοσπαθάριος μου προσεχῶς.» ("Good. Then we understand each other. Return to your duties, and my Protospatharios will contact you promptly.")

«Καὶ ἡ κόρη ὑμῶν;» ("And your daughter?") Argyropoulos could not help but ask. The Emperor's expression did not change one bit. «Ὅταν τὰ τέκνα μου ἦν μικρά, οἱ υἱοί μου μετὰ στρατιωτακίων ἔπαιζον, αἱ δὲ θυγατέραι μετὰ κουκλῶν. Ἐν τῇ τῆς Ἀναστασίας περιπτώσει, οὐδὲν ἄλλαξε.» ("When my children were young, my sons would play with toy soldiers, and my daughters with dolls. In Anastasia's case, nothing has changed.") The Senator could not help but betray some frustration through an angry gaze, if only for a moment: he, a Senator of Tibur, a veteran of the Archipelago Crisis, a patrician (even if a minor one), a grown man, to be merely used for the amusement of a spoiled rich daughter wishing to kill time amidst a life of luxury? The thought offended him—and perhaps it did more to seal his decision than any positive inducement Theodore Komnenopoulos could offer.

The Basileus himself had little concern for the Senator's feeling, provided he did what needed to be done and broke things off with the Despotess, preferably coldly and through a letter, to wound her pride and induce her to seek another. That the Emperor would provide, for he had a candidate of his own in mind, whom he had groomed to succeed the Sublime Throne. He told the Kouropalates as much: «Ἀντικαταστήστε τὸν Συγκλητικὸν Ἀργυρόπουλον μετὰ τοῦ Κυβερνήτου τῆς Δεσποτίας.» ("Replace Sen. Argyropoulos with the Governor of Despotia.") The loyal official had complied, but wondered what would happen if the Sebastokrator, the Emperor's brother, caught wind of the new rival of his own protégé for the Throne. The Emperor seemed unperturbed, as if that would soon cease to be a concern. But the thoughts of the Sovereign are a mystery, Efkarpiou reasoned, judging it best not to press the matter.
 

Pelasgia

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Propontis, Pelasgia

The Second Day of Christmas was the most quintessential of Pelasgian holidays: not strictly required by religion and not justifiable in any other way other than to officialise a period of rest right after an important holiday in a society that, though increasingly urban, was still very much governed by the mindset of the Meridian peasant. Around this time of year, the hundreds of thousands who had only recently migrated to cities in search of work would often return to their rural hometowns for a long weekend or even a couple of weeks of vacation, away from the hustle and bustle of urban life. For those who remained in the Empire's major metropolitan areas, this was a chance to experience their own home city when it was uniquely less crowded, and to finally relax. As with everything else in Pelasgia, this was exemplified by the Queen of Cities.

From his home at the heart of Propontis, in the Cathedral District of the Old City, Rigas Kavallaris, could enjoy one of the rare days when he was allowed to relax and spend time with his family. His wife, Anna, could also enjoy the benefits of a day without chores, for most families usually cooked a double portion on Christmas Day to allow them to eat the same dish without effort on the second day of the holiday. The lack of uncles, cousins, parents and the like also made this day's luncheon much calmer, as did the distinct lack of church bells that had characterised the previous two days. Apart from the occasional police siren, even downtown Propontis could be said to be calm on this slow, lethargic day.

With baby Epaminondas fast asleep, Rigas took advantage of the late afternoon calm to lay down next to his wife without a worry, a pleasure that a busy life rarely afforded him. «Ἀπορὼ πῶς δὲν ἔχει βάλει τὰ κλάματα τόση ὥρα ὁ μικρός.» ("I wonder how the little one hasn't cried all this time,") Anna could not help but admit, sinking in her husband's shoulder. «Μάλλον χόρτασε μὲ τὸ κανταΐφι τῆς μητέρας σου,» ("He's full of your mother's kantaif,") Rigas answered, running his hand through his wife's hair. «Μποροῦμε φυσικὰ νὰ τοῦ κάνουμε καὶ ἕνα ἀδελφάκι, γιὰ νὰ κλαῖνε ἐκ παραδρομῆς...» ("We could of course make him a sibling, so they can alternate the crying...") Anna looked up at Rigas with her hawkish golden-brown eyes. «Εἶσαι ἀπαίσιος.» ("You're horrible.") She said... only to yield to his kiss a moment later. One caress followed another, and, when all was said and done, it seemed likely that the familial household on Plethonos 121, Apt. 8A, Propontis 104 34 would be getting a tiny new tenant in a few months.


Scutari, Pera Theme

IBX-4057. Those were the license plates of the dark green
that the Tiveriades family had driven across the Propontis-Scutari Intercontinental Bridge "Theodore III Komnenopoulos" to visit the family of Markos Tiveriades, brother to Apostolos and uncle to Nikoletta. As was common for many Pelasgian families, they had chosen to spend the holidays together. Even a closely surveilled ex-convict like Apostolos Tiveriades could not be denied that basic courtesy—though every camera on the bridge and highway kept track of the car, thanks to the scannable FE-Schrift of the plates. Where technology failed, officers of the Emperor's Own Krypteia followed the vehicle around, with such discretion that even Apostolos himself could nearly fool himself into thinking that he was a free man. Alas, he knew better.

That same Pegasus 200 had remained parked outside the home of Markos Tiveriades in the early morning hours of December 27th, after the Second Day of Christmas (a public holiday in the Empire) had lapsed, and when most Tiburians were returning to work. Increasingly frustrated, the plainclothes gendarmes observing the vehicle traded looks before deciding to investigate. They knocked on the door and demanded to speak with Markos Tiveriades himself. «Περάστε, να σᾶς κεράσω κάτι;» ("Come in, would you like me to treat you to something?") said the man. The officers refused. «Θέλουμε νὰ μιλήσουμε μὲ τὸν ἀδερφό σας.» ("We'd like to speak with your brother.") Markos Tiveriades shrugged and shook his head. «Δὲν ξέρω ποῦ εἶναι ὁ ἄτιμος. Τσακωθήκαμε χτές, καθῶς εἶχε τὸ θράσος νὰ μὲ προσβάλλει μπροστὰ 'ς τὴ γυναίκα μου, καὶ ἔφυγε μέσ' 'ς τὸ βράδυ γιὰ νὰ μὴν πλακωθοῦμε.» ("I don't know where he is, damn him. We fought yesterday, for he had to gall to insult me in front of my wife, and he left in the night to avoid coming to blows.") One of the officers grabbed Markos by the shirt. «Μὰ καλά, δὲν εἴδατε πὼς τὸ αὐτοκίνητό του εἶναι ἐδῶ;» ("But didn't you see that he left his car out here?!") Markos frowned. «Μὰ γι' αὐτὸ τσακωθήκαμε: τὸ αὐτοκίνητο εἶναι δικό μου καὶ δὲν ἤθελε νὰ μοῦ τὸ ἐπιστρέψει!» ("But that's why we fought: The car's mine, and he didn't want to return it!")

Somewhere further north, Apostolos Tiveriades and his family were driving in a rented car, heading straight for the border with @Arcadia .
 
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Pelasgia

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Countryside near Rhaedestus, Pera Theme

The barking of dogs broke the eerie silence of the foggy day on the mountainous countryside overlooking the city of Rhaedestus, which lied directly on the banks of the Rhodopas river, the primary border between Pelasgia and @Arcadia . Hidden among the tall pine trees of the countryside, the officers of the Imperial Secret Service's own special forces advanced, distinguished by a small, reflective yellow armband on their camouflage overalls. In the air, no less than three helicopters circled around, trying to locate the same fugitives as the ground teams.

Approaching a clearing, one of the Krypteia's troopers paused as he caught a glimpse of a green sedan, which stood immobile and seemingly empty a few hundred meters behind the border line where the Imperial Army had cleared the foliage to mark the border on the ridgeline. «Κέντρον, ἀναφέρομεν πιθανὸν ἐπαφὴν μετὰ στόχων. Συμβουλέψατε.» ("Control, reporting possible contact with targets. Advise.")

«Ἐπιχειρήσατε ἐπαφὴν καὶ προσαγωγὴν ἢ ἐξουδετέρωσιν ἀμέσως. Βεβαίωσατε ἀποστείρωσιν χώρου ἐξ ἄλλων παθογόνων.» ("Attempt contact and detention or neutralisation immediately. Verify sterilisation of surrounding area from other pathogens.") came the response from a cold, almost mechanical voice. One did not need to be well-versed in the lingo of Pelasgian securocrats to understand what was being ordered. The trooper acknowledged the command and then motioned his men forward, while one of them deployed a small drone that approached the vehicle to check for any booby traps or thermal contacts.

«Πεδίον ἐλεύθερον.» ("All clear.") he concluded, after a few moments. The same words came from every single member of the fire team that had approached the car. «Ἀναμένομεν πυροτεχνουργούς;» ("Should we await an ordinance disposal team?") asked one of the commandos. The commander shook his head and opened the trunk, finding it empty. «Οὐ. Ἔχουν φύγῃ πρὸ πολλοῦ.» ("No. They're long gone.") As he uttered his conclusion, the commander looked down the slope, past the river, and into the lands of Arcadia. Somewhere there, the Apostolos Tiveriades and his family were linking up with a handsomely compensated border runner, whose job it was to get them aboard a ship bound for Ebria, where they would all claim asylum. Somehow, one got the impression that it would be more convenient for the Arcadian authorities to let them leave the country, rather than stay and claim asylum there, potentially jeopardizing either the new understanding Megalopoli had with Propontis or Arcadia's record as a country that respected refugee rights.


Propontis, Propontis M.P.

Brigadier Grammatikos slammed the phone shut and then slapped his palm on his face as he reclined backward in his office chair. «Ἀνάθεμα τὴν ὥρα καὶ τὴ στιγμὴ ποὺ γεννιόμουν.» ("Damn the hour and the moment that I was born.") he said, with a profound tone of exasperation in his voice. «Ἀν δὲν τοὺς βροῦμε ὁ Φασιανὸς θὰ μὰς κρεμάσει.» ("If we don't find them, Phasianos will have our heads.") For a matter that the Krypteia supposedly did its best to keep low-key, Rigas Kavallaris could not help but notice that the Commander of the whole agency had taken a very close and keen interest in its development. Then again, he most likely had to keep powers even higher than himself appraised of the situation, so Rigas could not exactly fault the General.

