Crossing the Foam

[Batkong, Queendom of Lapérouse]
[2th of January 1090]

The palace of the Eternal Rose is a large complex fortress of a palace, built with stone and iron. The dark form of the royal palace looks imposing over the large city of Batkong, sitting on top of a mountain with the road to climb to the palace being littered with various religious structures, primarily Ulvriktru in nature; however there is symbols of every religion in the queendom featured on the path to the palace. The trailing route of tributes, shrines, altars and of course pilgrims offering prayers towards the queen and her family.

Baroness Lucie Bourseiller held only a small land on the frontier of the queendom. A speck in the ever expansive frontier of the queendom, which never ever rested in the grand endless campaigns to push for more land. Not that the Baroness cared for such things, it’s much better to be quiet and ignored. Far safer than to draw the eye of the queen on to her and her shieldbands. Her majesty’s attention brings rewards, for a short while at least. Longer you are in the eye of the Queen, the more chance you have to lose everything. No one stays in her royal majesty’s favor forever, and it will eventually turn against you. Then you will face a truly awful fate.

Baroness took the first step on the path to the palace, keeping her coat tied closed and a firm hand on her walking stick. Her personal guards are required to stay at the entrance of the road, as only the Queen’s personal guards and Shieldmasters are allowed to carry arms into the palace grounds.

The road is worth a trip itself, every part of the realm was shown here. The wooden Akuan arches with carvings on the poles. The large statues of Hel and Freya with rusted bronze weapons form an archway. A marble statue of a solar eclipse to show the Duarists. As well the other smaller religious being shown here, brought over by the merchants and travelers coming from the sea to pay tribute to the mighty Queendom. Then come the jarldoms, the duchess, the baroness and all the small nobles, all their artifacts and tribute to the path to the palace.

The Baroness took a small moment to pray at an altar to Hel which was a few steps from the beginning of the road to the palace. Praying she won’t meet her soon during her meeting with the Queen. Alter itself was an old one, placed here by the great Queen Marie the 3rd of the Uvlantor dynasty. Placed here two hundred years ago, but seized from the puddle pirates of Concordia after an expedition by the veteran Shieldband of Vorsic. With claims that the altar was crafted by blessed Gothir by Odin themself four hundred years before the expedition. The altar was placed in a humble shrine built around it, built from stone brick with clay tiles above it. It was a humble shrine to the goddess, and frankly it was only really known due to being placed first in the path. Compared to the other shrines, temples and relics along the curving path it was a humble building, barely worth notice and easily overlooked.

Lucie walked away from the shrine, returning to the path to the palace. Walking forward with caution in each step pathing under the arch, the crests of fallen royal dynasties attached to them. The two fallen royal dynasties that attempt to hold the throne. Their family crests besmeared with mud and cracked in half, a pathetic display of once powerful houses that lead the mighty Queendom. A simple reminder, that above all no noble family is free of the throes of time or the unmatched brutality of the realm. The Frida dynasty is the eternal exception, not rule. She kept her head held up when walking by them, in case a valkyrie or a knight was wondering about and might view her as giving respect to the fallen dynasties.

Crossing under an Akuan arch, the baroness gave a small head bow. Her lands are filled with the heathens, but they are tolerable little heathens of a curious sort. Not a warrior among them but quite happy just working in the fields. They talk too much and far too touchy by a normal person’s standard. Saving grace for them is they are good hardworking thralls despite their cowardice on the battlefield.

“Aye Baroness Bourseiller that you?” Voice came from off the stone brick path coming from the east. A kemonomimi woman dressed in fine fabrics approached her. “Spirits blessed our paths to cross again. You have been summoned to the Imperial court as well?”

The Kemonomimi speaking to her was a wealthy river and sea merchant. She had a large trading company and a royal license to conduct business as well as establish industry. The baroness dealt with her in the past, there was some Akuan festival of some sort that required some obscure fruit or spice from Borea. Bourseiller didn’t pay too much attention to it, however the merchant Ny’Sorea was able to deliver for her in a timely fashion.

