His Enlightened Reign

This is part 3 of a series which follows on from A Bingolian Invitation (part 2) and Better the Devil You Know (part 1).


Imperial Throne Room, Bingol Royal Palace, Bingol, Packilvania.
25 December 2022.

There was a palpable change in the atmosphere when Sultan Namdun III announced that he was abdicating and that Prince Thumim would now be Sultan Thumim V. The sound of people packing clothes into suitcases, documents into briefcases and moving vans going in and out of the Palace grounds filled the air. Hundreds of staff at the Bingol Royal Palace were either retrenched or reassigned to the Sultana’s Palace where they would serve the former Sultan.

Thumim V had elected to take his staff from the Office of the Crown Prince with him and surround himself with people he knew and trusted. Many of them had celebrated with him when he told them that Duchess Saga of Tynam had agreed to marry him. They were there when he deceived Prince Kujil into going to Blueacia where he was captured. Now, their quiet and diligent work and unflinching loyalty to Thumim was rewarded by appointments to the Imperial Court to serve their new Sultan.

Even more surprising, were the changes that Thumim made to the Council of Ministers, the highest executive body in the country; equivalent to a Cabinet in other nations. He split 3 Imperial Department in twain, created 1 entirely new department, suspended the existence of 1 and made 2 departments stand alone entities. Even more impressive was the amount of women he raised to the Council. In total there were 6 women, up from 1, his sister Princess Yadika. To the surprise of many, they were appointed to the newly created Departments which were powerful in their own right.

Today, they had assembled at the Palace to take their customary official picture. Sultan Thumim V sat on his Throne, while the rest of the men of the Council stood beside him while the women sat on the stairs at his feet with his sister Princess Yadika right in the middle. Princes Lohadek and Luwadeen, the Minister for State Security and Prime Minister flanked him on either side. This picture seemed a simple portrait but subtle clues were embedded in the arrangement of the people there: Princess Yadika, Prince Luwadeen and Prince Lohadek were his inner circle, the centre of his new order.

Prince Abuyin started to feel the change in atmosphere. To his surprise and annoyance, Sultan Thumim V had appointed him as Special Advisor to the Sultan instead of elevating him to the rank of Crown Prince as was expected. Given that Thumim V was known to be unable to have biological children, it had seemed a forgone conclusion that Prince Abuyin would be his heir apparent and subsequently Crown Prince. But, only a few hours after Thumim V ascended the Throne, the Council of State announced a new line of succession which placed Prince Abuyin as the heir presumptive. The whirlwind of changes was so fast that there had not been any time to confront him about the changes.

But as Prince Abuyin stood on the stage, watching Princess Yadika, Prince Lohadek and Prince Luwadeen occupy their spots closest to the Sultan, he began to wonder, What is my future in his “enlightened” reign?

A meeting of the Council of State.
Imperial State Room, Bingol Royal Palace, Bingol, Packilvania.
24 December 2022.

The announcement that gave rise to the end of Namdun III’s reign is the one that paved the way for that of Thumim V. It had occurred in the Imperial State Room after the Council of State was summoned to the Bingol Royal Palace. Sultan Namdun III presented the Articles of Abdication, the last Decree of his reign.

The members of the Council of State read through it and signed the articles to symbolically state that they were valid and they acknowledged the abdication.

They all stood and cheered, “Long live the Sultan!” Namdun III gave Prince Thumim a kiss on the cheek and shook his hand.

He stood up from the Imperial Seat and sat in another chair. Thumim took his place at the head of the table. The Minister in the Office of the Prime Minister for Imperial Affairs, Princess Abdina, who acted as the de facto Secretary of the Council of State and was a non-voting member asked him, “What is your name?”

Prince Thumim stated, “My name shall be the name that my mother and father in their wisdom bequeathed to me: I shall be Thumim V”.

“May it be so”, the Princess Abdina stated.

The members cheered, “Long live Sultan Thumim V! Long live!”

“The letter of His Imperial Majesty’s abdication and proclamation of your reign, my liege, shall be dispersed to world with haste”, she replied.

“Right”, Sultan Thumim V said, “Firstly, my ascension adds to the existing vacancies on the Council”.