«Κύριε Ταξίαρχε,» ("Brigadier sir,") Rigas mustered up the courage to say, after allowing his immediate superior a few more moments of loud sighing and despair. «Θεωρὼ πὼς ἀν ὅντως τὸν ἔχουμε χάσει, τότε θὰ εἶναι μεγαλύτερο πρόβλημα γιὰ ἐμὰς ἀν τὸν κυνηγήσουμε ἐκτὸς τῆς χώρας. Θὰ φέρουμε διεθνὴ προσοχὴ στὰ λεγόμενά του καὶ θὰ τοὺς προσδόσουμε ἀχρείαστο καὶ ἀβάσιμο κῦρος ἀληθοφανείας.» ("I believe that if we have truly lost him, then it will be a bigger problem for us if we pursue him outside the country. We will bring international attention to his words and give them an unnecessary and baseless air of validity.") The Brigadier pondered the matter for a few moments, gazing outside his office window, where the neo-baroque dome of the Church of the Hagioi Anrgyroi protruded above the skyline of the Cathedral District. «Σωστὰ λές, καὶ ἐλπίζω οἱ ἀνώτεροί μας νὰ συμμεριστοῦν τὴν ἄποψή σου, τουλάχιστον ὅσον ἀφορᾷ τὴν οἰκογένεια τοῦ Τιβεριάδη. Εἰδαλλῶς, ἔχουμε πάντα τὰ τσακάλια...» ("You speak the truth, and I hope that our superiors share your opinion, at least in so far as Tiveriades' family is concerned. Otherwise, we always have the jackals...") He stopped himself short of concluding that sentence, but Rigas knew his meaning well.

«Καὶ ἀν ἔχει κάποια "ἀσφάλεια θανάτου"; Τὰ στοιχεῖα ποὺ μᾶς ἔδωσε μέχρι τῶρα ἦταν λίαν χρήσιμα, μὰ εἶμαι σίγουρος πὼς δὲ μᾶς τὰ ἔχει πεῖ ὅλα.» ("And if he has some 'death insurance' of sorts? The evidence that he has given us so far proved to be very useful, but I'm sure that he hasn't told us everything.") The Brigadier sat back in his chair. «Πράγματι. Ὅσο πιὸ πολὺ τὸ σκέφτομαι, τόσο πιὸ σίγουρο μοῦ φαίνεται. Ἀς περιοριστοῦμε στὸ νὰ τὸν παρακολουθοῦμε καλύτερα. Οὔτως ἢ ἄλλως, ἔχουμε πιὸ σπουδαῖα πράγματα νὰ μᾶς ἀπασχολοῦν πρὸς τὸ παρόν.» ("Indeed. The more I think about it, the more likely it seems. Let's limit ourselves to monitoring him. Either way, we have more important things to concern us for now.") Grammatikos unlocked his office drawer and produced a thick binder of documents. «Διάβασα τὴν ἀναφορά σου. Ἀντιλαμβάνομαι τὸ ρίσκο ποὺ συνοδεύει μία πιθανὴ σύλληψη τοῦ Σεβαστοκράτορα, μὰ δυστυχῶς δὲ βλέπω ἄλλη διέξοδο. Ἀς ἐλπίσουμε πὼς μία πολυτελὴς μὰ ἀπομονομένη ἐξορία στὴ Μάκρη θὰ εἶναι ἀρκετὴ γιὰ νὰ τὸν ἐξουδετερώσει.» ("I read your report. I understand that risk that accompanies a potential arrest of the Sebastokrator, but I unfortunately see no other way out. Let's hope that a luxurious but isolated exile in Makri will be enough to neutralize him.")

Rigas nodded, but before he answered, his eyes stopped on the portrait of the Emperor that hanged above his superior's desk, as if he had not seen it a thousand times already. In it, he saw the famous calculating gaze of the Komnenopoulos Dynasty, who had risen to the Throne and kept it through conniving and conspiring in true Propontine fashion. «Συμφωνῶ, μὰ θεωρὼ πὼς τὸ κύριό μας πρόβλημα εἶναι ἡ ὅποια ἀντίδραση τοῦ Ταξιάρχου Ἀγγελοπούλου. Ἐξαγοράσαμε τὸν Ἀργυρόπουλο σχετικὰ εὔκολα, μὰ ὁ Ἀγγελόπουλος παντρεύτηκε τὴν κόρη τοῦ Σεβαστοκράτορα μόνο καὶ μόνο γιὰ νὰ πλησιάσει τὸν θρόνο. Τὸν ὑποστιρίζουν σχεδὸν ὅλοι οἱ σύμμαχοι τοῦ Σεβαστοκράτορα στὴ Σύγκλητο καὶ δὲ θὰ κάνει πίσω εὔκολα.» ("I agree, but I maintain that our main problem is what the reaction of Brigadier Angelopoulos will be. We bought out Argyropoulos with relative ease, but Angelopoulos married the Sebastokrator's daughter with the sole objective of coming closer to the throne. Practically all of the Sebastokrator's allies in the Senate support him, and he won't back down easily.")

Grammatikos, however, waived his hand dismissively. «Ἡ γυναίκα τοῦ εἶναι στείρα. Ποιὸς θὰ κάνει ἕναν ἄτεκνο Ἐπιστάτη τοῦ Κυρίου ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς;» ("His wife is barren. Who will make a childless man Viceroy of God on earth?") Rigas looked up at the Emperor's portrait again before answering, this time glancing at the frigid, pale face of his late wife. «Δὲ νομίζω πὼς ἡ Δέσποινα Ἀναστασία ἔχει παίξει τὸ τελευταῖο της χαρτί.» ("I don't think that Despotess Anastasia has said her last word.")
 
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Pelasgia

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Makri, Makriotica Theme

Built in the cool, low-lying plane inside an easily defensible natural bay and estuary, with fortifications overlooking it from both nearby hills, the city of Makri was a natural fortress. The medieval walls built by the Pelasgians themselves, as well as the island's occasional crusader or merchant republican rulers, attested to this fact. For the millennia that it had been inhabited, Makri, the city's namesake island, had been an impregnable naval fortress, taken only twice, and both times by the consent of its rulers rather than by storm. To this day, the picturesque city with its yellow-marble edifices and arched galleries, served as the heart of Imperial power in the southern Meridian, and as the main base of the Second Fleet. Apart from these functions, the city's location also made it convenient for another function: that of an exile or prison for those that the Empire could not kill or send to a normal labour camp, but also wanted as far away from power as possible.

A prestigious and large city by any measure (indeed, on of the Empire's largest), Makri was the place where someone from Propontis was sent to be nominally promoted and practically kept as far away from power as possible. It was wealthy and temperate enough that quite a few Pelasgians moved there willingly, so one could almost pretend that the reassignment had been at their own request. One person who did not have that luxury was Sebastokrator Nikolaos Komnenopoulos, former Metropolitan Prefect of Propontis, unloving brother to the reigning Emperor Theodore IV Komnenopoulos, and a powerful though embarrassed powerful figure in the Senatorial right, which held a plurality of all seats.

Komnenopoulos had been given a simple choice by his brother upon his formal arrest by the Sakellareia (or "Chancellery") Guard, the Imperial Fiscal Police: be released on bail in Makri or be held inside a prison. The normal courtesy of being released on Despotia usually afforded to the Emperor's blood had been denied him, a sign that the Throne was determined to remove him from the political chessboard for good. If nothing else, Komnenopoulos was a proud man, and he could not stomach being shackled; so he took the lesser insult and went to Makri. He had almost convinced himself into playing nice, knowing that his doing so would help the chances of his son-in-law, Brigadier Angelopoulos, of making it to the Sublime Throne or at least not also being hunted down by the Emperor should he lose in the power struggle against Theodore's preferred successor, Admiral Notaras. As always, he put on his finest silken clothes (all from the Metaxadon Theme, one of Europe's finest producers of silk, and all, as always, much more fashionable than whatever his rube of an older brother wore); and he also wore his most stoic, uncaring look. Worrying is for the plebs, his used to always say. And the Heirs of Caesar, though champions of the lower orders, were anything but plebs.

Then, however, came the interrogation. It was to take place inside one of the countless rooms of the Makri Palace of Justice, whose sharp arches were a carryover from the island's period under @Radilo rule. Staring at the Investigating Magistrate, a man with a large forehead and square spectacles, who was tall but with a serious face, Komnenopoulos at once noted that he truly matched the profile he had read of him: a gendarmerie officer's son, stern and blind in the service of the law, which he takes (like a first-year law student) to be one and the same with Justice. A cop in judicial robes.

«Ὀνοματεπώνυμον καὶ ἐπάγγελμα, παρακαλώ.» ("Please state your full name and profession.") the Magistrate started in an officious tone. The stenographer beside him followed his every word with a drum-roll of typing as he kept detailed minutes of the conversation.

Komnenopoulos nearly jumped out of his chair at the insult of being treated like some drunk driver appearing before a local judge. His lawyer, a seasoned litigator of the Senatorial Courts of Cassation, had to physically restrain him before reassuring him: «Εἶναι τὸ τυπικόν, Ἐξοχότατε.» ("It's convention, Your Excellency.")

Convention or not, Komnenopoulos had made up his mind: He was the Son of the Eagle as much as his brother and that fruitcake nephew of his, and if they wished to humiliate him like a petty criminal for merely coming up with the crimes that they had also participated in, he would take them down with him. «Ἄκου ἐδῶ τέκνον μου· ἄκου καὶ προβληματίσου. Γιγνώσκεις τὶ γὰρ ἐστὶν ἡ ὑπεράκτιος ἑταιρεία;» ("Listen here, child; listen and be alarmed. Know ye what be an offshore company?")


Propontis, Propontis M.P.

Brigadier Andronikos Angelopoulos was as busy a man as they got. Head of the Imperial Military's Counterintelligence Directorate, commander of an Army Brigade, Senator, Governor of Pera Theme and head of a prestigious noble family with many assets throughout the Empire, he counted his time dearly, so much so that his lawyer and accountant joked that he should be the one billing them instead. They certainly had to ask him for an appointment, as did his doctor. In a sense, it was a blessing that his wife was infertile and he was childless (at least in terms of legitimate children, if rumours were to be believed). Adding diapers or conjugal fights to his list of daily duties might have just sent him over the edge—and yet, having been born and raised inside the Patricianate, a class the prioritised the positioning and future of one's family and progeniture above all, one got the impression that he could never shake a certain bitterness at being without issue. Certainly, he had given up his wife's bed long ago, and was rarely seen with her in public, even during his punctual attendance of church service.

This Saturday's service ahead of the New Year and the Feast of Saint Basil was no exception—a fact that Angelopoulos thought of as he exited the temple to head back to his office in the nearby Military Department building. Lost in his thoughts as he was, he failed to notice the sound of faint, light footsteps following him, until he felt a hand on his shoulder. «Ταξίαρχέ μου.» ("Brigadier.") said a soft but determined feminine voice, the likes of which seemed eerily familiar.

