Crossroads, Crossed Hearts, Crossed Fingers

In Lerasian mythology, the old religion from before the arrival of Ademarism on the shores of Aivintis, before the rise and fracture of the Order of Enlightenment, and far before the implementation of democracy, there was a spirit of the crossroads. Not a god, exactly, not really, for Lerasi and his Father were the only true gods of the Aivintian people in that age, but a widely worshiped spirit. This spirit was a patron of wanderers, and thus a favored soul of the Grey God, The Father of Lerasi, He of the Stars, The Lost One, who Himself was a great wanderer.

This spirit would appear to travelers from time to time, when the road before them diverged, and the pathway was not clear. The spirit would pose a riddle and, if solved, would tell the traveler how to proceed. Which road would lead them where they desired to go. Even if, as some myths claimed, they did not realize this desire before the spirit revealed the path to them, and they walked along it. Many who were lost - physically or metaphorically - would pray for the spirit to come along and help them find their way.

Now, the entire country stood at a crossroads, and Regent August Byrne had no one to pray to. No gray-cloaked spirit would guide his path, nor test his mind with a riddle about the creature that walked on four legs in the morning, two in the afternoon, and three in the evening. No pale-faced man with an unwrinkled face would stand guard to protect him from his own bad decisions. No saint guided the way. He knew he was to go on alone.

After the coup d’etat, which he preferred to think of as a peaceful revolution, there was much to do. He formed his cabinet quickly. As abusive as the emergency powers of the Regency were, thanks to George Whitcher and Eduard Stoker, they were useful for his purposes, as was the tyrants’ abolition of the separation of powers. The unity of the courts, the legislature, and the executive allowed for him to pull the High Court away from the Executive without giving up his title as regent.

He discarded his black robes, which he had not worn for very long, and he rejected the title “Your Excellency.” He never felt as if he deserved it and it was unbefitting of a democratic society, even one still under the shadow of the monarchy. It bore the trappings of autocracy and prideful arrogance.

Still, strangely, he felt a twinge of disappointment to shed them. He knew his scheme would bring unprecedented change to the lives of every Aivintian, but he never expected his own life to change so much. His attachment to the robes, of course, was all the more reason to dispense of them. He would resist the allure of power. He was stronger than Stoker.

Maria Lupu resigned and, while many wondered if August had forced her out, the smile on her face was not debatable. She now lived in Castenor, in a neighborhood on the far side of town from the city’s courthouse. She spoke at the university from time to time, but she never spoke to the press.

Varujan Groza was named Deputy Regent. He played the diligent innocent when the cameras came on. No one had to know of his involvement in Byrne’s plan. He had to be sure of that. Martin Costiniu, his trusted Trade Council Chair, was named Officer of Justice. His dear friend, Marc Alupei, Officer of War. All the people he had drawn into his trusted inner circle were readily rewarded with the offices he had promised.

All except one. Laurentiu Aldulescu, alongside ten other members of the People’s Movement of Justice, faced trial for their violent actions to the end of revolution. A fair judge was called, a jury was drawn for the first time in years, and they received lenient punishment. Most of the PMJ foot soldiers received only two years in prison, in light of their intentions.

Aldulescu, who received the harshest sentence of them all, was only sentenced to ten years. They were placed in the nicest of the national prisons. The nation and the world was watching, and Aivintis could not afford to show any sign that the corruption and brutality of their justice system still remained.

To that effect, August Byrne reformed the court system. Thirty thousand judges were employed by the Aivintian Empire under the Kritarchy’s rule. Over the course of July and August, five thousand of these judges were removed from the bench for strict, biased, corrupt, or otherwise unjust rulings. Four thousand more were temporarily suspended. Five hundred were imprisoned for gross violations of rights.

These punishments, too, were more lenient than they should have been, Byrne thought. By his estimate, ten to fifteen thousand should have been removed, but he needed his government intact. He needed to work with the system. He needed to trust the democratic institutions he created to finish his job.

The councils which governed Aivintis were disbanded on 12th July. Their members were all appointed to the Imperial Senate by order of the regent. Even the self-serving, corrupt ones. Those who didn’t resign, of course. Many did, either in protest of August Byrne’s reforms, or because they knew they would no longer be able to control the system as they did. Arthur Frost was one of these resignations. He simply didn’t care. When democracy rose, he knew his money would be enough to exert influence. The halls of government did not suit him. For the weeks the Senate had to themselves, they debated only judicial and ambassadorial appointments to replace those officials Byrne had removed for their crimes.

In September, August Byrne finally presented the new Constitution to the Senate. Written behind closed doors, the only soul August had consulted was Varujan Groza. He wished he could ask the wisened spirit of the crossroads, but such fairy tales escaped even his grand imagination. It wasn’t perfect, but Varujan and Marc had both urged the Regent to be reasonable with his time frame. It protected the rights of the people and it brought true democracy to the nation. The Greater Republic of Aivintis would finally be realized.

Of course, that was the problem. Once Byrne had his appointed Senate, they were reluctant to give power up by inviting elections. In fact, many of them thought it was bad enough that the Kritarchy had been forcefully separated into three branches of government once again. They did not wish to see August Byrne succeed. Until money was flashed or threats were made. He was, after all, the man who convinced his country to hand itself over to him. Something about the eye of the free press and the prospect of election to higher offices than they held convinced them otherwise.

They couldn’t just rubber stamp it, of course, nor was the process of winning them over very easy. They had to put on a show for the people if they wanted to make a name for themselves before the elections, and Byrne had to show disagreement and compromise within the halls of government so that, even before he held a single election, the people and the world would be convinced in the competitive nature of the new Republic.

And so they debated the most asinine and the most important of topics. Each clause received an objection for some reason or another. Each word was mulled over. Arguments over terms, enumerated powers, and checks and balances were televised from morning until evening. One day, the entire Senate session debated every hour of sunlight they had on the title which the Chief Executive held. Every title one could think of was debated, from President to Chief Minister to Premier. Eventually, they settled on approving Byrne’s suggested title of “Chancellor,” though not without convincing from on high.

On a grand scale, nothing in the Constitution changed. A clause was added or altered here and there, but the framework which August Byrne and Varujan Groza had built remained. The rights of the people were not curtailed. On 2nd December 2023, the Constitution of the Greater Republic of Aivintis was passed with the unanimous consent of the Aivintian Provisional Senate.

The only thing that could come next was elections. The first democratic elections in Aivintis for over ten years would be enough of a buzz, but the newly minted Grand Senate of Aivintis was not the only branch of government with open doors. For the first time in the history of Aivintian politics, the Chief Executive and Head of State, the Chancellor of the Republic, will be an elected position. What’s more, in the wake of the tyranny of the unelected judicial Kritarchy, the now-empty High Court is up for election, admittedly with membership limited to sitting national judges.

All eyes are on Aivintis and all eyes are on Acting Chancellor August Byrne, who has issued a statement setting elections for November 2024 and indicated that he will not be standing for any elected position in the elections, and will, as promised, be stepping down from power to hand over the reins of governance to the democratically elected successor. With the new institution of democracy, however, old political parties are revived and new political deals and associations are made. Meanwhile, August Byrne had eleven months until he would give up his power. In that time, he fully intended to do everything he could do within the Constitution to ensure that democracy and political freedom would outlast him.