“I hereby proclaim that Princess Yadika shall be appointed to the Council and that Prince Tubida shall speak on behalf of Shakar for I also appoint him the Governor of Shakar. To our collective benefit, the Prince and Princess are both here”, Prince Thumim said, “Princess Abdina, please ask them to enter the room”.

Princess Abdina opened the door and entered. She said, “His Imperial Majesty has appointed you to be members of the Council of State. Do you accept?”

They both Accepted. Prince Tubida and Princess Yadika bowed and curtsied respectively, before Sultan Thumim.

He asked them, “Do you promise to exercise your duties faithfully?”

“We swear”, they both said and touched a copy of the Bas Magdamar which Princess Abdina held up.

She led them to their seats. Everyone sat down.

“Secondly”, Thumim V said, “The second matter is matter of the line of succession”.

Prince Abdina distributed a document containing the line of succession to all the members. They read through it slowly and carefully.

Prince Abuyin raised his hand and stated, “I am confused, why is my name next to the heir presumptive line. I think there is a mistake in the document”.

“No, no”, Thumim said, “There is no mistake”.

“But how can that be”, Prince Abuyin asked in confusion, “As far as we all know you can’t have children”.

Everyone was awkwardly silent.

Thumim said, “Thank you for bringing that to our attention and allowing me to segue way into the report from the physician. I have seen a doctor, well versed in his craft, who has suggested that there mighe be hope for me to father children of my own one day and thus, I believe that it is unwise and unnecessary to make you the Crown Prince”.

Prince Abuyin was shocked as he looked through the medical report that Princesss Abdina circulated to all the members.

“This doesn’t make sense”, Prince Abuyin said. “For years we’ve known that you can’t have kids and now conveniently when father abdicates, you have a doctors letter stating there might be a chance for you so you decide to keep me as Deputy Crown Prince”.

“In light of the fact that there is no Crown Prince, it follows naturally that there is no Deputy Crown Prince. As such”, Thumim stated, “You shall no longer be the Deputy Crown Prince. I am happy to announce that you shall be the Special Advisor to the Sultan and you shall remain a member of the Council”.

Prince Abuyin felt as though the wind had been flung from his body. He tried to complain, but Thumim said, “Thank you, Prince Abuyin. We shall proceed”.

Princess Yadika said, “I hereby motion for the adoption of the line of succession hereat presented without amendments”.

Princess Tubida replied, “I second that”.

“Right”, Thumim said, “I call for a vote on the line of succession. Those in favour, raise your hands”.

Princess Yadika, Prince Tubida, Prince Luwadeen, Supreme Magister Tawak VII, Sultana Dowager Gamesha, Chief Justice Prince Radeeq, Prince Harim, and Sultan Thumim V raised their hands.

“Those opposed, raise your hands”, Thumim said.

Prince Abuyin’s hand shot up like a gunshot followed by Prince Idesh, Prince Jibrael, Prince Uhayed, Prince Isham and Prince Juber.

“Your Imperial Majesties”, Thumim asked his parents, “Your vote”.

“I abstain”, Sultana Mebri said.

“I abstain”, followed Sultan Namdun III.

“With 8 for, 7 against and 2 Abstentions, I proclaim that the new line of succession is adopted”, Thumim said.

Prince Abdina said, sounding pleased, “I shall publish this in the Government Gazette without delay!”

The meeting was adjourned but a sour mood permeated the air. This vote was not only about the line of succession but was a direct and symbolic vote of confidence by the Governors in the medical report submitted by the Sultan and by extension his integrity. And other than Prince Harim and Prince Tubida, it was clear that the Governors had reneged on the letter they had written in his support months ago.

To the outside observer it would not have been inappropriate to also see this as an early indictment in his reign: they don’t want his progeny to rule, they want Prince Abuyin.

Perhaps their decision was also due to their preference to have Abuyin succeed Thumim because Abuyin was closer to them and more likely to preserve their legacies or keep them in office. The fact Sultan Thumim had to appoint 2 people at the last hour to push the vote over displayed how sparse the support for his proposition was within the Council of State. And it was apparent that to rule as he pleased, tolerance of dissidents could not be permitted.

Looking for answers.
Sultana’s Palace, Bingol, Packilvania.
24 December 2022.