Angelopoulos turned around to find a familiar, albeit surprising, pair of blue eyes staring at him from a pale face framed by bright red hair. «Δέσποινά μου.» ("My Despotess.") he said, offering a bow. «Σὲ τὶ ὀφείλω τὴν τιμὴ αὐτή;» ("To what do I owe this honour?") Beneath his voice, the officer hid quite a lot of apprehension: for though the Emperor's daughter was staring at him with intent, what that intent was he could be certain of. «Εἶναι κρίμα Ταξίαρχέ μου, ἕνας ἄνδρας τοῦ λόγου σας νὰ εἶναι ἄτεκνος καὶ νὰ μὴν ἀπολαμβάνει τὶς χαρὲς τοῦ ἔγγαμου βίου.» ("It is a pity, my Brigadier, for a man like you to be childless and to not enjoy the pleasures of married life.") Anastasia said, smiling as she knew that her rank shielded her from any retribution for the scandalously impertinent remark. «Τὸ ἴδιο γιὰ μιὰ γυναίκα τῆς ὀμορφιᾶς σας.» ("The same is true for a woman of your beauty.") Angelopoulos shot back, hiding his insult at the Despotess' near-spinsterhood under a compliment.

«Πράγματι. Ἔμαθα δὲ πὼς ὁ πατέρας μου ξεφορτώθηκε τὸν πεθερό σας. Ὅμοιως ἔπραξε καὶ μὲ τὸν δυνάμει ἀρραβωνιαστικό μου.» ("Indeed. I have learned that my father has gotten rid of your father in law. He did the same with my would-be fiancé.") The Despotess said, feigning a certain air of grief. The Brigadier was unimpressed. «Καὶ γιατὶ μοῦ τὸ λέτε αὐτό;» ("And why are you telling me this?") Here, Anastasia could not help but smile. «Διότι θαρὼ πὼς μποροῦμε νὰ λύσουμε δύο προβλήματα μὲ τὴ μία.» ("Because I think we can solve two problems at once.") Saying this she grabbed Angelopoulos by the arm and looked him in the eye, leaning closely; he knew her meaning well, and he kissed her at once.

An officer of the Krypteia, sent by Rigas to follow the Despotess around, was shocked at the sight. He called in to his superior, who relayed the matter up the chain of command, only for the natural conclusion to be reached: the Emperor had to decide what ought to be done. There was only one issue: he was on Despotia, preparing for "talks" with the majestic Il Imperatore of @Oltremare .
 
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Pelasgia

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Athens, Greece
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Despotia, Propontis M.P.

From its advantageous position to the southwest of Propontis, the isle of Despotikon could survey the entirety of the Imperial capital's main coastline, from the navy base at Daphnium all the way to the cargo port of Hagios Simeon and the Straits themselves. Nevertheless, apart from a small naval base at the island's southwestern tip and a military-administered airport, Despotikon was an oasis of peace and calm in the midst of one of Europe's largest metropolises. Covered to a large extent in forests and monasteries, all of Despotikon belonged to the municipality of Despotia, a unique jurisdiction where all land belonged to the Emperor's Private Chancellery. Most of the said land was on long-term lease to various tenants (including the local townsfolk and the monks of the historic Monastery of Saint George), but a large chank right at the heart of the island had been retained by the Imperial House for its use. There stood the Palace of Despotia, a secluded, peaceful retreat for the Imperial Family right at the foot of the Despotikon Hills.

"You will find, Your Majesty," started Emperor Theodore IV Komnenopoulos, as he led his most august guest into the private palace, "that this residence has all the luxuries of the Great Palace, without the inconvenience and lack of privacy of being at the heart of a major city. Indeed, this palace hosts a unique selection of artworks that have seldom seen the public eye, apart from a few loans to the imperial museum. Artifacts that only a select few, such as yourself, can truly appreciate. Say, Your Majesty, have you ever seen an original manuscript from Plotinus? Allegedly, anyway, but I'll let you be the judge of its authenticity."

The two men made their way through the deepest halls of the palace, flanked by Corinthian pillars of the finest coloured marble and silken curtains with motifs of eagles, peacocks and floral patterns that Propontine art so favoured, the same the adored the mosaics of the floor and the frescoes of the ceilings. The private tour followed a long day of more substantive talks, including discussions about closer, independent relations between the two countries, the details of which would be finalised by the ministers making up the actual, everyday governments of the two states. "Trade agreements, reduced tariffs, visa waivers, cultural exchanges, police and intelligence sharing and the like are all well and good, but they are also a tad boring, one has to admit," the Emperor explained. He stopped to show the couple an exquisite pair of earrings from the 11th century, which were shaped like bees; a servant stepped forth to present a modern pair of earrings resembling the ancient exhibit quite closely, which, as the Emperor explained, were for Il Imperatore's dashing plus one, the dashing María Alejandra Alvarado. "No sane man can let so beautiful a woman leave Propontis without a memento," the Emperor explained.

The tour continued, until the two men reached the large reception hall that was used to entertain guests and throw balls. "Normally, this is were waltzes and cocktails are held, for those that engage in such frivolities. Thankfully, I have reserved for your august person a more refined kind of enjoyment."

As the two men entered, leaving their entourages behind, several servants approached, presenting the two men with disks carrying drinks and... a bit of white powder. "For our amusement," Theodore Komnenopoulos noted, as he took a glass of champagne. It was long enough an interval for the guests to note that the servants were exclusively beautiful women, who, apart from silken robes, seemed to wear nothing. Some of them were clearly beauties from the Empire's various ethnic groups, while others were... more foreign. "As are they. Whoever said the Pannonian War didn't have some good side effects?"


Valls, Ebria

Nikoletta couldn't really complain: the place Donna Sabrina, the polite local landlady at large, had helped them find was both larger and more comfortably located than the one where they had previously lived. Aleksandar had not had a chance to visit yet, but her father had agreed to meet him, so hopefully that would not be an issue in the future. Nonetheless, she could not be really call herself comfortable. «Πάππα,» ("Dad,") she started, re-entering home in sports clothes and sneakers after taking out the trash. «Πάλι ἔψαξαν τὰ σκουπίδια μας.» ("They went through our trash again.")

Apostolos Tiveriades sighed and tightened his grip around his coffee mug. «Θέλουν νὰ ξέρουμε πὼς μᾶς παρακολουθοῦν.» ("They want us to know that they're watching us.") he explained. Nikoletta coiled her hair nervously. «Νὰ τὸ ποῦμε στὴν Ἀστυνομία;» ("Should we tell the police?") Her father stayed silent for a few instants. Then, he stood up and walked to his bag to get his laptop. «Δὲ θὰ μᾶς βοηθήσει αὐτό. Ἀν δὲν προτίθενται νὰ μᾶς ἀφήσουν στὴν ἡσυχία μας ἐδῶ, οὔτε ἐμεὶς θὰ τοὺς κάνουμε αὐτὸ τὸ χατίρι.» ("That won't help us. If they aren't willing to leave us alone even here, we won't grant them that courtesy either.") He searched through a few pages, before remembering something Nikoletta had told him. «Μοῦ εἶπες πὼς εἶχες κάνει αἴτηση γιὰ μιὰ ὑποτροφία τῆς Δέσποινας Εὐδοξίας καὶ τοῦ ἄντρα της, ἔτσι;» ("You told me that you'd applied for a scholarship from Despotess Eudoxia and her husband, right?") Nikoletta nodded, and her father looked for the scholarship page on the web, finding an email for thank you notes. He typed up who he was, his contact information, and a short note asking to talk about the ways in which he could help the Despotess help her brother escape from having to take the monk's black—and, hopefully, others like him.

Then, he run over to his backpack again and pulled out his contact list—an old notebook that he had stashed away at his brother's before being arrested over a decade ago. He turned near the middle using the alphabetical notation on the side of the pages, and stopped at the name of Aldert van Dijk, an old contact of his from his days at the Isonomia, the left-wing Pelasgian newspaper, which had once done a collaboration with het financiële rapport regarding new regulations to protect workers in the shipping industry. Apostolos took out a hard drive he smuggled out of Pelasgia and connected it to the computer; then, he copied some files giving the reader an idea of the kind and scale of scandal he had proof of and attached them to the email he was drafting. He titled it "Story on Money Laundering in Imperial Purple" and concluded the text in a straightforward way: "Interested?" Then, he clicked send and waited.


@Oltremare @Ebria @Vrijpoort @Radilo
 
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Pelasgia

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Athens, Greece
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Vrijpoort

Hermes Air was one of the lesser known Pelasgian airlines, having neither the lustre of the state-owned flag carrier, TAE Tiburian Airways, nor the domestic volume of internal tourists' favourite private airline, Archipelago Airlines. After all, Hermes was not a scheduled airline but a charter airline, meaning that its flights were only available to a select few willing to pay a hefty fee. In this field, it competed with Zeus Executive Aiways, one of Himyar's most celebrated private jet rental services, being seen as the more affordable and less prestigious of the two. While this put it at a disadvantage among highly esteemed clients, there was one client with practically limitless pockets that did not hesitate to use its services precisely because justifying its reduced fees was easier: the Imperial Government.

As the plane approached @Vrijpoort International Airport, one of Europe's busiest, Brigadier Georgios Karageorgiou remarked at the efforts that had been undertaken to keep his visit to the Principality out of the sight and mind of the extremely powerful and well-informed suspects. The flight had been ostensibly booked to covertly transport members of the Imperial Gendarmerie's anti-drugs unit for consultations with the local police; the report and expensing request had been kept on a need-to-know basis, with fake copies being temporarily drafted for those outside the operation; and, of course, communication with the Vrijpoorter side had been only possible through secure channels. The whole thing almost felt like an operation of the Imperial Secret Service, instead of a Chancellery Guard investigation.

And yet, there he was. As he set foot on Vrijpoorter, the Brigadier could not help but feel a certain sense of apprehension as he met his local contact, Chief Investigator for Crimes of the Coin Reginald Porter-Tang. On the one hand, he was helping his country; on the other, he was attacking a man that he, as a Pelasgian, had been raised to practically worship.
O tempora o mores... "Mr. Porter-Tang," he started, "It is a pleasure and an honour to make your acquaintance." No doubt, the two men would have much to discuss and in a short span of time, as the Imperial judiciary could only keep the whole matter a secret for so long.


Propontis, Propontis M.P.

Viktoria stared out of her window with apprehension. It was the last weekend before school was back in session after the holidays, that is to say, the weekend of Epiphany. Everywhere around town, the residents of the Queen of Cities lined up, young and old, for the feast of Epiphany. Some of Viktoria's friends had invited her to the seaside, to observe the custom whereby a priest threw a cross into the waters to bless them for the new year, and the local men rushed to catch it, bringing good luck to whoever was the winner. Viktoria had always wished to participate, but alas, she was a girl; Andreas had also had the same wish, but Vrysoules (ironically for a town whose name meant "fountains") had no body of water to bless, apart from a few shallow mountainside springs. The luck thus fell to their friend and swimming teammate, Tiverios Ioannides, a local of Pyrgos who would attend the ceremony in the nearby harbour near the Church of Our Lady of the Sailors (or Panagia ton Naftikon), the largest in the country.

