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Difference between revisions of "The Micras Chessboard"

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== Chapter 12: Unification in magnification ==
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"What's on your mind, my dear?", the Kaiser heard his wife ask. He didn't respond, because his thoughts kept him busy. It was only when her question finally came to him that he saw her questioning eyes. Still, he couldn't say a word. "Is it too much?", she continued. The Kaiser didn't really have to say much, his wife sometimes understood him better than he understood himself. The Kaiser sighed.
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Although he has tried with all his might to keep the countries under his sceptre each their sovereignty, lately he seems to be a permanent crisis manager. A war here, a government crisis there, a state of emergency, callers from the sidelines, a diplomatic puzzle, it doesn't stop. While the Kaiser and king are not vain at all, he has noticed that he has been ageing rapidly lately.
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At that moment, a ball rolled against his shin. His eldest son came after that ball and hesitated when he saw that his father was looking at it. The Kaiser smiled at his son as he picked up the ball and gave it to him. The boy had his head at playing soccer, picked up the ball and ran back to his little brother. All his children were present on the lawn. As he watched the whole spectacle with satisfaction, a thought bubbled up in him. He looked at his wife, while his face brightened up. His wife saw the eureka with her husband and asked: "Let's hear it?"
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[[Image:Castellum Avalon.png|thumb|right|250px|Castellum Avalon]]
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But that's exactly when Noah and his fiancée Margaery arrived. Esther was almost disappointed with their arrival, which of course was due to the timing. "The Vinandy's together!" says Noah, after a hug with his sister. "Oh how wonderful to see all those little ones again," Margaery said. "Well, it's almost become a tradition that we meet here," said Arkadius as he gesticulated to mark the [[Castellum Avalon]]. "The Gustavus effect," Esther replied. "Indeed," Arkadius replied. "In blessed memory," sighed Margaery. "But Gustavus also had a brilliant way of simplifying," said Arkadius, after which he rushed into the palace.
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The royals that stayed behind looked at each other, while Esther began to grin. "Come," Noah said, when he saw the grin on her face, "Let's see where he went." They found him while he put a chalkboard on a buck. "Look", began Arkadius, "two countries, four autonomous territories on five of the seven continents. That combination alone is complicated. But, all under my control. Bringing all those countries and regions within one nation, that's still not desirable. The countries are too different, their history too different and the only dividing factor is my person."
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At that moment he was looking at his wife, to which he quickly added: "Statistically speaking". His wife smiled and had nothing to add. Noah looked at the country names on the blackboard and turned to Arkadius. "What's your hunch?" he asked. "Well", that's the real Gustavus effect." Margaery got a tear and wiped it off her cheek. Arkadius turned from her not to get emotional. "Gustavus was a master at recognizing problems, addressing and framing. In this way, every problem becomes comprehensible and manageable. All these countries have problems in turn, I'm sure, but as head of state, it's head-breaking."
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Esther had to laugh at the joke and thought: 'typical remark for Arkadius'. De Kaiser continued his argument: "There are three policy areas where most problems exist. 1. Military. Although the armies function well and are able to work together, the different policies do not allow for unity of policy. So if one country decides to commit military action, another country does not have to do so. But what happens if that one country is attacked as a result of that military deployment? 2. Abroad. It's starting to become a web of connections. One country has relations with a foreign nation, but another country does not. That ansihilation is already tricky, let alone if it's played out. 3. Geography. "All countries have their own ambitions and development."
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"So if I understand correctly", Noah carefully starts, "Merging into one nation with one government, that's not desirable, but the countries have problems with the same policies?" "Indeed", Arkadius replied. "It's like my family." Esther raises her eyebrows and looks surprised. As Arkadius looks at her, he continues his story: "It is composed of two successive marriages and five children. Apparently I am their unifying factor, but in essence it is love, loyalty and devotion. Without these three factors, there are all sorts of problems. In the countries under my sceptre there is unity, peace and quiet when the three main policies are organized together".
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Esther gets up, looks proudly at her husband. She takes over her husband's chalk and circles the words 'military', 'abroad' and 'geography'. "But, my husband, unity is one thing. Distinction is another." She puts a line under the circle. Noah understands Esther's point and says: "A strict demarcation of policy areas is crucial. Multi-level blending can cost a country its stability." "Indeed", Esther responds, "We must learn a lesson from this." Margaery still looks seriously and says: "The changes are often rapid and the political situation always requires adjustment. Something that turns out to be an appropriate solution today, will be outdated tomorrow. If you think of a kind of union, within which the countries that organize three policy areas jointly, you have to leave room for flexibility or, because of the differences, a possibility of termination".
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"Before working towards a solution, we are going to enjoy a typical Arcadian dish: stifado", said Arkadius as he took over his wife's chalk and placed it on the edge of the chalkboard. Noah thought this was an anticlimax, because he thought of all kinds of solutions and possibilities. "Yes," Arkadius said when he saw Noah hesitating, "Solutions are not so difficult when the problems have been recognized, addressed and framed".
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[[Category:Literature]]
 
[[Category:Literature]]

Latest revision as of 20:53, 23 May 2020

The Micras Chessboard

The Micras Chessboard is a story series by Gustaaf Vermeylen (who plays characters such as Arkadius Frederik Gustavus des Vinandy and Clara Sundara). The story series starts with a follow-up story to "Arkadius and Clara: A Royal Love Story". The intention is to describe the geostrategic game on Micras.