After the portrait of the Council of Ministers was taken, Prince Abuyin left for the Sultana’s Palace in the hopes that his mother, Sultana Mother Mebri, could provide some much needed answers about the treatment he felt he had gotten from his older brother Sultan Thumim V.

In the garden pavilion, where his mother often drank a cup of tea after draping her dirty apron and gloves on the chair, Abuyin confronted her about the vote of the Council of State and the changes Thumim was making.

“Mother”, he said, “You know what I am going to ask”.

“No, son”, she said as she dusted off her dirt-caked gloves, “I have no idea”.

“I know that Thumim”, he said.

She interjected, “No, no. Sultan Thumim”

The stretched the word Sultan almost like she was rubbing over his eyes, making sure there was no confusion about Thumim’s place and title.

“Sultan Thumim”, he replied in irritation and indignation, “Why did he demote me?”

“You heard for yourself”, Mebri said, “You were at the meeting. He had a doctor’s report that clearly state he had the chance of having his own child. It was clear from the letter that this was a real medical report and I have full confidence in his integrity”.

“And yet”, he stated, “You did not vote for it”.

“Huh, my son”, she said, exhaling a tired breath, “I knew that this vote would have an adverse effect on you, so I decided to abstain”.

“And father?” Abuyin asked accusingly.

“He followed my lead because I think he saw what was ensuing and did not want to be the cause of what was happening between the two of you”, she said, “My son, let me give you some advice. Firstly, Thumim is the Sultan now. It is in your best interest to follow his lead, make your peace with him and not take everything personally. Yes, he’s your brother, but he will make many decisions you will disagree with and that affect you negatively, but it’s not against you as a person. It’s due to the political and strategic environment that we find ourselves in and his often measured response to that”.

“Perhaps that is true, mother”, he replied. “I will be consulting my lawyers about the options available to me”.

“My son”, Mebri said, “Do not do this”.

“Like you said, mother”, Abuyin replied, “It’s not personal”.

“In that case”, she replied rather seriously, “I never want to hear about all the politics between the two of you. This is the last time you will come here and ask me for answers or advice regarding a political issue between the two of you. I have spoken”.

First Council of Ministers meeting.
Bingol Royal Palace, Bingol, Packilvania.
1 January 2023.

The Imperial Council Pavilion was the new venue for Council of Ministers meetings. As part of turning over a new leaf and starting a new chapter, Prince Luwadeen thought it would be best to move the Council of Ministers meetings to a pleasant verandah that had been enclosed with glass doors and overlooked the extensive gardens. A large table and comfortable chairs surrounded it. It gave the impression of a formal garden party than the meeting where the most powerful body in Packilvanian politics congregated to make decisions about one of the most powerful nations in the world.

For the first time in many years Princess Yadika was not surrounded by men alone but there were women as well. On her advise, Prince Luwadeen had the seating arranged such that everyone was mixed up to prevent the women from being pushed to one side of the table and symbolically isolated from the debates. As the members entered and greeted one another, taking their seats, he was extremely pleased with the fact that 3 of the 6 new ministers were his daughters. Although they were career politicians at provincial level in their own right, there was a sense that their filial relationship as well as policial alignment on many issues had de facto granted Luwadeen more power on the Council on top of the fact that his son, Prince Ashal was already a member.

Many years of devoted loyalty and companionship to one of the loneliest people he had met, then Prince Thumim, was rewarded many times over with seeing his household as the most overrepresented family in the highest echelons of Packilvanian politics (in addition to his eldest son serving as the Governor of Kemer). There was a sense that the rest of the Ministers were not ignorant to how Prince Luwadeen became even more powerful than he was over the past 12 years of his role at the head of the Packilvanian executive branch.

He opened the meeting with prayer and a reading of a verse from the Bas Magdamar, a rather overt reminder of their collective subservience to Paxism and their Goddess Noi. They opened their eyes and raised their heads with an “Amen”.

“Right”, he began, “I would like to congratulate the newly appointed members of the Council on their positions. The expansion of the Council will enable the national government to have greater political control over the nation while the appointment of the astute and capable women shows our collective march in the direction of women empowerment. The first order of business is to discuss outstanding legislation. Princess Abdina, you may go first”.