Viktoria had truly wished to attend, but another problem arose: she was a Catholic and this was an Orthodox tradition. Not that the locals would mind, far from it; but her own family certainly would. The Farkas family had never been particularly pious Catholics, but they were still Catholics. And in a state of diaspora, even the smallest difference with the majority is made into a sacred point of identity. Getting out of bed to walk to church in the morning, Viktoria was practically bored dead. It did not help that the service attended was not at the Catholic Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, a truly magnificent building built with centuries of funding from the merchants of @Radilo and the diplomats of various Catholic nations in the nearby embassy row, but at the small church of the nascent Pannonian community, which stood sandwiched between two apartment buildings in the Pempton. In the shadow of the nearby Orthodox church of the Holy Apostles (Hagioi Apostoloi), the Fifth Urban Region's emblem, it seemed almost comical, especially as the overly numerous parishioners tried to fit into its scarcely adorned walls. Were it not for the funding of the Religious Affairs Department, we wouldn't even have a chalice, she thought, lining up behind some very distant cousins.

Joszef, her brother, was older now, nearing the end of primary school. He was no longer that tiny cute baby she had to help around, nor that perpetually annoying brat whom she had to babysit. Not that his morphing into a teenage boy was not annoying in different ways, but at least Viktoria didn't have to hold his hand now. "Viktoria," he whispered, standing beside her. "Can you help me with my language homework? I need to memorise the words that are accented with a hard breathing symbol again." Viktoria sighed—at the moment the priest was saying a prayer, drawing angry stares from many around her. "Yes, Joszef, later. I'm allowed one last weekend at least, no?" Before further chatter could be heard, Nagyapa Péter, her grandfather, touched the two children's shoulders, as if to hush them.

By the time the service was over, Viktoria had almost caught herself sleeping thrice. Exiting the Church of Saint Stephen of the Pannonians, the high-school aged girl had never been as excited to head to Saturday lunch—whether it had been her stride or her radiating gaze, that sentiment had not been lost on the two orphans' elderly guardian. "I think you would have enjoyed catching the cross with the schismatics more than spending time with our own people," Nagyapa Péter remarked, somewhat bitterly. "I know mass isn't fan, but it's necessary. Where else do you hear Pannonian in this country?" Viktoria felt her feet sink into the ground; had she been that obvious? "But they are our people, grandpa," she said. "We're citizens now. Why do we have to ghettoize ourselves? A church is a church." Joszef, for the first time in forever, dared to contradict his sister. "Maybe for you, maybe they treat you better. You're a girl, and you're good-looking, and you're at the Great School of the Nation, whose uniform you almost never take off, as much as you pretend to hate school; and you carry your bottles and your bags to show it off. But it's not the same for the rest of us. Nagyapa Péter still needs help understanding our utilities, and I'm still 'Iosiph o Pannonas'* at school." Viktoria almost felt betrayed. Grandpa could be old-fashioned and nostalgic, yes, but her brother too? Maybe I should ask Aria, she thought... "All he's saying," Nagyapa Péter added, before she could respond, "is that you should not forget who you are and where you're from. Certainly, no one else will. A passport is a piece of paper, but blood can never change."
*Ἰωσὴφ ὁ Πάννονας or "Joseph the Pannonian"
 

Vrijpoort

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Jul 27, 2018
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583
Location
Berlin, Germany
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Vrijpoort
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Drei
het financiële rapport Head Office
Vrijpoort Press Holdings Tower
87th Floor
Block 107a
4017 Vrijpoort


It was late on a Friday evening. Well past 8 and Aldert van Dijk was clearing his desk for the weekend. He hated arriving on Mondays to a messy work surface. He often stayed late on Fridays when most people left early to get a head start onthe weekend. The Jewish staff were gone by noon on Fridays, heading home to prepare for Shabbat, and the others were usually out by 4. That gave Aldert some peace and quiet to catch up on work and emails he couldn't get to during the hubub of the week.

His desk lamp gave off a warm glow, illuminating the papers and notes on his desk. From out the window he had a view of the steel and glass jungle that is central Vrijpoort. A seemingly endless forest of skyscrapers glowing in the dark, their light reflecting off the harbour waters and beyond, the skyscrapers of the Vrijpoorter mainland continued the urban landscape.

A distant hum of a vacuum cleaner could be heard as the cleaning staff worked across the workfloor. Aldert paid it no heed but was glad that his seniority awarded him a private office with a door. His days working in the cubicle farms were long gone.

He was tapping some A4 papers on his desk to get them neatly organised for his briefcase when a gentle ping eminated from his desktop (he refused to be a slave to a laptop). He gave the monitor a cursory glance, more out of habit than care, and was about to shut the computer down when he noticed the sender's name: Tiveriades. The shipping story. 2010...or was it 11? He put on his reading spectacles, grabbing them from his breast pocket and double clicked on the email.

'Well I'll be damned...' he muttered out loud.

Aldert looked over his shoulder through his open door. The cleaner was vacuuming the cubicle floors right outside now, listening to loud exotic music through headphones. It sounded like a Batavian dance rhythym with lyrics in some Nethian language. The Tempos, migrants granted only temporary work passes, often came from poor Dominions of Vrijpoort or other countries. Aldert pushed his rolling chair towards the door and shut it...just in case.

He rolled back to his desk and tapped a reply to the email on his keyboard.

'My friend, good to hear from you. Where are you these days? Very interested but can't discuss online. When can you get to Vrijpoort? I'll have my secretary book you a flight. If they ask the purpose of your trip at passport control, tell them you're here for some shopping and girls.'

He clicked send, locked his office door, muttered to the cleaner to not enter his office this week and proceeded to the lifts.


Vrijpoort Transcontinental Skyport
Zandvoort Artificial Island
Terminal 1 - Arrivals, post passport control


Easily the busiest international airport in the world, Vrijpoort Transcontinental Skyport has seven runways and five terminals spread out efficiently on a large artificial island that was completed in the early 2000s, west of Revonia Island, where downtown Vrijpoort was located. A massive and long suspension bridge connected it to Revonia via road and rail. Terminal 1 was the crown jewel of the airport. A cascading waterfall and vertical garden graced the interior of the main hall pre-security. There were even parrots and parakeets that lived inside, flying above the hustle and bustle below. Nearly invisble mesh netting caught their excriment and was cleaned nightly.

Typically a charter flight of this sort would arrive in the smaller, simpler Terminal 4, but Chief Investigator for Crimes of the Coin Reginald Porter-Tang had put in a request to have it park at Terminal 1. Mostly because it was closer to the train station.

Porter-Tang was in his late thirties. Medium build, handsome and of Tiannese descent. His father was half Federation, half Tiannese, his mother full Tiannese. The father was born in Vrijpoort, the mother immigrated there as a young woman working in a textile factory back when that was still a big business. Reginald Porter-Tang was a quintessential Vrijpoorter: mixed blood, of many cultures, but firmly proud to call this city state home.

He was sitting in one of the leather chairs in the arrivals hall, perusing the daily tabloid beeld while waiting. Tarusan jets on their way to Angliarique. Ostmark cozying up to the Arctic Bear. The Hanseatic states bristling. The oil markets up in flux. Porter-Tang considered himself lucky to be a Vrijpoorter. We just have to carefully navigate these nasty waters, he thought to himself.

He folded the tabloid and tucked it under his arm as he stood up. His counterpart had just passed through the diplomatic passport control desk.

Reginald gave a genuine smile and a respectable bow - Vrijpoorters had long ago adopted the eastern greeting in place of handshakes, probably during one of the plagues.

'Brigadier Georgios Karageorgiou, I welcome you to the Principality of Vrijpoort. Thank you so very much indeed for making the journey. I trust your flight was in order?' he spoke to the man in Rheinisch, the usual lingua franca in Gallo-Germania, at least in Vrijpoort, but was prepared to switch to Engelsh if the Brigadier so preferred.

Reginald snapped his fingers and an aide took the Brigadier's bag with a low bow, showing his deference to the higher rank of the guest.

'I know that you may perhaps be used to diplomatic cars and such when on foreign visits, but the traffic is horrible today and I thought we would take the Skyport Express into town.'

Reginald led the way. The wayfinding signs in the airport clearly showed the path to the train station located within the terminal in Vrijpoorts, Rheinisch, Pannonian, Ebrian, Tarusan, Tiannese and Engelsh. The departure board was full of possible trains to take. Multiple MRTs (Mass Rapid Transit) subways were leaving every four minutes to different parts of Revonia Island and the Mainland. Regional Express trains were off to farther reaches of the Mainland, Thalgau, southern Csengia and even northwestern Rheinbund. It was at the platform for the Skyport Express that Reginald had led them. He took out his bank card and tapped it at the turnstile. The little gate swung open and the small screen displayed the cost of his ride: 90 florins, or about €M11.90. Significantly more than the 10 florins for an MRT ride, but also significantly faster.

The aide swiftly procured a transport card and tapped it for the Brigadier. They boarded the sleek train and found seats in the carriage facing one another. It wasn't terribly packed today, so they had plenty of space. A white-gloved and uniformed platform attendant gave a nearly 90-degree bow towards the train as the chimes sounded and the doors closed. A female recorded voice gave announcements in Vrijpoorts and then other languages.

Welcome aboard the 10.32 Skyport Express. Calling at Zandvoort Cargo Zone, Revonia West, Tianlong Gardens and Vrijpoort Centraal. Total journey time to Vrijpoort Centraal is 23 minutes and 32 seconds. Enjoy the ride, beat the traffic and avoid the riffraff with Skyport Express, a Buy 'N Large company.

The train whipped past the vehicular traffic on the bridge, offering stunning views of the skyline and mountains beyond. The men made polite smalltalk and enjoyed coffee on fine china served by an immaculately dressed porter. The aide paid with the tap of a bankcard issued by the office but tipped in cash, a common Vrijpoorter custom - it was unfortunately common for companies to not always pay out card tips, so people preferred passing banknotes directly into the hand of their servers and other helpers.

The last minutes of the journey were subterranean and the train began to gradually slow, but it was hard to notice. The Rheinisch-built train was so smooth and quiet, one could hardly notice that they were moving at all. A few passengers began rummaging about for their baggage and coats and the recorded announcement came on after a pleasant-sounding chime.

We are now arriving at Vrijpoort Centraal. This is the final stop. All passengers must allight. Please don't forget any personal effects. Please ensure you tap out upon leaving the platform area. Thank you for travelling today with Skyport Express, the civilised way to and from Vrijpoort Transcontinental Skyport. Live well and prosper!