Chapter 1: Sunrise, sunset

V.1672

A clock strikes ten times, while a fire crackles unabated. A newlywed couple sits opposite each other at a table. On the table is a chessboard, on which the pieces are already in various places on the board. The woman at the table plays with a curled lock of hair, while she visibly thinks and looks at the chessboard. The man is sitting back, waiting for the next move.

‘It wasn't as quiet as it is now,‘ the man thinks. ‘Although his own country has risen from the dust. The country had disappeared from the map for almost half a century and almost a century before another Vinandy was on the throne. The first decade of the new Batavia was already turbulent. The uncertainty to regain the old territory, the stability of a new state and what position does the country have among the other countries?’

‘The new state was soon at a crossroads, what form of state would it be, a republic or a monarchy? At the last minute it became a monarchy. And it became a restoration of the Vinandy monarchy.’

Then the woman moves the bishop on the chessboard. A strategic move, without getting in the way of another piece. The woman did not seem happy with her move, but she accepted it. The man began to itch his beard. And put a knight that threatened the earlier resisted bishop. The man looks at the woman, who started to think again about her next move.

‘How is it possible that a pretty woman like her has fallen for him? Since their first eye contact, their first meeting and their first correspondence. She had left her country, her family, to be with him. To be his wife. She was not welcomed equally by everyone. But that didn't stop her from loving him.’

‘Her brother had to cope with great sorrow when his husband was murdered. Fortunately she was with her brother when the news came that her brother-in-law had been killed. She could support him. Shortly thereafter, she married, an empty chair in the cathedral. A tribute to the generous giver of territory. The country he left fell apart.’

The woman looked at her husband and asked, "What are you thinking of?" The man replied: "On the Batavia rose from its ruins and how Shireroth collapsed." The woman nodded and said, "The sun rises in the east and sets in the west, but Batavia rose in the west and Shireroth set in the east."

An hour later the man was staring at the ceiling. Beside him was the regular breath of his wife, while her words echoed with him. When he finally fell asleep, he saw her face. His wife's face. She said to him, "It is time," her face caught when he apparently looked at her questioningly. Trumpets sounded and she said, "Come, my husband." They walked toward the upright doors, while hundreds of people looked at them along the aisle. At the end of the aisle was a throne on an elevation. He recognized that throne, that is the Golden Mango Throne. He suddenly realized what was happening, he carefully looked at his wife next to him, who smiled proudly at the people along the aisle.

Music filled the room [1] while he stood in front of the Golden Mango Throne and turned to the people in the Great Hall. His wife stood beside him, while the regent handed him the imperial crown. He took the crown, held it up, and placed it on his head. That is why all those present bowed to him as he sat down on the throne.

The music turned into a rhythmic buzz, and he woke up. The alarm clock continued to buzz undisturbed and his wife said to him, "Turn that thing off." He was still reeling from the dream abruptly ended. His wife grumbled about his slow response and reached over him to silence the alarm.

"What is it?" She asked when she saw that her husband was still looking confused. "It seemed so real," he stammered. As she rested her head on his chest, he told what he had dreamed. She rose, put her hand on his cheek, and said, "Maybe that dream is a vision of the future." "I don't believe that," he responded fiercely like being stung by a wasp. "I know that," she responded and kissed him.

Later that morning she came to his office. She saw him standing in front of the large map on the wall. The map included Benacia and the Madison Isles. He looked deeply at Shirekeep. In order not to frighten him, she pretended to cough. Her husband turned and said, "What is it, my love?" She smiled and said, "Aren't you coming for lunch?" "Oh, of course," he responded, and they walked arm in arm through the corridors of the palace. "What were you staring at," she asks, to which he replies: "It is strange that the generous donor of territory to our country has been murdered, but that the murderer has not yet been arrested." "Indeed, it seems that the remaining Shireroth is unable to catch the perpetrator, but can't the intelligence service help?" She replies. "That is politically sensitive," he responds.

That afternoon the Prime Minister came for his weekly visit to the king. Current affairs in the government are discussed, after which the king asks, "What can we do to find the murderer of the Emperor of Shireroth?" The Prime Minister, surprised by the question, answered: "Little, Your Majesty." "Is the primary suspect not of Batavian descent?", The king asks, "Could that be an argument to investigate him." The Prime Minister, unhappy with these questions, answers: "Your Majesty, I can see what I can do, but we must prevent us from sticking our hand in a wasp's nest."

While thinking, the king's eyes wander and saw the chessboard with which he played the day before, and behind it the map of Micras. "It's like a chessboard, the Micras chessboard".

Chapter 2: Coronation of a king

VI.1672

The king of Batavia crossed the border by train. Arriving at the new city under construction, the train stopped at Hauptbahnhof Peterplatz. The king and his queen consort were driven to the cathedral in a convertible. Along the route the Amokolians stood in large numbers, cheering and happy that they are independent again.