“Thank you sir”, she said proudly. She had previously served as a Junior Minister in charge of Imperial Affairs and was now the Minister of Women, Children and People with Disabilities.

She continued, “I would like to thank my predecessor, Princess Yadika for her outstanding work in this department. Of note is the Deviant Sexual Identities Amendment Act. My department has consolidated the comments from the public and created a report which I circulated to all of you prior to this meeting. In summary, there is broad public support for the abolition of the death penalty and the creation of options for renunciation or self-imposed exile for persons with deviant sexual identities. As the Minister of Religious Affairs will attest, the Magisterium of Paxism has broadly shown support for the legislation. Thus, my department will be moving forward with submitting the legislation to the Legislative Council for a vote”.

“Thank you, Princess. Are there any other comments before we proceed?”

Prince Duwal, the Minister of Justice harped in, “Personally, I remain staunchly opposed to this legislation! We are a nation of morally upright values! All immorality and deviance should be expunged by firing squad as far as I am concerned”.

“Well sir”, Prince Luwadeen replied, “Your opinion represents a dying breed and insyncronisity with the times. The work Princesses Yadika and Abdina have done is highly laudable. Additionally, it is not as though such behaviours and choices are decriminalised, it is that people ensnared in these vices now have avenues for redemption”.

Prince Duwal gave a hurumph. Prince Luwadeen motioned to vote for the legislation to be presented to the Legislature. The law was approved by barely over half of the Council, with a clear skewing to the younger and newer members.

“The bill is approved. Prince Ashal, you may present the bill to the Chairperson of the Legislative Council”, Prince Luwadeen stated, “Next is the Morality Amendment Act”.

“Yes, sir”, stated Prince Duwal, “Despite my preference for retaining separation of species insofar as marriage is concerned it seems that my opinion represents a dying breed, as the Esteemed Prime Minister has so astutely pointed out. However, opinions regarding fornication remain mixed among the public, but our compatriots and teachers in the Magisterium remain staunchly opposed to its decriminalisation. Thus, my department has prepared amendments to reduced the sentences for fornication, which I circulated”.

“Sir”, Princess Abdina stated, “I have reviewed the amendments and I do not understand why section 78 prescribes more severe sentences for women. This makes no sense as it takes two people to indulge in this act and thus he punishment should be equal. Furthermore, I think it would be remiss if we did not recognise the propensity for men to impose their desires and compel women into compromising positions including committing this egregious sin. As such, I think that there should be amendments to absolve women who were placed in such positions of any liability altogether. My department has prepared some proposals for amendments to the changes you presented”.

Prince Duwal’s right seemed to almost throb as a look of disgust and anger swam over his face. Prince Luwadeen tried to diffuse the situation, “Thank you Princess. I share similar sentiments. I would advise that we postpone the vote for this bill until everyone has had a chance to review the amendments proposed by the Department of Women, Children and People with Disabilities and comment on them. Let’s move on to the High Net Worth Individuals Debt-Based Lifestyle Financing Tax Reform Bill. Bit of a mouthful there, Prince Binhameen”.

The Council had a laugh and the mood lifted a little bit. Prince Binhameen, the finance minister stated, “Yes, sir. Public commentary on this has been rather disproportionately represented by organisations that work for or represent the interests of high net worth individuals as it seems the public and civil society are largely ignorant of the issue. In general, the public was concerned that wealthy people could evade taxation though debt, but there was an absence of consensus. Generally, the mood is that, to use lay terms, “its not a big deal”. Some members of the public felt that this was a violation of their rights and that it would drive away investors. I think from the view of the Imperial Treasury, the problem is that our nation has a serious tax issue and our continued reliance on hydrocarbon royalties and debt to finance our national budget is unsustainable and potential disastrous. We need more taxes and rich people are avoiding them because of this debt based structure. As such, my department has proposed placing a higher tax on goods that only people in this income stratum seem to be able to access namely luxury goods and services and increasing property taxes for housing purchases above a certain level”.

Prince Luwadeen nodded his head, and said, “That seems sensible. Are there any comments on this”.