The three men scurried thorugh the massive train station, which was markedly busier than the airport station. They transfered to the MRT Jubilee Line, rode four stops to Regeringswijk (government district) and from the underground station took a lift directly to the building Reginald had arranged for them to meet in. With the tap of his Unikaartje, a government ID that also acted as health insurance, driver's license and work or government ID, the correct floor was selected by the lift's computer system.

They rode rapidly to the 43rd floor and upon exiting went through a security checkpoint, after which they proceeded to a glass-walled conference room, soundproofed, with spectacular views of the city below and above them.

'Brigadier, my aide will personally bring your baggage to your hotel. We've put you up at the Grand Occidental. Perhaps you've had high tea at the Prepontis location? Anyway, here in my office's we can begin working undisturbed with whatever resources we may require. The offices of the Financial Guard are some of the most secure in the country.'

Porter-Tang nodded for the server to come in with a tray of beautifully put together sandwiches and cakes. A samovar of fresh tea from the finest tea leaves of Tiannlong was placed on a side runner along one of the walls. The server bowed before departing.

'We Vrijpoorters are quite accustomed to staff and service. All paid a fair market wage of course.' Reginald poured himself some tea and grabbed a white fish sandwich and some chopped liver and crackers. Ashkenazi Jewish cuisine was commonplace in Vrijpoort due to nearly 10 per cent of the population being Jewish.

'Please, help yourself.' Reginald extended his arm towards the light lunch service before sipping his tea. 'I hope you like Jewish delicatessen, but I could have anything your heart or stomach desires brought up if you prefer.'

Reginald tapped the touch screen on the conference table and the glass doors instantly became frosted. The door locked. The ambient lighting cast a warm glow on the table. The lighted room name and number outside the conference room turned from green to red, indicating that they should not be disturbed.

'Birgadier, I had the opportunity to read your prelimenary report and request before you arrived and I must say that the allegations are quite damning. Naturally I understand your office's desire to get hold of any information that could help in your investigation. I am here to assist in that. It's just that until I know exactly what the issues are, I can't sanction the seizure and or release of sensitive banking documents beyond the borders of the Principality and her dominions. My hope is that you could give me a a summary of the case along with your wishes of what you need to properly execute your investigation. Then I can see what I can do.'

Reginald set his teacup down onthe saucer gently and waited for his counterpart to proceed. An air ambulance helicopter passed by the tower, followed by a police drone. Then came a bolt of lightening above the harbour, followed by a booming crack of thunder and moments later, the glass windowpanes began to receive the raindrops of a typical Vrijpoort winter gale.
 
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Pelasgia

Established Nation
Joined
Sep 30, 2014
Messages
4,200
Location
Athens, Greece
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Demos
Vrijpoort

Brigadier Karageorgiou had been to @Vrijpoort a few times in the past. Ironically enough, the last time had been to receive a training from colleagues at the Vrijpoorter Financial Guard on international financial crimes investigations. Certainly, one could not say that they lacked in either experience or know-how. Yet, every time that the Chancellery Guard's staff officer came back to the small but wealthy city state, he could not marvel at the sight: a whole city with a surface area much smaller than a single constituent deme of the Metropolitan Prefecture of Propontis, and yet a population almost as big as that of the Queen of Cities. The whole string of islands was covered in spires that looked like those of Galatopyrgos Financial District, only stretching out as far as the eye could see... If the future was anywhere, it was in Vrijpoort. For a man from a society so thoroughly anchored in the past, the sight was both impressive and intimidating at once.

"Danke," Karageorgiou answered, making use of his practically fluent Rheinish. Like most Pelasgians, he had been required to learn both Engellsh and another foreign tongue (usually Frankish, Ebrian or Rheinish) in school, with a C2 level being required for any senior government position likely to come into contact with foreign officials. "I actually quite enjoy Jewish food, though I'm more used to that of the Meridian Jews. My wife, you see, is Jewish—her family name is Koen, and her cooking certainly lives up to it."

Remembering that Germanians had less of a culture of breaking the ice with personal stories than Pelasgians and other Meridian peoples, we decided, after only a few more pleasantries and thanks for Mr. Porter-Tang's quite impressive reception, to cut to the chase. "On to your question, then, dear colleague." With a bit of help from his host, the Brigadier displayed a few slides on a screen before the two men, which had been included in the documents that had originally been sent along with the request for information. "I am in the unfortunate position of reporting that the investigation is quite advanced on our end already. Since last year, we have been building a case regarding the potential involvement of the Sebastokrator—that is, the reigning Emperor's brother—in a scheme to launder funds from sanctioned nations into the sanctioning nation through the use of Tiburian banks in both the Empire and abroad, as well as legalising funds from illegal activities in several Himyari countries and investing illegally obtained funds in Himyar covertly through the same banks. This is part of a broader crackdown on illegal activities in the Empire's financial sector, which has grown in size and sophistication, and which the Government has explicitly aimed to transform into a proper financial centre for Himyar rather than an outpost for quasi-legal deposits and activities. We have supressed various criminal syndicates; however, it was only through the help of the Imperial Secret Service that we received this tip."

The Brigadier took a sip of water before continuing. "I must clarify that the Cabinet Council and the official government are not involved in this scheme, nor are they aware of it. It appears to have been carried out as a private operation entirely by the figures involved, who used the immunity from investigation that generally clouds their activities as a shield. The Imperial Secret Service was able to get around these restrictions due to unrelated activities of the Sebastokrator that were of concern due to potential risks to the integrity of the Constitution... but, once arrested, the Sebastokrator apparently blamed his brother and nephew, and several of their associates, and sought to implicate them as well. Our resulting investigation produced significant supporting evidence, and, once presented with it, both the Financial Crimes Prosecutor and the Investigating Magistrate of the Chamber of Accounts agreed that the burden to press criminal charges had been met. However, the specific crimes alleged in the Sebastokrator's testimony extend beyond operations in Tiburia, into activities outside its borders: specifically, in your own borders."

"To explain, then," Karageourgiou said, switching a slide. "We are alleging that the three individuals named took funds from Sanctioned Nation A to invest them into Sanctioning Nation B (or vice versa) and funneled them through Propontis on the receiving end, then to shell companies' accounts in Vrijpoort and then to the Meridian Antilles, where they were pooled into funds making investments in the sanctioned nation. This is not illegal under Imperial law per se, because it violates sanctions not imposed or recognised by our own government, so it is not the subject of our investigation. Moreover, most of these sanctions have been lifted now, making the point moot. However, what is of interest to us is the use of these same accounts, which we also observed, to launder funds obtained from illegal activities occuring in Tiburia to foreign markets through this same pipeline, and also from activities that we recognise as illegal even if they occured outside Tiburia, specifically various activities in Central Himyar related to human rights violations and also attempts by the now-defunct Koressios and Pegasus Conglomerates to overturn the Imperial Government. It is our understanding that the funds for these two streams were sometimes commingled, and that 'fees' of sorts where collected by the masterminds of the operation. The banks implicated in all cases are the Imperial Himyari Bank of Commerce—a bank which was formerly part of the Koressios Conglomerate before court decisions forced its break-up and public ownership and has also been under intense judicial scrutiny—and TAK Financial Group—which was largely law-abiding until three years ago, when its finances became heavily strained due to international commercial trends."

The Brigadier took another sip of water before concluding. "We hope that you can thus provide us with documents on your end to prove the part of the allegations relating to money laundering operations from Central Himyar and within Tiburia to elsewhere, as a significant part of those operations involved Vrijpoorter banks. We can guarantee that the indictments will remain sealed and that the proceeding will be largely in camera, in keeping with Imperial criminal procedure. I also ask your understanding regarding the delicacy of these matters. Grosso modo, this is the matter as it stands. Is there anything that you would like me to clarify?"

As Karageorgiou waited for his colleague to respond, somewhere in the city, Apostolos Tiveriades set foot on Vrijpoorter soil after a red-eyed flight, and headed straight for his meeting point with his old contact, Aldert van Djik. "It's not paranoia if they're really out to get you" was perhaps the perfect axiom to describe Tiveriades' state of mind, and not unjustly so. As he took the MRT to the heart of the busy city centre, the fugitive investigative journalist scanned his surroundings in a near-paranoid fashion, so much so that at least one passenger asked him if he was lost and needed directions. His vigilance momentarily waned when he caught sight of a news report on one of the train's screens: Emperor Theodore was in the hospital in critical condition, and he was in a comma. May he die a terrible death and burn in hell, the murdering son of a whore, Tiveriades thought to himself.

At once, he pictured all the lives that the Emperor had ruined, either through his action or his inaction where he could have prevented the evil in question: the hordes of men consigned to the prison labour camps of the katerga, the Empire's penal labour system for criticising or opposing the government; the journalists who had disappeared or been blatantly murdered without any serious investigation into the affair for merely doing their job; the innocents who died or were hurt as collateral damage in the war between the Krypteia and the Camorra of @Radilo for control over criminal affairs in the eastern Meridian; the countless victims of human rights abuses in Central Himyar whose sweat had resulted in funds laundered through Pelasgian banks to enrich Theodore and his cronies; the homosexual nobleman whom the Krypteia had "disappeared" deep under Rhodokastellon Fortress for attempting to run off with the former Grand Despot without trial or even a hearing; and so many others. Those last two were what Tiveriades had come to Vrijpoort to discuss with his old contact. As the train reached the station where Apostolos meant to get off, he bolted out of his seat and started for the rendez-vous point.


Propontis, Pelasgia

Georgios Nomikos was having a bad day. As flowery as his tongue was, being the scion of a line of jurists, the Grand Secretary could find no better words for the circumstances that he found himself in. The Emperor, the man who held together the symbolism of the civic nation that Nomikos and his liberal party, the EPEK, had tried to build, was unconscious and teetering on the brink of death, after so scandalous a party with Il Imperatore that the Krypteia had to bring in a special team to remove evidence (and witnesses) from the Palace of Despotia. The Chancellery Guard, strengthened and rendered more independent after reforms to give permanent officials in the Chancellery a freer hand in dealing with corruption and tax evasion, had raided two major banks and was apparently investigating senior government figures, though their exact identities were unclear as of yet. Regardless, the ones Nomikos had heard of were enough to tank his career and require his resignation and disgrace. Perhaps, he thought, I could retire now and plant my cabbages in dignity like Diocletian. Alas, he knew that that would likely only serve to leave his successor with a crisis once the whole thing did blow up, perhaps further undermining his legacy.