The merchant walked alongside her on the path. The Baroness spoke, “I have, do you know why we are being summoned? It took quite some time to arrive here.” Having a Barony on the frontier of the Queendom had some benefits of being able to avoid most of the cutthroat politics of the royal court however the downside is one won’t know if there is a spear pointed at their back until it is too late.

The merchant gave a nod, “War is on the horizon, the shieldbands have grown restless and the Valkyries grow in number. Her royal highness and her council are preparing for an invasion.”

Lucie and the merchant kept walking on the curved path. “You sure it is an invasion they are plotting and not just an expedition to curl the barbarians?”

Merchant shook her head, “Nay, it is an invasion of several barbarian states, all at once. I heard it from several trusted sources and a Valkyrie traveling here. The shieldbands need conflict and have swelled in numbers to a dangerous measure. There have been sightings of the Valkyries organizing into formations and being led by the Queen’s own nieces for conflict.”

The baroness looked forward, away from the Kemonomimi. “Explains why I am being called then, they must be using my lands as staging grounds. Though the question arises why have you been summoned, you’re a he-.” She stopped for a sentence, remembering to be polite. “My apologies, I mean to say a Akuanist, it has been a long road to travel to the capital.”

“I can only thank you for remembering to apologize, it places you a cut above most of my clients.” Merchant gave a smile, “If you are asking why I am being summoned as well. I have a feeling the queen wishes to use my ships for the invasion.”

“Invasion over the seas? The Fylkir-Queen could be finally putting the puddle pirates to heel. Though that would be overlooking my request to come here.” Baroness remarked, “You sit on the council in Bévers do you not?”

Kemonomimi gave a nod, “I do, I dread to think that her royal highness might have decided the republic is in her sights. Though I suspect she might wish to have the realm after some coercion.”

“Aye, perhaps I speak to a future Jarlnyja of Bévers.” Baroness gave a smirk.

The Kemonomimi gave a laugh, “Spirits, that certainly shut those on the council up for once. Perhaps the republic does need a change in management. Without any bickering, I bet we can bring in even more trade to the isles. We’re already suffering a bit from all the infighting and monopolies on trade. If that can be handled and then I can finally be allowed to send a trade mission over to Quattiolzna, it would open up a large new market for our exports for Western Novaris.”

“Always about money with you, even in the face of a war.” The Baroness raised an eyebrow, it’s not normal for an Akuanist to ever be remotely okay with violence. Let alone be cheerful and planning for the outcome.

“War is always horrific, every death is a tragedy but a Pzæffin requires their due. Spirits will be restless after the savagery and that shall require time, funds and people to soothe their rage.” The merchant gave a shrug, “When death comes to your village, then be the one selling firewood for the funerals.”

“That is a tad bit cold.” The Baroness looked surprised at the merchant. Genuinely surprised by the rather callous Akuanist. Even more so given the nature of Akuanism, to speak so plainly about profit with a soulless view of it.

“Pzæffin guides my hand, I am simply following their laid out path. I can only will myself to save as many as I can from the suffering to be at hand.” The merchant took out their necklace, a wooden ward holding it up for the Baroness to see. “Pzæffin is not a kind spirit, but it is an important one. When they cause a path to form, if one does not walk it then someone else will and there is no guarantee that they will help the weary traveler lost on it.”

“That sounds like a roundabout way to give yourself an excuse to profiteer.” The Baroness gave a shrug, keeping on the path but still giving her attention to the merchant. Ignoring the various relics, shrines and other matters of trophies on the path.

“I don’t expect everyone to understand. The path of the spirits is a strange one.” The merchant gave a sigh.

The baroness just ignored the heathen’s words with an eye roll. “If you say so, we are near the palace of the Fylkir.” The baroness felt the eyes of the Shieldbands staring her down as she spoke with the merchant.