Arriving at the cathedral, the notables and the generals were waiting for the royal couple. Even the generals looked happy when the king and his queen consort climbed the stairs of the cathedral. Finally, Amokolia was independent again, another king on the throne. The king and queen consort greeted all notables and generals on the landing. Most importantly, the king saluted in front of the flag of Amokolia.

Once more the royal couple turned around, waving at the crowd. In the cathedral the notables and generals advanced, after which the royal couple followed. The royal couple walked over the red carpet to the center of the cathedral. The bishop was already there. The Feldmarschall, Erik Thorne, took a step forward and read the "Declaration of Brandenburg".

"May I ask His Majesty, are you willing to be crowned King of Amokolia?" The Feldmarschall asks. "Yes, I am prepared," replies Arkadius. Then the bishop comes forward and says, "By divine power and with the will of the people, I crown you with this crown." He puts the crown on Arkadius's head. "The sword of justice and justice," the bishop places the sword in Arkadius' hand. "With this globus cruciger you are the connection between the secular Amokolia and the church".

Then the bishop also places a crown on Clara's head, saying: "That a king cannot perform his duties without support, you have been crowned Queen of Amokolia with this crown."

The general salutes his king and queen, turns around and proclaims: “Long live the King! Long live the Queen! ”Those present in the cathedral respond with“ Hooray! Hooray!".

Chapter 3: Spy on the Orient Express

The Orient Express near Austrasian Mountains

VI.1674

As a newlywed couple, James and Emma Tazelaar were on their Honeymoon on the Orient Express. The train journey from 's Koningenwaarde to Shirekeep would take a few days and that is why it is common for the passengers to get to know each other. One of the fellow passengers on the train was Jaap van Pijpervale. During the first stages of the journey, it clicked between James and Jaap. Their shared preference for cigars and whiskey was the basis for this.

Emma realized that there were a number of people with unclear background among fellow passengers. Their background story was sometimes too good to be true or too vague. Indications that it is not correct.

One evening, when the train had left Benacia, James and Jaap had drunk so much that Jaap got loose. Jaap said that he was a catamite of the murdered Kaiser Ayreon IV. James pretended he did not know and asked about palace life. Jaap started making advances towards James. Emma had already gone to the cabin, but had not yet gone to sleep.

Suddenly it became dark on the train. The train drove through a tunnel, but the light had also fallen out. The sound of two gunshots reflected in the tunnel. A scream sounded and Emma grabbed her purse for her gun. The light turned on again and a noise was heard. Emma quickly went to the Salon carriage, where James and Jaap were. There she saw the two men in blood. No gun to be seen.

After a few days, James regained consciousness at the Koningsbergen hospital. Emma sat next to the bed and was happy to see that James was consciously. She quickly asked what had happened before the police started questioning him. James said a man entered the carriage, pulled a gun, and the lights went out. “Jaap screamed in pain while becoming unconscious. But I knew that Jaap ... ", James stopped abruptly, because of the detective's arrival.

After the detective asked about the events, he asked about the man with the gun. All passengers on the train were accommodated in the Oriental Hotel in Koningsbergen. They were interrogated there. But none of the passengers complied with the description that James had said. And a few passengers had disappeared.

“James”, Emma asked, “What are we going to report?” James responded: “The double of Jaap van Pijpervale is no longer. He stated that the real Jaap van Pijpervale is not the murderer of Kaiser Ayreon IV, because they were together when the murder took place. That alibi is confirmed by a photo of the two of them at the time of the murder in a hotel just outside Shirekeep. The murder of the double was probably committed by a hit man. The weapon used is an M1525 9 mm Pistol."

Chapter 4: Meeting on the bridge

Noah Brücke

X.1674

Since its arrival in ‘s Koningenwaarde, Arkadius has been moved by the history of all residents in what is now Amokolia and Batavia. Shocked and upset, he learned the history of the Froyalaners. He continued to study this and was deeply saddened by what happened.

Amokolians, Batavians, Froyalaners, Jing and Shirerians together in two countries under one monarch.

His distant ancestor and great example is King Arkadius II of Batavia. He was also king over Gascony, which since the fall of Batavia has been under the Storish flag. The title "Duke of Gascony" is a reminder of that time when western Gascony was part of the Kingdom of Batavia.

One day the king went for a drive in a car from his collection. Normally a stretch of road was closed, so that the king can drive on that road unhindered. But this time his plan to drive was sudden and unprepared. Because there is no speed limit on ReichsStraße 1 towards Frankfurt-am-Oder, the king was able to have his car perform. The bodyguards had to improvise due to the sudden plan and lost the king on the highway.

The highway ended at the bridge over the Oder, the Noah Bridge. There the king got out, there he looked west. To Gascony. He saw a woman walking across the street, dressed in a long white robe. Her appearance stood out in the twilight. The king walked curiously up the bridge to the other side. The woman he had seen came to him on the other side.

