Blood and Sugar

Royal Palace
Cynebury, Tretrid
November 16, 1839

It was hard to dispute that Queen Eadgyð II was the most powerful woman on Novaris. A generation ago, under her leadership, the armies of Tretrid had put most of West Novaris to heel in the Charter War. She had ascended to the throne with Tretrid financially on its last legs and had turned it around into an industrial powerhouse.

Prime Minister Ealhmære Beorhtsigesunu was pretty sure there was something on her mind as she waited for a maid to pass out drinks to the two of them. It was often hard to tell what was on Her Royal Majesty’s mind, though. She could be as inscrutable sometimes as she was shrewd.

Eadgyð had her usually preferred drink, bræmel tea. She had acquired a liking of the tea from one Heanric Wilhelmesunu, who himself had taken it from the Staynish, who called the drink ‘Hobsti tea.’ An outsider would be hard-pressed to realize this, though, as her liking for the drink had caused such a bræmel tea craze that it would have been reasonable for those not in the know to guess that the drink had been a Tretridian invention.

Ealhmære was given a cup of coffee. Coffee was more associated with the intelligentsia of the past century, those people whose ideas would form part of the ideological underpinnings of the monarchy in the later 18th century and influenced the Charter of Privileges under which Tretridian politics operated now in the 19th.

The maid slid a small porcelain pitcher filled with milk, a small bowl of sugar, and two small silver spoons between the Queen and the Prime Minister before leaving the room.

Ealhmære scooped a quantity of sugar and poured some milk into his coffee, stirring everything in with one of the spoons. Eadgyð did the same, but then dried off her spoon with a handkerchief, scooped more sugar from the bowl, and tilted the spoon, watching intently as the little sugar granules fell back.

“Ealhmære, I’ve been thinking about sugar recently. I remember when it was still a luxury product. It’s relatively accessible now, of course, due to the sugar beet and modern industry. But before that, we only had cane sugar, which cannot be grown here in Tretrid.”

She took a sip of her tea before pulling up a folded piece of paper that she apparently had placed on her lap. She unfolded it to reveal a map of the Cerenerian Ocean. She pointed to a line of islands northwest off the coast of West Gondwana.

“Our main source of cane sugar was and still is these islands. Eadwearde Iega.” King Eadweard’s Isles. “Also known to its inhabitants as Kiluaʻi. They still make a substantial profit off of cane sugar exports, in fact. It also lies on a good location for trade routes, which is why the Salovians and now the Morstaybishlians have had a presence in Rosamund Island nearby.” She pointed to that island, just a bit off to the southwest. “In short, it’s a valuable place, economically and strategically.”

This was a matter of foreign policy then. Foreign policy was one of the two spheres of affairs, the other being the military, that the Queen reserved for herself. There were cabinet ministers for those two things, of course, but it was Her Royal Majesty who set the tune to which they danced, not the Prime Minister.

Eadgyð paused to drink a bit more of her tea before continuing. “It will hardly surprise you to know that the Lapinumbians have an interest in the island just as we do.”

Ah, Lapinumbia. The perpetual thorn in Tretrid’s side. The only country that came close to how many problems Lapinumbia caused for Tretrid was Celanora itself.

“The Lapinumbians have caused enough of a fuss down there that their government generally favors us over them,” Eadgyð continued. “Yet in recent years they’ve been more reluctant to deal with us and have been trying to also curry Lapinumbian favor. They’re getting cautious of our influence.”

“That’s worrying,” Ealhmære said.

“It is indeed. That’s why we will be changing our approach there. It may affect things on your end, in fact, though that remains to be seen.”

Bringing the cane sugar of Eadwearde Iega under the Tretridian economic umbrella would likely have impacts for the industries around beetroot sugar extraction, so contingencies would probably have to be made in that case. But it’d ultimately strengthen Tretridian sugar production, which was a non-insignificant export.

“More specific preparations can be made as things shape up, I take it?”

Eadgyð nodded. “We’re in a competition with Lapinumbia for a foothold on these trade routes here. By the gods, I intend to win it.”