Then again, the most likely successor in question was likely to do that himself... As he stared across the table at the broad-shouldered, tall figure of Exterior Secretary Theophrastos Phokas, whose silver hair and piercing gaze seemed so like depictions of his much-celebrated (or feared, depending on whether one asked a left-wing trade unionist) grandfather, Nomikos could not help but rub his large, sharp nose with suspicion. There was a man willing to do anything to get into power... but who quite clearly was a Pelasgian nationalist through and through and not a particularly enthusiastic backer of the sort of managed democracy and enlightened liberal rule that Nomikos and his predecessor had put into place. Phokas was obviously a natural leader of the Nationalist Right, who had only joined the liberal centre for the political expediency of not being branded a backer of the Junta that preceded the Restoration (though he clearly was), and who would, no doubt, jump at a chance to undermine the Restoration as soon as it was practicable. Nevertheless, he was still leagues better than the vulgar populist ruffians who presently run the Nationalist Right, if only because he had enough of a brain to understand how much of the liberal EPEK's reform programme had been necessary, even if unpopular.

Phokas, for his part, seemed quite content but focused on the matter at hand. As if he were already Grand Secretary, he directed the conversation, only occasionally stopping to ask for Nomikos' ratification as if it were a formality or a courtesy. Not that the Grand Secretary could fault him: with dark bags under his eyes due to several days without any real sleep, he could hardly keep up with what was being said, let alone direct the meeting. «Ἐν τέλει, κύριοι, συμπεραίνομεν ὄτι εἴτε ἀναρώσει εἴτε ὄχι ὁ εὐσεβέστατος Βασιλεύς ἡμων, ἀπαραίτητον ἐστὶν ὅπως φροντίσομεν τὰ τὴς διαδοχῆς αὐτου. Ἀποθανὼν πρέπει προφανῶς ἀντικαθίσταται, μὰ καὶ ζών, πλέον, μάλλον παραιτεῖσθαι ἀρμόζει, καθῶς τὸ σκάνδαλον τῆς ὑποθέσεως τῶν δύο τραπεζῶν φαίνεται πὼς διαταράξει τὴν τοῦ δήμου πίστιν εἰς τὴν Πολιτείαν.» ("Gentlemen, in the end, we must conclude that whether our most pious Emperor recovers or not, it is imperative that we sort out the matters of his succession. If he dies, he must obviously be replaced, but if he lives too, now, it is probably more appropriate for him to abdicate, as the scandal involving the two banks seems poised to shake the people's confidence in the Polity*.")

*Πολιτεία (politeia) here is used as in the sense of the ancient Tiburan res publica: the state as a collective political community.

Shining across from Phokas was the bald head of Superintendent General of the State Michail Gerasimides, the bearded man with the boring suit and the cold, calculating attitude of a bureaucrat. A man who dealt in practicalities and essentially controlled the entire public service by allocating their budgets and authorising various sorts of decisions affecting them, Gerasimides was a premier within the premiership, and he always seemed to have an answer to every question, though he was incapable of (or perhaps unwilling to) form or propose any kind of policy himself. «Ἔχετε σκεφτεῖ τὸν Συνταγματάρχη Τζαμαντοῦρον; Ἀνοίκει σὲ μιὰ οἰκογένεια μὲ μακρινὴ καταγωγὴ ἀπὸ τὸν Οἶκο Λάσκαρη καὶ εἶναι παντρεμένος μὲ μία ἀνηψιὰ τοῦ Βασιλιᾶ ἀπὸ τὴ συγχωρεμένη ἀδελφή του.» ("Have you considered Colonel Tzamantouros? He belongs to a family that is distantly descended from the House of Laskaris and he is married to a niece of the Emperor's from his late sister.")

A ready response came from Megas Doux and Armed Forces General Staff Chief Nikephoros Andrianopoulos, whose calm blue eyes were almost as tranquil as the waters of the bay in front of the Admiralty. «Τὸν Ἰωάννην; Εἶχε διακριθεῖ ὠς τότε ἴλαρχος κατὰ τὴ Στάση τῶν Συπρῶν καὶ ἔπειτα ὠς ἐπίλαρχος στὴν Κεντρικὴ Ὁμηρεία ὅπου διοίκησε τὰ τεθωρακισμένα τμήματα τῶν συμμάχων μας ἔναντι τῶν ἀνταρτῶν.» ("Ioannes? He distinguished himself back when he was a Captain during the Shuprian Rebellion, and then as a Major in Central Himyar, where he commanded our local allies' armoured units against the rebels.")

Nomikos had to admit that the man had both the pedigree and the achievements to be legitimised as Emperor; or at least enough for Imperial propaganda to do its work of legitimising him. Moreover, he was presently the commander of the armoured unit stationed in Selymbria, in the Theme of the Optimatoi, just outside the bounds of the Metropolitan Prefecture of Propontis. Certainly, his allegiance would be important if any opposing candidates for the Imperial Purple were to attempt to challenge the Government's choice...

The Grand Secretary's train of thought was interrupted by Phokas' response, which, uncharacteristically enough, was in modern Pelasgian rather than the archaic legalese ancient Pelasgian that the Exterior Secretary generally preferred—a rare sign of unfiltered honesty. «Τυγχάνει νὰ τὸν ἔχω γνωρίσει καθῶς ἡ σύζυγός του ἦταν συμφοιτήτρια τῆς κόρης μου στὴν Ἰατρικὴ Σχολὴ Προποντίδος. Ἦταν νεότερος τότε, ἀλλὰ ὀφείλω νὰ πῶ πὼς μὲ εἶχε ἐντυπωσιάσει.» ("I happen to have met him as his wife studied with my daughter at Propontis Medical School. He was younger then, but I must say that he impressed me.") Naturally, Phokas looked at his superior with a gaze like that of a child demanding his parents' approval; Nomikos nodded, and then veered out of paying attention again, hoping that the meeting would be over soon, so he could go and draft his resignation.
 
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Pelasgia

Established Nation
Joined
Sep 30, 2014
Messages
4,200
Location
Athens, Greece
Nick
Demos
Aspropol, Pelagonia
September 9, 2022

The large clocktower at the heart of the city sounded. With its every chime, every marble tile making up the central city square shook in unison. Under a shining bronze dome, the arms of the clock that defaced the beautiful all-white administration building, with its slender pillars, moved. Five o’clock, Director Stamatopoulos thought. It is that time. Across from the regional administration building on Palinorthosis Square* stood the Director's own locale: the Imperial Research Institute of Pelagonia, one of the Empire's most important public research foundations. Standing well over the skyline of the rest of the neoclassical city, the occupants of the two majestic edifices could easily hear all that was going on in Aspropol, even as far away as the city's Central Railway Station.

*"Restoration Square," a common name for the central square in any Pelasgian city, named after the 1971 Komnenopoulian Restoration.

With almost mechanical precision, the breaks of a dozen trains screeched in the distance, all at once. As on every day at this time, the railway station, with its large statue of a double-headed eagle, drew an endless swarm of men, as it did every day. Scores of miners and farm workers went in and out of the city’s surrounding towns as the working day came to a close; cargo trains loaded with ore and industrial goods made a horrid noise as their hydraulic breaks released and they started for the four corners of the country (who in all of Pelasgia had not once bought matches from nearby Diospolis?); conscripts headed to the nearby army training base to receive training or left it for the deployment that would take up the rest of their year (or two, depending on their specialty) in the service of the Nation. All of these movements were normal; there was, however, one pair of travelers that was quite out of the ordinary.

A soft, polite knock sounded on the wooden door, with its beautiful paneling that was inspired from floral patterns. «Κύριε Διευθυντᾶ,» (“Mr. Director,”) Konstantina, Stamatopoulos’s assistant, said. «Ἔφτασαν.» (“They’re here.”) The grey-haired academic nodded and skimmed through the two young lads’ CV’s and letters of recommendation, which he had before him. Looking through a pair of laconic, metal and glass spectacles of the simplest kind, Stamatopoulos' dark brown eyes scanned the documents with amazing speed, skipping lines and words without missing any important detail—the mark of any seasoned academic.

«Καλὴν ἐσπέραν κύριε Διευθυντᾶ,» (“Good afternoon, Director,”) said the first of the young men, stepping into the room with his brother in tow. «Σᾶς εὐχαριστοῦμε γιὰ τὴν τιμὴ ποὺ μᾶς κάνετε.» (“Thank you for having us.”) He was likely Emmanouil, the eldest, or so Stamatopoulos reasoned.

«Νὰ εὐχαριστεῖτε τὸν Ἔπαρχο Ἀδαμαντίδη γιὰ τὴν ἐπιστολή του,» (“Thank Governor Adamantides for his letter,”) the academic replied, flipping the document in question over. «Ἡ μέθοδός σας ἔσωσε τὴν ζωὴ τῆς κόρης του, μὰ ἐλπίζω πὼς θὰ μπορέσει νὰ φανεῖ χρήσιμη στὸ Ἔθνος.» (“Your method saved his daughter’s life—but it is my hope that it could be put to use in the Nation’s service.”)

«Φυσικά, καὶ ἐμεὶς αὐτὸ ἐλπίζουμε.» (“Yes sir, it is our hope too,”) said Alexandros, the cadet brother, «Ἡ Ἀσπρούπολη ἔχει ἕνα ἐκ τῶν λαμπρότερων ἐρευνητικῶν κέντρων στὴν Ὁμηρεία, καὶ θὰ ἦταν τιμή μας νὰ ἐργαστοῦμε ἐδῶ. Ὁ πατέρας μας-» (“Aspropol has one of the finest research centres in Himyar, and it would be an honour to work here. Our father-”)

«Σπατάλησε τὸ ταλέντο του στὴν ἐπαρχιακὴ Πελαγονία ἐπειδὴ δὲν ἤθελε νὰ ἀφήσει τὴ Διόσπολη.» (“Wasted his talent in rustic Pelagonia because he did not wish to leave Diospolis,”) Stamatopoulos said, cutting the boy off. «Μὴ μὲ παρεξηγήσετε, καὶ 'γὼ ἀπ' αὐτὰ τὰ μέρη εἶμαι· συγκεκριμένα ἀπὸ τὰ Ἀνάκτορα, τὸ χωριὸ μετὰ τὸ δικό σας, τὴν Κελλία. Ἀλλὰ μάλλον βγῆκε σὲ καλὸ ἐν τέλει: ὁ πατέρας σας, ὁ Κόσμος Χρηστίδης, ὅσο ταλαντοῦχος καὶ νὰ ἦταν, θὰ εἶχε γίνει σίγουρα ἕνας ἄριστος χειρουργὸς μὰ τίποτε παραπάνω. Ἀντ' αὐτοῦ, ἔμεινε ἐδῶ καὶ συνένωσε τὴν ἐξυπνάδα του μὲ αὐτὴ τῆς μητρὸς σας, βγάζοντας ἐσάς.» (“No offence, I am from near there too—Anaktora, the next town over from your native Kellia. But perhaps it is for the best: your father, Kosmas Christides, gifted as he was, could have surely become a fine surgeon in the Capital, but nothing more. Instead, he stayed here, added your mother’s intellect to his own, and produced you.”) The Professor stood up and turned to face the portrait that hanged above his desk: one of the Emperor, naturally. He offered a small bow, barely more than a nod but perceptible nonetheless, and then walked over to a large map of the Empire that hanged on the wall separating his office from his private study. «Ὄχι λοιπόν, δὲ θὰ χαραμίστειτε ἐδῶ, μ' αὐτοὺς τοὺς δοξασμένους κτηνιάτρους. Θὰ πάτε στὴ Βασίλισσα τῶν Πόλεων. Ἡ Βασιλεία ἔχει ἀνάγκη τὶς δεξιότητές σας.» (“No, you will not be wasted here, with these glorified vets. You will go to the Queen of Cities. The Empire has need of your skills there.”)