They stood opposite each other in the middle of the bridge. The woman said to him: "Recognize your origins, acknowledge our sorrow, acknowledge our freedom, son of Freya." The king hesitated, but asked: "How do you know who I am?" The woman replied: "You are Arkadius Frederik Gustavus, son of Karel Leopold, son of Frederik Hendrik, son of Æsileif Haraldsdóttir" The king nodded. “You have the divine task of uniting the countries that connect this bridge. That is what Freya told me," the woman replied. The king did not know how it could, but with divine intervention it would be possible.

Arkadius later told all this to his wife. She asked the woman to describe and after Arkadius did that, she said: "That woman, that was Yfirstormarksgythia and High Priestess of the Thingeyri Temple."

Chapter 5: Khalibali

Pirate leader

I.1676

Under the cover of darkness, the team landed on the island of Naudia'Diva. For months there was a cat and mouse game going on with the pirates around the Florencia Isles. The political spider web was not helpful in resolving the problem. The Black Legions occupied the southern part of the island of Naudia'Diva, while the Tassity Mansabdar occupied the northern part. The pirates conveniently manoeuvre between the different occupation zones, because the occupation forces do not cooperate with each other to combat piracy. In fact, the Black Legions seem to be doing nothing against piracy.

In addition to the frustration of the commanders of the Tassity Mansabdar, the pirates always knew the escape. When one of the commanders suggested bombing the area where the pirates are most likely to be, this commander had to be held accountable to the king.

A joint operation with the Batavian Intelligence Service started with a different approach. James Tazelaar was part of the team that landed on the island. Within a few minutes the team was off the beach and made their way through the dense vegetation of the island.

The Batavian Intelligence Service had assisted the Tassity Mansabdar to find the pirate camp. The advanced satellite images had located the camp. Now that the team was approaching the camp, some guards were eliminated. A few buildings were visible between the trees.

Music sounded in what turns out to be the main building. The team went from building to building, sometimes hiding behind trees, crates and other objects. The team managed to reach the main building without a major alarm being sounded. From hidden positions the team members could look at the central courtyard. James saw the pirate leader there and signaled to his teammates the sign of confirmation, that is the target.

To his surprise, a dance was started, singing was heard from the courtyard. The spectacle was exuberant and actually even entertaining to see. The pirate leader had escaped so many times, but now he was in shot. Right at the end, James gave the signal. The pirate leader was shot at from various sides.

When the dance was over and it was realized that the pirate leader was dead, several pirates tried to flee. But James had activated the signal, so the Tassity Mansabdar helicopters knew where to go. The pirates knew it was over. They surrendered without a big fight.

When the courtyard was empty, the body of the pirate leader was still there. James was standing next to it. The previously heated commander arrived. "This is him," he said. James nodded but was silent. The commander snapped his fingers, two soldiers approached. One with an axe and the other with a chest. With one blow, the commander cut off the head of the pirate leader, who was subsequently put in the coffin. "Send it to the Imperial Regency".

Chapter 6: A real dream

Glorious entry into Shirekeep

< 1676

Cheering rose from the field, around lay corpses, wounded, and others cheering. Nearby was a cheering soldier with an eagle flag fluttering. The soldiers all look at him, cheering over the apparent victory. "Your Majesty," said an officer, "congratulations on your victory! The city is within your reach.” He looked south-east, where that city lay. That city is the crown jewel, the main prize.

People were already partying in the large tent of the army camp, while the wounded were still being looked after. Upon his arrival, the cups were raised in salute to the king and the victory. He washed his hands and saw his bloody face in the reflection of the water. He sighed.

While he was sitting at his seat, a general stepped forward and began his speech: “Your Majesty! Tomorrow we are going to the city, to Shirekeep. After years of fighting, opposition and struggle, the last battle was delivered today. Therefore, raise the cup and drink, for tomorrow the wines of the emperor. Tomorrow we will bow to the new emperor on the Golden Mango Throne!” There was toasting and cheering.

The procession to the city began, there the entrance was glorious. “Arkadius! Arkadius!" The cheering went slowly into a whisper: "Arkadius, Arkadius". A hand on his cheek while his other cheek was kissed. The kisses were interrupted by whispers in his ear. He surrendered to his wife's love-making. The dream that was only a dream. The love of his wife, that was real.

Chapter 7: Die Wende

Palts in Frankfurt-am-Oder

18.IX.1678 AN

It was to be expected that it would come to a conflict. Everyone knew, but that the first shot would come from Elwynn, that was unexpected. Despite the threat, everyone tries to continue as normal as possible. And yet today it was different than usual. The elections for a new Reichstag should be in full swing, but most posters have disappeared from the streets. In recent weeks there have been many protest marches from the "Frank und Frei" movement, but there are also no protest marches today.

Something special is about to happen in Frankfurt-am-Oder. The city has become a fortress, because all government members, Reichstag members and the royal family are in the city. The central point of attention to which all TV cameras are focused is the Palts. The age-old building symbolizes the long history of the country, despite the fact that the current kingdom only exists in its current form for six years. The large hall in the building is filled with all those dignitaries and even the predecessors of the "Frank und Frei" movement. The king's arrival is eagerly awaited.