Prince Malakhai, the Minister of Housing and Urban Development stated, “I think we need to be careful about the property taxes because it might incentivise developers to focus on premium housing and mark up their costs to compensate for the taxes which may affect property prices across the board. And as the Minister for Home Affairs can attest, local governments will arbitrarily restrict the supply of residential land to extract as much property tax as possible”.

Prince Luwadeen stated, “You raise a valid point here. I think, Prince Binhameen, it would be best if your departments did a joint study on the impact of property taxes on housing supply and report back with your findings”.

“I think there is also the additional problem of our tourism and luxury retail and manufacturing industries”, Prince Jahalal, Minister of Tourism stated, “I mean, Packilvanian products have long been lamented as cheap and poor quality. Luxury goods and services sales have ridiculously high profit margins. We need to be careful about crowding out consumers who are more price sensitive from access to these goods”.

Prince Binhameen replied, “Well, sir. I think we need to make a sacrifice between tax collection and industry success. Based on figures from the circulated report, these taxes could potential expand our tax income by 12 to 18 percent”.

“I think there are many valid points”, Prince Luwadeen stated, “Let’s come back to this bill as there a few things to be ironed out, but great work Prince Binhameen. Now to the new bills. Duchess Mawara, I believe you have something for us”.

“Yes, indeed, sir and thank you”, she said “As a woman, I recognise that we are not always as safe as we could be in this country. I have seen through my work as the Jumhuri Minister of Justice that the wheels of justice move too slowly to punish perpetrators of violent crime. It is for that reason that I would like to propose the Criminal Procedure Amendment Act. This act will make members of gangs whose members perpetrate violent crimes equally guilty of those crimes. This will empower the courts to wrangle not only the perpetrators but their enablers as well. Additionally, trial of such individuals can be held in their absence to enable court cases to be decided quickly. Furthermore, in the case where a person is charged with a capital offence and flees police custody, police officers can execute the punishment on sight”.

Prince Duwal rebutted, “Duchess, I am all for being tougher on crime but this bill completely obliterates due process and an appropriate distribution of punishment. What should happen if the perpetrator would have been vindicated on appeal or a police officer makes a mistake and executes the incorrect person?”

“It’s interesting sir, that you are in support of harsher punishments for women who fornicate and for people with deviant sexual identities, but when it comes to criminals who actually go out commit heinous acts, you are more reticent. It’s also rather remarkable that these crimes like compelled physical intimacy, egregious assault and murder are almost universally perpetrated by men. I am getting the sense that Minister of Justice has a gender preference in the enforcement of justice in this country”.

“Madam Minister!” Prince Duwal proclaimed, “How dare you? I fought in the Second Packilvanian Civil War so that women like you could live free of Communism. It is an effrontery to state that I am more favourable to men. You are literally removing in-person trials as a prerequisite for conviction of a crime for which someone could be executed!”

“Let’s not forget, Mr Minister”, the Duchess stated, “That our beloved Sultan was nearly assassinated by that malovent fiend! We live in a country in which it is possible for someone to do that because we are not tough enough on violent crimes because men want to protect each other. Well sir, if the women who are suffering at the hands of men does not compel you, how about the attempted murder of the greatest man in the land! Or should we question your loyalty to him?”

“Madam”, Prince Duwal said. He tried to reply but was so angry and flummoxed that he began stammering.

“That is enough”, Prince Luwadeen stated, “We will not vote on this act today. We will wait until the next meeting. Please prepare amendments and supporting evidence thereto concerning for the Council to review”.

(Joint post with @Cryria)

Arrival of the future Sultana.
Bingol, Packilvania.
2 January 2023.

The Palace was electrified in anticipation of the arrival of Duchess Saga of Tynam. Since the announcement that she was engaged to Sultan Thumim V, the public’s imagination was fixed on who she was and what she looked like. On the Packilvanian versions of Cafe Net and Goggle, her name was the most searched of any person in the country following the announcement. Before the end of the day, several Cryrian websites had crashed from sudden spikes in Packilvanian traffic.

Television shows had programmes focused on giving the public a window into her personal history, making sure to portray her as positively as was practically possible. Words like “glamorous”, “astute”, “magnanimous”, “exquisite” and “immaculate” filled the media’s description of her. All conservative anti-human discussions and statements were systematically expunged from the media. The country was determined to put on the best welcome for their beloved future Sultana.