Alexandros mustered up the courage to ask a question. «Μὰ τὶ θὰ γίνει μὲ τὴ θητεία μας; Τελειώσαμε τὴν ἰατρικὴ καὶ σύντομα θὰ πρέπει νὰ παρουσιαστοῦμε.» (“What of our national service? We’re done medical school and are soon due to be conscripted.”)

A large grin appeared on the broad-shouldered academic's face, for he could not suppress it. «Καὶ τὶ ἀκριβῶς νομίζετε πὼς θὰ κάνετε στὴ Βασιλεύουσα; Θὰ βλέπετε τὶς ἀρματοδρομίες στὸν Ἱππόδρομο;» (“And what exactly did you think it is you would be doing in Propontis? Watching the races at the Hippodrome?”)


Propontis, Pelasgia

Rigas had had a full few weeks; between gathering intelligence on the rival claimants to the Throne and keeping tabs on various political actors as the Emperor's health deteriorating, attempting to ascertain what the Chamber of Accounts' indictment of senior political figures would look like and who exactly it implicated, and, as of today, trying to suppress news of Despotess Eudoxia's confirming her brother's homosexuality, the Krypteia's internal political control directorate had its hands full.
It doesn't help that I feel that half these tasks are useless in a modern country, Rigas thought to himself as he climbed out of the 1930s elevator and exited into the hallway outside his apartment on the eighth floor of a neoclassical building at the heart of the Cathedral District—home.

In truth, the Lt. Colonel of the Imperial Gendarmerie had fully expected the baby's crying and his wife's half-exhausted, sleep-deprived hug as he entered the home. Nothing was surprising, except that he could swear that her belly seemed to protrude a bit more this time. The baby's coming along alright, he reasoned... and he prepared to make a remark to that effect, only for his wife to nod in the direction of the table. Rigas could hardly believe his eyes: a teenage redheaded girl was lying head-first on the table, apparently crying or having just stopped. «Βικτωρία;» ("Viktoria?") he asked, in disbelief. Just what I needed...

Sure as could be, the Pannonian girl looked up with red eyes and spoke in a tired voice. «Γειά σας, κύριε Καβαλλάρη. Ἐλπίζω νὰ μὴν ἐνοχλώ.» ("Hello Mr. Kavallaris. I hope I'm not bothering you.") Rigas looked at his wife, and her golden-brown eyes stared back into his as if to say: "Talk to her." And that, with a deep sigh and a slight shaking of the head, he resigned himself to do. After all, he reasoned, if Anna gets her wish and the second baby's a girl, I'll have to have this talk at some point anyway. Might as well get a head start and practice.

Without taking his coat of, Rigas grabbed Viktoria's from the rack and brought it to her. «Θὲς νὰ πάμε γιὰ λουκουμάδες; Ἔχω βρεῖ ἕναν παραδοσιακὸ πωλητὴ κοντὰ στὸν Γαλατόπυργο.» ("Wanna go for loukoumades*? I know a traditional vendor near Galatopyrgos Tower.")
*The Pelasgian version of lokma, dessert originated from Al-Maghrab made of leavened and deep fried dough balls, soaked in syrup or honey, sometimes coated with cinnamon or other ingredients.

Whether out of courtesy or true hunger, Viktoria agreed and jumped up, following the officer out his home and to the subway. Half an hour later, as the two of them sat on a bench by the port of Pyrgos with a paper container of the delicious honeyed doughballs in hand, Rigas finally found his opportunity to ask what this was all about. «Λοιπόν, τὶ σ' ἔπιασε καὶ κλαὶς ξαφνικά; Ἔγινε τίποτα μὲ κανένα ἀγόρι;» ("So what's gotten into you and made you cry all of a sudden? Did something happen with a boy?")

Viktoria blushed and stared in shock, as if it was not apparent what her concern was to one had was already well past that stage of life. «Ναὶ ξέρετε... Ὁ φίλος μου ὁ Ἀνδρέας... Τοῦ εἶπα πὼς μοῦ ἀρέσει ἀλλὰ δὲν εἶπε τίποτα καὶ ἔφυγε. Καὶ τελευταία κάνει πολλὴ παρέα μὲ μιὰ συμμαθήτριά μας, τὴν Ἀθηνά...» ("Well, you know... My friend Andreas... I told him that I like him, but he said nothing and left. And lately he hangs out a lot with our classmate, Athina...") Rubbing his chin, the olive-green-garmented man gave the whole thing a few moments' thought before answering. «Εἶσαι σίγουρη πὼς ἤσουν τόσο ξεκάθαρη μαζί του; Ξέρεις, τὰ ἀγόρια ὡριμάζουν πιὸ ἀργὰ ἀπὸ τὰ κορίτσια σὲ ἀυτὸν τὸν τομέα. Μπορεὶ νὰ μὴν κατάλαβε τὶ ἐννοούσες. Ὅσο γιὰ τὴν Ἀθηνά, ἀν ἀρχίσεις νὰ ζηλεύεις ἀπὸ τῶρα κάθε γυναικὰ μὲ τὴν ὁποία μιλάει ὁ ἄνδρας ποὺ ἀγαπᾷς, δὲ θὰ περάσεις καθόλου καλὰ ὅταν παντρευτεὶς κακομοίρα μου!» ("Are you so sure that you were that clear with him? You know, boys mature slower than girls in this regard. Maybe he didn't get your meaning. As for this Athina, if you start being jealous of every woman the man you love talks to this early, you won't enjoy marriage one bit when you're older!") For the first time in forever, Viktoria felt relieved; what's more, she could not help but laugh at Rigas' last observation. Rigas joined in the laughter—perhaps he was relieved that, even if he ended up having a daughter, he could still talk to her.
 
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Pelasgia

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Athens, Greece
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Demos
Propontis, Pelasgia

«Ὁ Μπενλεβί;» ("And Benlevi?") Karaoglou asked, throwing down his lit cigarette and stomping on it. His colleague, Palatianos, shook his head. «Δὲν ὑπάρχει περίπτωση νὰ ἔρθει. Φοβᾶται πὼς ἀν πέσει ἡ κυβέρνηση καὶ ἀναλάβουν τὰ ἡνία οἱ ἐθνικιστές, θὰ γίνει πολίτης β΄ κατηγορίας.» ("There's no chance he'll come. He's afraid that, if the government collapses and the nationalists take power, he'll become a second-class citizen.") Karaoglou shrugged. «Ἤτανε ποὺ μέχρι τῶρα μᾶς ἔκανε τὸ μάγκα... Νὰ σοῦ πῶ τὴν ἀλήθεια, μοῦ κάνει ἐντύπωση ποὺ ἦρθες ἐσύ, ὁ φιλήσυχος.» ("So much for being a 'lad.' To tell you the truth, I'm surprised that you came, Mr. Peace-and-Quiet.") Palatianos started walking for the subway stop and only offered a response a few moments later, just when Karaoglou thought he wouldn't be getting one. «Δὲ θέλω προβλήματα. Ἀλλά ὅταν μὲ κλέβει ὁ ἴδιος μου ὁ Βασιλιᾶς, ἀυτὸ εἶναι πρόβλημα ἔτσι κι ἀλλιῶς.» ("I just don't want trouble. But when my own Emperor steals from me, that is a problem already.")

Karaoglou was excited—in an innocent way, almost like a middle-schooler about to skip class for the first time. Alas, he had only gotten to the entrance of the metro before his rebellious dreams were crushed: the doors were shut, and a notice was pinned to them: CLOSED BY POLICE ORDER. «Θὰ σᾶς πρότινα νὰ πάτε σπίτι σας,» ("I'd go home if I were you,") said a young attendant while checking the locks. His blue OASYP* fatigues matched the colour of his glasses. «Ἡ ἀστυνομία ἔχει κλείσει ὅλες τὶς διόδους πρὸς τὸ κέντρο καὶ ἄκουσα πὼς ἔχουν βάλει μπρὸς τὰ ἄρματα ἀπὸ τὴ Βάση Σελυμβρίας.» ("The police have cut off all ways to the city centre, and I heard that the tanks from Selymbria [Army] Base are moving to the city.") Palatianos opened his phone and saw a message from his wife, asking him where he was, accompanied by a link to a Twatter post showing a column of armoured vehicles on the Propontis-Selymbria Highway. AHe tried to rewind the video, but the internet suddenly seemed to have stopped working. God help us, he thought.

*Ο.Α.ΣΥ.Π., the acronym of the Propontis Urban Transit Organisation, which runs all local public transport in the Metropolitan Prefecture

At the same time, in the heart of the city—where the two stevedores had intended to go—the Great Palace overlooking Augoustaion Square, found itself surrounded and besieged. Protesters had gathered around despite a strong police and gendarmerie presence, and they were demanding anything from the indictment of everyone involved in the IHBC-TAK Financial Scandal to the proclamation of a Pelasgian Republic. The gendarmes, in their characteristic olive-green uniforms both on foot and mounted, were itching for the order to disperse the crowd. Most wear riot uniforms, but a few units with weapons had also arrived, hidden inside armoured vehicles to avoid enraging the crowd. The police, the MADIP, in their more civilian blue, were more concerned with avoiding a violent scuffle.

All the while, a helicopter had landed in the area behind the Palace, next to the Imperial Gardens, for an esteemed guest to be brought to the the Privy Council Room, where the Regent-Patriarch was meeting with the Cabinet, the Megas Doux and other key advisers. Conspicuously absent were the Despot and Despotess of the Komnenopoulos Dynasty, who had been conducted to Selymbria Air Force Base by helicopter for their own safety (and to be safely in the grip of the Government, depending on how their respective scandals were to play out). Once the required formalities and pleasantries had been dispensed with, Colonel Ioannes Tzamantouros found himself sat next to the Ecumenical Patriarch, near the head of the table, his olive-green army uniform bearing an unmistakable black mourning armband like all others save for the Patriarch (who wore all-black vestments anyway).