That starts to play the music, the king is received in the great hall under applause. The queen walks with the king's hand. The queen takes a seat on the seat next to the throne, then everyone sits down. But the king stops and starts to speak: „Wir haben uns heute in dieser aufregenden und beunruhigenden Zeit hier getroffen. Unser Land ist in Gefahr, unsere Freiheit ist bedroht. Die Vorbereitungen für eine Änderung unserer Verfassung waren schon seit einiger Zeit im Gange. Die erworbenen Freiheiten würden in einer neuen Verfassung verankert. Aber das Wende dauerte zu lange und die Leute gingen zu Recht auf die Straße.

Ich freue mich, Ihnen heute vorstellen zu können, dass unser Land eine neue Verfassung erhalten wird. Diese Verfassung umfasst die Errichtung der erworbenen Freiheiten, die Errichtung unserer Institutionen, aber die Verankerung unserer Stiftung: Frank und Freiheit. Deshalb müssen uns alle Micras als "Franken" anerkennen, denn unser Land heißt von nun an "Francia". "

Cheering rises from the room, the people give a standing ovation and shout: „Lebe Francia! Lebe der Kaiser!" The king signs the new constitution, after which the new flags are revealed. The new coat of arms is revealed above the throne and the orchestra starts to play the new national anthem. Feast is being celebrated throughout the country. This country is no longer referred to as a separate part of another country. The country name is no longer determined by strangers. This country "Francia" is "Frank und Frei"!

Chapter 8: Abandoned

The gardens of Blanckenhof Palace

11.X.1678

A woman walks away from the building. A suitcase after her, the door of a waiting car is kept open. She gets in, the driver puts the suitcase in the trunk. The woman looks down compulsively, not at the building. Behind one of the many windows of the building is a man. A straight face, angry and sad. When the car starts to move, the man bursts into tears. He screams. The three-month-old baby in his arms starts to scream. The girl next to the man cries and shouts "mommy!" The two-year-old boy looks up from his play with the wooden train, he does not understand what happens. Why are daddy and his sister crying? The man falls to his knees, embraces the girl with his three-month-old son. The two-year-old boy shuffles closer, the father invites him in, and the four of them cry. His wife has left. Their mother has left them. How could she even leave their three-month-old son? What does she expect to achieve?

The man was in deep sorrow for days. He ate little. The curtains of his room were closed, he allowed few people into his presence. The prime minister was desperate and called an unlikely ally. The king was sulking in his big armchair. The chamberlain had persuaded him to have a drink. But the king stared at the dancing fire. The prime minister came in and tried to get the king's attention. "Your Majesty, desperate times call for desperate measures." The prime minister steps aside and Joseph entered the room. The king looked up and said growlingly: “You! You! ”The prime minister and Joseph are eagerly awaiting the sequel. "You were right all the time!" Continued the king. Joseph's eyes widened. Stuttering, Joseph searched for words. The king coughed and took a sip of water, after which he continued to say: "I should never have married that woman, I should have listened to you, Joseph." Joseph replied: “Your Majesty, I am sorry it went that way. I am sorry that my words have turned out to be prophetic.” The king laughed. Benjamin hesitated, but still said: "Your children ...", but before the Prime Minister could prosecute, the king responded: "Yes, my children. They are dear to me and nobody takes them away from me." Benjamin sighed, but tried to hide it. The men continue talking while beer and cigars were brought.

The next day, in the garden of the palace, the king played football with his two-year-old son. "And he scores!", The king shouted when Karel kicked the ball into the small goal. Next to the king, Elisabeth stopped on her bicycle. "Daddy?" "Yes," replied King, descending to her. "What is it, my daughter?" "Can the training wheels be removed?" The king smiled and said, "Daddy is going to tell you something first." The girl looked questioningly at her father, while the king called in his eldest son. "We are moving. We're going to live in Vinandy.” The girl wasn't sure if that was fun, while the boy responded enthusiastically: “Are we going to live in the castle?” “Well no. We're going to live close to the castle," his father replied. The boy was fine with it, he kicked the ball away again. A court lady comes with a pram. The king was happy to see his youngest son. The young man was lifted out of the pram by the king and the king walked around in the garden chattering against the little man. The prime minister came walking with all kinds of papers under his arm, but stopped by the court lady, while softly said: "Long live the King!"

Chapter 9: Murder in paradise

14.XIV.1678

The residence of the Szodan is the paradise of paradises. The heavily protected complex consists of a labyrinth of buildings, interrupted by lush gardens. There are even buildings where the mystery is so great that only a few people know what happens there. The wildest rumours are going around. The most separated part of the complex is protected with a special electromagnetic dome, to block even satellite images. The deepest secrets of the Szodan would be hidden there.

Constantine Loup

Constantine Loup returns from a long working day. His wife was not happy with his late return home, but his bad behaviour only made it worse. His wife then left for one of the city's theatre’s. She had sought refuge in classical music and a famous opera was performed tonight. Constantine knew about the two and a half hour opera, but was happy not to have to go there.