She arrived at the Bingol International Airport where she was escorted by a police escort comprising over 30 vehicles. Traffic along the N1 highway was cleared to make her journey as smooth as possible. As the cavalcade entered the Bingol city center, crowds of people were lined along the street wanting to catch a glimpse of the woman who would rule beside their sovereign. The crowd control officials and the barriers they put up along the route battled but managed to keep the crowd from spilling over onto the street.

She arrived at the Sultana’s Palace to a crowd of over 40,000 people gathered in Sultana Square. They waved and held up the flags of Tynam and Packilvania. She was greeted by Sultana Mebri, Sultan Namdun III, Prince Abuyin and Princess Yadika in the court of the Palace.

“Thumim is waiting for you on the antechamber to the Great Balcony”, Mebri said, “I’ll show you the way”.

Mebri led her to the antechamber where Thumim was holding a large bouquet of flowers. Thumim gently gave her the flowers, they embraced each other and kissed. The rest of the family joined them in the antechamber. Sultana Mebri smiled and asked everyone, “Are you ready!”

The guards opened the door and Thumim and Saga walked out together holding hands, flanked by the rest of the Imperial family. The crowd exploded into a rapturous roar like ocean waves crashing against the boulders on a beach. The crowd cheered, exclaiming “Long Live the Sultan”, “Long Live the Sultana”, “Glory to Saga”, “Victory to Thumim” and many other cheers. News media broadcast the spectacle live and commentators embellished the significance and beauty of the occasion with poetic descriptions of the triumph of love and the joy of matrimony.

The family had a formal dinner in which a maelstrom of different foods were served. 80 Princes, Princesses, nobles and other important people had travelled from far afield to congratulate Thumim and Saga on their engagement and express their well wishes. Once the guests were seated and the drinks and food were served Namdun stood up and tapped his crystal wine glass with a silver spoon and cleared his throat.

“Ladies and Gentlemen, we are gathered here to celebrate and congratulate His Imperial Majesty, the Sultan and Her Grace the Duchess on their engagement. Our nation and our family is filled with excitement over this historic occasion, the first human and feline ruling pair in hundreds of years. We look forward to the bridges that this union will help to build with our in-laws-to-be in Tynam and the nation of Cryria from which our beautiful daughter-in-law-to-be originates. Three cheers for the Sultan and the Duchess! Hip hip, hooray!”

From her arrival, Saga had said little save for the perfunctory greetings and remarks exchanged over the course of the day. Her Packilvanian had evidently improved to the point where the Duchess had some confidence in it, the product of a year’s worth of characteristically relentless study. Still, on this day, the Duchess had been content to observe the proceedings with an air of pleasant composure as they played out. Those that had massed upon the streets, she had watched through the vehicle’s tinted windows, while from atop the balcony the crowds were rewarded by a polite wave from a distant figure clad in a long, dark Leidenstader’s coat and a carefully arranged headscarf.

But by dinner the Duchess seemed altogether pleased to engage in any idle conversation with the many notables at the table. All had fallen silent for Namdun’s toast. It was, in truth, the first she had encountered the Sultan Emeritus in person, though all that she had heard from Thumim given the Duchess a decidedly sour opinion of the former ruler. Nonetheless, this was hardly the occasion for such things, and any thoughts on the matter remained locked behind a polite smile as Saga listened intently. When Namdun sat down, Saga stood up to speak a few words of her own.

“My thanks, to the Sultan Emeritus and the Sultana Mebri for your warm welcomes,” Saga said, inclining her head towards each of them, “And to all those gathered here with whom I mean to become more familiar with in due time, you have honored me.”

“I hope you will forgive me if I am perhaps a day late in wishing you all a pleasant New Year’s, but I would feel remiss to not remark upon it all the same,” the Duchess turned to Thumim now, “If a New Year is to mark a new chapter and a new beginning, then I will be so bold as to say that my year has in truth begun here with the good Sultan in this great city, which has witnessed more such moments than any might count. So come, I am indeed from a distant land for many here, but the sun that rises over the Khöldsön Jaed, the frosted forests of Tynam, and the canals of Leidenstad is the same sun which shall soon bless these hallowed halls of Bingol. Let us then enter this New Year together, as friends and family. Sawlığıñız üşin! ” Saga exclaimed, raising her glass to indicate the toast.