The shieldbands, zealot warriors that swear an oath to the queen. Well equipped, trained, drilled and battle hardened. They are nothing at all like the knights or the valkyries. They had their noble duties, codes of honor and decency. Well most of them were decent. However shieldbands only had one duty and that was to go to war for the Queen-Fylkir in the Allmother’s name. Their codes of honor were lacking in length or normality, only the warrior spirit matters to them. Where a knight or a valkyrie would have the decency making sure the opponents were armed and ready. Shieldbands would raze their camps while they slept, poison their rations, slaughter men and children alike with the only thought being spared was the loss of profit from slaving them into bondage. They were made up of thralls, landless nobles and other worthless members of society, whose only chance at social ascension through the strict caste system was through a lifetime of servitude to their Shieldbands.

As uncomfortable the baroness was with the wraithful zealots were, the merchant was more so. Keeping their head down, avoiding any chance at an accidental glance with them and risking meeting their end at the hands of the righteous warriors. The Baroness didn’t carry such risk at least, they might spare a few harsh words to a noble, but she is one of the faithful and wouldn’t be struck down and not to mention the invitation by the Fylkir-Queen.

The merchant, despite having an invitation from her highness. Still carried the risk of being wrong in their decision of who to worship. She was far from the regions where Akuanists are tolerated to be, she was in the beating heart of Ulviktru empire, and away from the assigned Akuanist royal protector. If she was quick enough about stating her invitation then it wouldn’t be too much grief for her. Merchant opened her mouth before the Baroness could, “I have a inv-”

She was cut off by the lead warrior, “Heathen be still.” The armored kemonomimi stared holes into the merchant. “Papers.” They looked towards the Baroness. She supplied them from her satchel. Shieldbands was never a pleasant sort, but this is a bridge too far even by their standards. Something is brewing that has them antsy, something more than an invasion. The armored woman handed the papers back, opening the door for her to enter.

“The Akuanist is with me, they have an invitation as well.” The Baroness spoke up to them, locking eyes with the lead zealot. First to insure the Fylkir-Queen receives the merchant without them getting harassed and second, it is always good to have a Akuan merchant owe you a favor. They tend to get into unusual beneficial spots for the ones they are indebted to.

The merchant quickly took out her papers from her bag, holding up for inspection still not locking eyes with the armored forces in front of her. The lead zealot took the papers, reading them over before placing it back into the merchant’s hand. “You may enter as well, but we have our eye on you.”

The pair quickly entered the palace before the Shieldband guards changed their minds. The door closed, and they were left alone if one ignored the staff like every proper noble does. The merchant spoke, “Thank you, they seem to be in a dangerous mood.” Leaving the fact they owe Baroness a favor, an unspoken agreement.

“More so than normal, at least in my experience. Perhaps it is more than just an invasion at hand, have you heard anything?” The Baroness asked in a quiet tone, being led by the head of staff to the throne room. The merchant replied in the same tone, “I told you, the shieldbands are getting restless and growing too far in number. You’re a student of history, no?”

The baroness understood, it wasn’t the first time there has been an issue with large shieldbands and it will not be the last. If you let them rest too long, give them nothing to honor the warrior spirit then they will find something in the empire to honor it themselves. Which tends to lead to infighting and occasional replacement of leadership be they lowly Baroness to the Fylkir-Queen. It has happened twice before, and at each hand it was by the zealous hand of the Shieldbands.

“I suppose it is time for another lovely war.” The Baroness shrugged, the merchant held her tongue staying close to the baroness. The head of staff opened the door to the throne room, and the pair entered to see a room filled with people from across the land. To both of their surprise, there was even non-Kemonomimi tolerated in the room including elves and humans. Though they probably were just thralls for the royal house handing drinks out to the people that actually mattered.

Merchant spotted a few of their friends, giving a respectful head bow to the Baroness. “I will take my leave, thank you again. Spirits guide you.” The baroness didn’t respond in words, only giving a head nod. Then taking her leave to go grab a drink from one of the nearby servants wandering the throne room.

She didn’t have long to enjoy it or time to speak with any of the other guests. The head of the royal guard, an old and angry looking woman slammed the bottom of her spear into a particular spot on the ground. Causing echoing throughout the room. Giving a yell, “Silence! The Fylkir-Queen has arrived.”

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