As soon as his wife left, he grabbed a glass of whiskey. Then he started walking, through the corridors of the residence. Climb up, down stairs, left, right. He entered the shielded area, so shielded that his wife had no access to it. There he came in a safe. A grand battle scene was painted on the walls of the circular space. An apparently historical scene of soldiers, horses and cannons. The landscape seems to resemble Shireroth. The blue and white Elwynn are recognizable and the old city of Shirekeep. That city is painted like a city in flames. A person is painted next to the city, in the foreground of the painting. This person is recognizable as the emperor, Kaiser Ayreon IV. He is painted as if he were an angel dressed in white clothes, but a knife was stuck into his heart. The angel looks up, full of pain, where the gods would be. The words “have pity on my soul; have pity on this poor people ”, as if the dying angel would have said those words last.

There is a round table on one leg in the middle of the room. On the table is a glass dome in which a knife on a stand. A double-edged knife with blood residues on it. The Szodan looks satisfied at the painting and at the knife. "Cheers, Your Majesty," he said aloud. With a grin he takes a sip and leaves the room again.

After a few corridors and stairs, the Szodan enters a bedroom. The Babkhan building style is clearly recognizable. A blonde woman, dressed in a purple dress, is lying on the large bed. She gets off the bed when Constantine comes in and jumps into his arms. Constantine was able to put his glass away just in time and starts kissing her intensely. As she kisses his neck, his thoughts wander. "That devilish dog, he thinks he can ascend the Golden Mango Throne ?!" Esmeralda is startled by Constantine's sudden swearing and stops kissing. Constantine turns away from her, takes the last sip of whiskey and sighs on the dressing table. Esmeralda stands behind Constantine and whispers in his ear: “Relax, you will probably defeat that devilish dog. Let me give you an unforgettable evening tonight full of love, lust and paradise ”. The tight face gives way to a smile, while Constantine indulges in the love of his mistress.

As the clothes slide off their bodies and the floor is strewn with it, the love couple shuffles towards the bed. Every time Constantine wants to take the initiative, Esmeralda does not allow that. Constantine is not discouraged, but is suddenly pushed back by Esmeralda. He lands on the bed while his mistress climbs him. He enjoys her well-shaped body when he makes a final initiative. The woman pushes him with her bosom into the pillows, then she ties his wrists to the bars of the bed. Constantine allows it to be tied to the bed with both wrists. He is often in charge, he takes the initiative, but now. For this time, he surrenders. While enjoying the rhythmic movements and sensual panting, she loosens her hairpin. The golden hairpin is inlaid with precious stones, a pricey gift from him for her. Her hair fluttering over her naked body. The woman suddenly says: "A barking dog never bites, but the devilish dog does not bark". In her hand she holds the hairpin up and with force she drives the hairpin in his neck, like a knife. Constantine starts to work against it, but his wrists are firmly tied to the bars of the bed. His cry for help is drowned out by her panting. And once more she raises the hairpin and cuts into him. The blood spatter in all directions, Constantine gasping for breath, but blood fills his mouth. Once again she chops the hairpin in his throat. The struggling stops, life leaves its body. The woman sighs aside. "The tyrant is dead," she thinks.

Then listens whether the guards have heard anything, but it remains silent. She quickly cleans herself and quickly puts on black clothes. She leaves the room via the balcony, descends along the rainwater drainage into the garden. Around the corner from the building, she sees the guards smoking a cigarette in one of the watchtowers. Swinging through the garden, to stay outside of camera images, she reaches the foot of the watchtower. In the darkest corner of the watchtower, she waits for the moment that one of the guards leaves the tower. His service is over, his replacement will soon come to the tower, while one more guard remains in the tower. When the guard is far enough away, she slips into the watchtower. She climbs the stairs on her toes and peeks as if she sees the remaining guard. The guard stands quietly smoking his cigarette when she approaches him at the back. With her black scarf she jumps at the guard, who has no opportunity to shout and still struggles senselessly. The guard falls down and she listens if someone else would have heard something.

The crickets make the only noise, while Esmeralda abzes on the other side of the watchtower. It would take at least another hour for the lifeless body of the Szodan to be found. An alarm was sounded, but it was too late to find Esmeralda. For months she was the mistress of the Constantine. He had caged her in the screened part of his residence. He had unleashed his sexual frustration on her. But now his tyranny was over.

"Agent Esmeralda, Your Majesty", the secretary lets Esmeralda enter the office. The emperor sits behind the desk. He crosses a name with his fountain pen on a table and looks up as Esmeralda comes in. "Your Majesty," Esmeralda salutes. The emperor smiles and says: “You have done a great service to your country. Good work, agent Esmeralda " "Thank you, Your Majesty.” The emperor invites the agent to sit down. The emperor asks, "You know agent James?", pointing to James Tazelaar in the other chair in front of the desk. "Yes, Your Majesty" James congratulates Esmeralda on the successful mission and expresses his admiration. The emperor interrupts him and says: "Your next mission is ..."

Chapter 10: On the way to truth

Hofburg Palace in Brandenburg

22.XI.1680

Not long after his release from Raspur area, he had recovered a bit. Enough to appear for his liberator. Enough to meet the Kaiser of Francia. In a convoy of black cars, he was driven through the streets of Brandenburg, looking out in awe. Brandenburg, a new city, but so full of character. He was very impressed with Hofburg Palace, the work palace of Kaiser. There he was escorted to the Kaiser's office.