«Ἐξοχότατοι, ἀναφέρω ὑμῖν πὼς αἱ δυνάμεις ὑπὸ τὸ πρόσταγμά μου εἰσὶν ἐπὶ τῆς διοικητικῆς γραμμῆς μεταξὺ τῆς Μητροπολιτικῆς Περιφέρειας Προποντίδος καὶ τοῦ Θέματος τῶν Ὀπτιμάτων.» ("Your Excellencies, I report that the forces under my command are on the administrative line between the Metropolitan Prefecture of Propontis and the Optimatoi Theme.") With those words, the Colonel started his substantive report to the Regency Council, bringing relief to both Grand Secretary Grammatikos and Exterior Secretary Phokas. The Patriarch, for his part, was not excited about the prospect of slaughtering unarmed people to preserve a regime; this was a point that he had voiced repeatedly prior to the Colonel's arrival. Before he had a chance to do so again, however, Tzamantouros continued his report. «Ἐν περιπτώσει ὅπου τὰ πλήθη ἐπιχειρήσωσι βιαιοπραγεῖν ἔναντι τοῦ Συμβουλίου τούτου καὶ τῆς ἕδρας του, ὑπερβαίνοντά τας τῆς ἀστυνομίας δυνατότητας, οὐ δυστάσωσιν ἐπέμβαίνειν. Ἀντιθέτως, ἐπὶ τοῦ παρόντος, θεώρησα πὼς προσήκει μετὰ τοῦ τῆς ἀντιπολιτεύσεως ἀρχηγοῦ διαλέγειν ἴνα ἐβρεθῇ λύσις ἄνευ αἱματοχυσίας. Ὠς ἐκ τούτου, ἔλαβα τὴν πρωτοβουλίαν ὅπως προσκαλέσω τον.» ("Should the crowds outside attempt any violence against this Council and its seat, such that they overcome the abilities of the police, they will not hesitate to intervene. Conversely, for now, I think it more appropriate to engage in dialogue with the head of the opposition to reach a solution without bloodshed. As such, I took the initiative of inviting him.")

At the sound of those words, Nomikos and Phokas, followed by practically the entire cabinet jumped out of their seats to demand an explanation. «Ποιὸς ἔδωκε ὑμὶν ταῦτον τὸ δικαίωμα;» ("Who gave you that right?") asked the latter, as the sound of the guards outside standing on guard sounded. «Ἡμείς.» ("We did,") interjected the Patriarch, using the royal "we" to remind the Cabinet that he was still technically Regent and therefore their superior—as well as that of the Varangians and the Gendarmes guarding the Palace and controlling the entrance thereto. Phokas offered a bow but he could not wipe a sour look of his face as the slender figure of Chrysanthos Photiades entered the room, his moustache and hair as immaculate as ever. «Παναγιώτατε, Ἐξωχότατοι, Συνταγματάρχα μου.» ("Your All-Holiness, Your Excellencies, my Colonel,") he started, after a bow to Patriarch Demogeron. The gentle elderly cleric motioned him to sit with his near-emaciated hand and then gave him the floor.

«Θεωρὼ κύριοι πὼς τὰ γεγονότα τῶν τελευταίων ἠμερῶν ἔχουν ἀποδείξει τὴν ἀδυναμία τοῦ Κράτους μας νὰ συνεχίσει μὲ τὴν παρούσα μορφὴ καὶ ἡγεσία του, διχῶς νὰ ἀπολέσει ἀνεπανόρθωτα τὴν λαϊκὴ ὑποστήριξη ποὺ, ἐν τέλει, ἀποτελεὶ τὴ βάση κάθε καθεστῶτος. Καθότι, λοιπόν, τὰ δύο πρόσφατα σκάνδαλα βαραίνουν τόσο τὴ βασιλικὴ οἰκογένεια ὅσο καὶ τὴν κυβέρνηση του κ. Νομικοῦ, ἐφιστὼ ὠς ἀπαραίτητη προϋπόθεση ὁποιασδήποτε λύσης τῆς παρούσας πολιτικῆς κρίσης τὴν παραίτηση αὐτοῦ.» ("I believe gentlemen that the events of the last few days have proven the inability of our State to persist in its present form and leadership without losing the popular support that, at the end of the day, forms the basis of any regime. Because, then, the two recent scandals bear upon both the imperial family and the government of Mr. Nomikos, I require as a necessary prerequisite to any resolution of the crisis at hand his resignation.") Thus spoke at first Photiades, using modern Pelasgian not much different from the daily speech of the educated middle classes that formed his basis, rather than the archaic ancient Pelasgian used by the others so far. «Ἴνα ἐπιβιώσει τὸ Κράτος μας πρέπει νὰ γίνει ἐθνικό, δηλαδή πελασγικό, καὶ μόνον ἡ παράταξή μου δύναται νὰ τὸ ἐπιτύχει αὐτό. Φυσικά, ἀν ὁ κ. Φωκᾶς καὶ ἡ δεξιὰ πτέρυγα τῆς Ε.Π.Ε. προτίθεται νὰ μᾶς συνδράμει, προτίθεμαι νὰ τοῦ ἀφήσω τὸ Λογοθέσιο τῶν Ἐξωτερικῶν, ἐπὶ κεφαλῆς τοῦ ὁποίου ἔχει ἐπιτύχει ἕνα ἀξιόλογο ἔργον.» ("To survive, our State must became national, therefore Pelasgian, and only my party is capable of achieving that. Of course, if Mr. Phokas and the right wing of the E.P.E.* is willing to aid us, I am willing to leave him the Department of the Exterior, at whose head he has achieved a remarkable work.")
*The governing National Progressive Union, formerly known as the National Progressive Centrist Union or EPEK.

No sooner had Photiades finished his phrase than Phokas, restrained from interrupting only by his aristocratic upbringing and the presence of the Patriarch responded. «Καὶ γιατὶ νὰ γίνω κυβερνητικὸς ἑταῖρος ἑνὸς ἀπλοῦ βουλευτοῦ ὅστις οὐδέποτε μέχρι τῶρα ἔχει κυβερνήσει ὁτιδήποτε πέραν ἑνὸς Θέματος;» ("And why should I become junior partner to a simple Member of the Boule who was never 'til now governed anything more than a Theme?") Photiades allow a grin to escape him while keeping his cool. «Διότι, βάσει τῶν δημοσκοπήσεων, ἀν περιμένουμε ἕξι μῆνες δύναται νὰ μὴ σᾶς χρειαστὼ κὰν γιὰ νὰ σχηματίσω κυβέρνηση.» ("Because, based on polls, if we wait six months I might not even need you to form a government.")

«Αἱ δημοσκοπήσεις μεταβάλλονται.» ("Polls change.") Came Phokas' retort, only for the Patriarch to interject. «Δὲν προτίθεμαι νὰ περιμένω ἕξι μῆνες γιὰ νὰ ὀρκήσω νέα κυβέρνηση. Ὅποια νέα κυβέρνηση θὰ χαίρει λαϊκῆς εὐλογίας. Ὁ κ. Νομικὸς καὶ ἡ Ε.Π.Ε. θὰ ἐπομιστοῦν τὸ βάρος τῆς κρίσεως καὶ ἐσεὶς θὰ βρεῖτε τρόπο νὰ συνεργαστεῖτε, ἀλλιῶς θὰ πρέπει νὰ συνεργαστεῖ ἕνας σας μὲ τὸ Σ.Ε.Κ.Π., κάτι ποὺ μοῦ εἶναι ἀπαράδεκτον.» ("I am not willing to wait six months to swear in a new government. Any new government must enjoy popular support. Mr. Nomikos and the E.P.E. will bear the cost of the crisis, and you will find a way to cooperate, otherwise one of you will have to work with S.E.K.,* something that I deem unacceptable.")

*The Socialist Workers' Party

The two men bowed, Photiades gladly and Phokas reluctantly, and that seemed to settle the matter of the new cabinet. No doubt, Phokas was already plotting how to take power from Photiades in the long run, but, for now, he had to make do with remaining in government. The soon-to-be Grand Secretary thus continued. «Ὅσον ἀφορᾷ τὴν πορφύρα, πιστεύω πὼς εἶναι προφανὲς ὄτι πρέπει νὰ τὴν φορέσει ἕνα νέο πρόσωπο, σεβαστὸ καὶ ἄσπιλο τῇ τιμῇ ἐνώπιον τοῦ λαοῦ, ποὺ ἔχει βέβαια καὶ τὴν ἀπαραίτητη καταγωγὴ καὶ σχέση μὲ τὴν παρούσα δυναστεία. Ἀναφέρομαι προφανῶς στὸν κ. Συνταγματάρχη, ὅστις μᾶς τιμᾷ σήμερα μὲ τὴν παρουσία καὶ τὴν προστασία του.» ("As for the purple, I believe it obvious that a new person must wear it, whose honour is respected and untainted before the people, but who also had the necessary pedigree and relationship with the existing dynasty. I am referring, of course, to the Colonel, who today honours us with his presence and protection.")

This proved too much for Grammatikos, who had had to stomach two defeats already—he would not suffer a man that he had elevated to a candidate only to be betrayed to become Emperor anyway. «Πίστευε καὶ μὴ ἐρεύνα,» ("Believe without investigating,") he repeated an old Church adage in a sarcastic tone, before the Patriarch's harsh gaze forced him to change his voice. «Καὶ πῶς ἀκριβῶς θὰ λύσει ὁ ἐνθρονισμὸς ἑνὸς πολιτικὰ ἄσχετου τὸ πρόβλημα τῆς παρούσας μορφῆς τοῦ κράτους;» ("And how exactly will the enthronement of a political nobody help the issue of the present form of the State?")

The Colonel confidently answered, «Διότι θὰ βασιλέψω ὠς Βασιλέας τῶν Πελασγῶν καὶ ἡ βασιλεία μου θὰ συνοδευτεῖ ἀπὸ μία ἀπαραίτητη συνταγματικὴ μεταῤῥύθμιση γιὰ νὰ γίνει ἡ Πελασγία ἐπιτέλους ἕνα σύγχρονο ἔθνος-κράτος.» ("Because I will reign as Emperor of the Pelasgians and my reign will be accompanied by an important constitutional reform to finally turn Pelasgia into a modern nation-state.")

An hour later, as Karaoglou putting his daughter in bed, the internet finally came back on in his phone, and the TV switched from showing unrelated content to a live coverage of the crowds outside the Great Palace. The middle-aged dockworker could hardly believe his eyes as he saw the well-known war hero touted as the main candidate for the purple being acclaimed as Emperor on the balcony of the Great Palace and greeting the people, who seemed to be celebrating rather than protesting. To his right was the Ecumenical Patriarch and to his left... Chrysanthos Photiades and Theophrastos Phokas. The caption of the public broadcaster, ART, was even harder to believe: LONG LIVE IOANNES XI LASKARIS-TZAMANTOUROS, PELASGIAN EMPEROR. «Ἕλλη, ξύπνα τὰ παιδιά!» ("Elli, wake up the kids!") he commanded. «Ζοῦμε ἱστορικὲς στιγμές!» ("We're living history in the making!")
 
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