The doors swung open for him while his arrival was announced. The Kaiser stood in the middle of the room, Villy immediately rushed forward and fell to his knees in front of the Kaiser. "Thank you, thank you, thank you," he sobbed. The Kaiser did not know what to do, but lowered his knees. "Come on, get up," said the Kaiser. Villy looked up into the face of the Kaiser, who looked at him in a friendly and smiling way. He stood up while the Kaiser helped him by the arm.

After a moment that Villy calmed down, the Kaiser invited him to take a seat on a chair. The Kaiser sat down on the other side of the desk. Only then did VIlly see that there were two more people in the room. De Kaiser saw that Villy had noticed the other two people, and said: “May I introduce you? James Tazelaar, intelligence officer. And Eva von Babenberch, prosecutor of the Froyalan Tribunal.” Both people greeted him and Villy greeted them. He wondered why they were here. On the desk lay a thick package of paper, a file. The file pushed the Kaiser aside, added his hands, and sighed. "Villy, what have they done to you?" Tears began to accumulate in his eyes, thinking of all that pain.

"Let's start from the moment you are abducted by the Dark Orchid Society," said the Kaiser. Villy burst into tears. "Don't let me relive this," replied Villy. The Kaiser looked at him, but the friendly face was tighter. “You have been treated well since you were released from the hands of oppressors. Several tests have been done on you to see how you look psychologically," responded the Kaiser. "We want to help you, but that is only possible if you tell the truth," added Eva. Villy looked around at the faces that looked at him. The only one who hadn't said anything yet, he could tell from him that he knew. He knew it, at least the most important parts of the truth. He realized that his liberation would only be complete if he told the truth.

Chapter 11: I'm Dreaming of Home

III.1681

Almost seven years after the encounter on the bridge, the Kaiser is standing at the same bridge again. This time not alone, around him are all the notables of Francia. Many flag bearers with the Frankish flag colour the company in Amokolian red. An army commander receives an approving nod from Kaiser, after which he commands orders. The flag bearers are in the position, the music corps is ready. The wait is to beat the clock. The ceremony starts exactly at noon in the afternoon.

There is also a delegation on the other side of the bridge. The High Priestess of the Thingeyri Temple is there, but also Æsileif Haraldsdóttir, queen of Ravaria. There too, flags fluttered, namely those of Gascony, Los Bananos and Ravaria. All eyes were on the other side, on the Kaiser and his delegation. There was silence at both delegations. Silence awaiting the clock.

The expected clock strokes sounded, twelve strokes. The Frankish delegation starts moving, the Kaiser leads the way and crosses the bridge. Behind him, on the sides of the bridge, are the flag bearers with the Frankish flags. The other notables follow. The moment the Kaiser crosses the border that has just disappeared, the band starts playing.

When the Kaiser reaches the delegation across the street, he greets the Queen and High Priestess. They made a curtsy for the Kaiser. The flags of Gascony, Los Bananos and Ravaria were spread on the ground before the Kaiser as a symbol of submission. He steps over these flags and then these flags are raised again. The Kaiser shakes hands with the many notables from Gascony, Los Bananos and Ravaria.

A steam train is waiting, puffing and steaming, to take the Kaiser and both delegations to La Roch-Derrien. The route the train takes from the Noah Brücke to Lannion, Amorica, Bordeaux and La Roche-Derrien will be the future route of the northern route of the Orient Express. The train passes through many villages, where people with Frankish flags flutter towards the train. The Kaiser is grateful that after so many years this area is again under the control of a Vinandy.

The princess of Austrasia told everyone who wanted to hear about her future mom. Every day, to fatigue, she talked about her day with Esther Fatima Gudrid. The four-year-old crown prince of Francia, was very enthusiastic about the steam train and could not stand his luck when he was allowed to pull the chain of the steam whistle. The two-year-old Marquis of Dornick mainly focused on his little car.

Château de Draguibéliard

After arriving in La Roche-Derrien, the Kaiser was taken to the Château de Draguibéliard, where he and his children were met by Esther Fatima Gudrid. The Kaiserhymne was performed in the courtyard of the Château.

The first state dinner, in which the Kaiser and the Imperial Chieftainess of Normandy participated together, was set up for the entire delegation. The state dinner was held in the Grand Hall of the Château. De Kaiser concluded the dinner with a speech:

“With great gratitude to the High King of Stormark, the Storish government and the Althing, it is my pleasure to be here for you. This land of Gascony, the land of Los Bananos and the Kingdom of Ravaria, are now part of the Frankish Empire. The countries of Gascony and Los Bananos in particular have been closely linked to the House of Vinandy for centuries. We are grateful that Stormark took this country into custody when the Kingdom of Batavia fell apart. Now, as a descendant of the family of Vinandy, I can count this country again under my rule.

I express my gratitude to my grandmother for allowing Ravaria to join the Frankish Empire. Since the late Fränzi-Ferdinanda des Vinandy-Windsor, the Kingdom of Ravaria has been linked to the Kingdom of Batavia. That commitment and the memory of her may be the basis for a hopeful future for Ravaria under the Frankish flag.

Personally I often dreamed about this day. The day these countries would come to me. Several of my dreams have not yet come true, but this dream has come true today. May I present to you, all present here, the old song "I'm Dreaming of Home".

Thank you."

Chapter 12: Unification in magnification

"What's on your mind, my dear?", the Kaiser heard his wife ask. He didn't respond, because his thoughts kept him busy. It was only when her question finally came to him that he saw her questioning eyes. Still, he couldn't say a word. "Is it too much?", she continued. The Kaiser didn't really have to say much, his wife sometimes understood him better than he understood himself. The Kaiser sighed.

Although he has tried with all his might to keep the countries under his sceptre each their sovereignty, lately he seems to be a permanent crisis manager. A war here, a government crisis there, a state of emergency, callers from the sidelines, a diplomatic puzzle, it doesn't stop. While the Kaiser and king are not vain at all, he has noticed that he has been ageing rapidly lately.

At that moment, a ball rolled against his shin. His eldest son came after that ball and hesitated when he saw that his father was looking at it. The Kaiser smiled at his son as he picked up the ball and gave it to him. The boy had his head at playing soccer, picked up the ball and ran back to his little brother. All his children were present on the lawn. As he watched the whole spectacle with satisfaction, a thought bubbled up in him. He looked at his wife, while his face brightened up. His wife saw the eureka with her husband and asked: "Let's hear it?"

Castellum Avalon

But that's exactly when Noah and his fiancée Margaery arrived. Esther was almost disappointed with their arrival, which of course was due to the timing. "The Vinandy's together!" says Noah, after a hug with his sister. "Oh how wonderful to see all those little ones again," Margaery said. "Well, it's almost become a tradition that we meet here," said Arkadius as he gesticulated to mark the Castellum Avalon. "The Gustavus effect," Esther replied. "Indeed," Arkadius replied. "In blessed memory," sighed Margaery. "But Gustavus also had a brilliant way of simplifying," said Arkadius, after which he rushed into the palace.

The royals that stayed behind looked at each other, while Esther began to grin. "Come," Noah said, when he saw the grin on her face, "Let's see where he went." They found him while he put a chalkboard on a buck. "Look", began Arkadius, "two countries, four autonomous territories on five of the seven continents. That combination alone is complicated. But, all under my control. Bringing all those countries and regions within one nation, that's still not desirable. The countries are too different, their history too different and the only dividing factor is my person."

At that moment he was looking at his wife, to which he quickly added: "Statistically speaking". His wife smiled and had nothing to add. Noah looked at the country names on the blackboard and turned to Arkadius. "What's your hunch?" he asked. "Well", that's the real Gustavus effect." Margaery got a tear and wiped it off her cheek. Arkadius turned from her not to get emotional. "Gustavus was a master at recognizing problems, addressing and framing. In this way, every problem becomes comprehensible and manageable. All these countries have problems in turn, I'm sure, but as head of state, it's head-breaking."

Esther had to laugh at the joke and thought: 'typical remark for Arkadius'. De Kaiser continued his argument: "There are three policy areas where most problems exist. 1. Military. Although the armies function well and are able to work together, the different policies do not allow for unity of policy. So if one country decides to commit military action, another country does not have to do so. But what happens if that one country is attacked as a result of that military deployment? 2. Abroad. It's starting to become a web of connections. One country has relations with a foreign nation, but another country does not. That ansihilation is already tricky, let alone if it's played out. 3. Geography. "All countries have their own ambitions and development."

"So if I understand correctly", Noah carefully starts, "Merging into one nation with one government, that's not desirable, but the countries have problems with the same policies?" "Indeed", Arkadius replied. "It's like my family." Esther raises her eyebrows and looks surprised. As Arkadius looks at her, he continues his story: "It is composed of two successive marriages and five children. Apparently I am their unifying factor, but in essence it is love, loyalty and devotion. Without these three factors, there are all sorts of problems. In the countries under my sceptre there is unity, peace and quiet when the three main policies are organized together".

Esther gets up, looks proudly at her husband. She takes over her husband's chalk and circles the words 'military', 'abroad' and 'geography'. "But, my husband, unity is one thing. Distinction is another." She puts a line under the circle. Noah understands Esther's point and says: "A strict demarcation of policy areas is crucial. Multi-level blending can cost a country its stability." "Indeed", Esther responds, "We must learn a lesson from this." Margaery still looks seriously and says: "The changes are often rapid and the political situation always requires adjustment. Something that turns out to be an appropriate solution today, will be outdated tomorrow. If you think of a kind of union, within which the countries that organize three policy areas jointly, you have to leave room for flexibility or, because of the differences, a possibility of termination".

"Before working towards a solution, we are going to enjoy a typical Arcadian dish: stifado", said Arkadius as he took over his wife's chalk and placed it on the edge of the chalkboard. Noah thought this was an anticlimax, because he thought of all kinds of solutions and possibilities. "Yes," Arkadius said when he saw Noah hesitating, "Solutions are not so difficult when the problems have been recognized, addressed and framed".