Written with Oan

A talk among Sultanas.
Sultana’s Palace, Bingol, Packilvania.
2 January 2023.

After the dancing and feasting, the guests left and everyone was getting ready to rest after the eventful evening. Thumim left the Sultana’s Palace, leaving Saga with his mother Mebri. It would have seemed inappropriate for Saga to stay with Thumim before their nuptials (even though they had secretly stayed together before this).

Mebri sent her lady-in-waiting to ask Saga to join her in her private parlour.

Saga had since found her way out to the botanical gardens after the celebrations ended. The Duchess expected that little sleep would come for her tonight, not after the long plane flight around the world.

Sun rising in Tynam indeed, she thought ruefully.

Instead, she now found a bench in a quiet corner of the palace from which to lazily watch the stars rise instead - The small pinpricks of light that could make their way through the city’s light pollution anyways. For all the nighttime chills, it was still a far cry from the midwinter climes of Tynam that she had left behind, and so she had remained here well after all the goodbyes had been said, until the reflecting pool was awash with silver moonlight.

The arrival of the lady-in-waiting stirred Saga from her thoughts, and a few short moments later she arrived at Mebri’s parlor.

“Lady Sultana,” she said, respectfully tilting her head in greetings.

Mebri, dressed in a soft pink floor-length silk chemise, looked up from her book with a tender smile, put down her spectacles and said, “Ah! Duchess! Thank you for joining me. I can imagine that the day has been laden with an extensive and demanding itinerary but you have carried it gracefully all the same. When I was the Crown Princess, I had the benefit of having Sultana Gamesha, Thumim’s grandmother, guide and prepare me for the role that lay before me as the new Sultana, so I wanted to do the same with you.”

“I will always be grateful for your advice, Sultana,” Saga readily returned Mebri’s smile. She had come to know the Sultana as perhaps troublingly superstitious and engrossed in her own world, but also certainly nothing less than kind when the circumstances demanded - A rare and valuable thing when it came to it. “I am, I fear, still something of a stranger here. If I can profit from your wisdom, I shall.”

Mebri smiled gladly and said, “Lovely! My advice relates to both your role as a wife and your role as the Sultana. I will start with the latter as it is by far the easier. As the new Sultana, you will have two new formal roles. The first is that you will be a member of the Council of State which is responsible for making decisions about the line of succession and if necessary removing the sitting Sultan from power, so you will need to familiarise yourself with our succession laws. The second is that you will be the Head of the Imperial Court. This means you are in charge of the royal residences, events, image and branding, security and other areas of the work of Sultan and the Imperial Family. You will have the support of many courtiers and the Duchess of Khashar in the Department of Imperial Affairs. Some of the fun things you get to do would include organising the Coronation of the next Sultan and so on. Naturally, there will be many expectations about how you ought to carry yourself and exercise your role but the reality is that each Sultana has their own approach. One of the fun perks you will enjoy is that this Palace will belong to you for as long as you are the Sultana, so if you feel like evicting your father-in-law and I, you are certainly within your rights to do so! Unlike the sour and publicly icy marriage that Namdun and I had, you have a real relationship with Thumim and a stake in your shared political future. Thus, you have the potential to leverage your beauty, feminine charm, business and political acumen to help your husband make decisions, court the support of powerful people, win the love of the public for the monarchy, and, if needed, identify and root out threats to his reign.”

The Duchess clasped her hands in front of her and listened patiently as Mebri spoke. “That is some job description. Let us hope my acumen holds stronger than the rest, then,” Saga’s face flickered with amusement. "Fear not Sultana, I am not in the business of evicting people, even if they are my in-laws. This place is as much your home as mine, so long as you wish it.” The former Sultan’s presence was another matter, but one perhaps best left alone for the moment. This was no time to make trouble.

“Well,” Saga said, “It seems I am to have my hands full. And you, Lady Sultana, if I may ask. What are your plans for your future? I am given to understand that some responsibilities yet remain to you, but I hope you will find time to enjoy yourself all the same.”

“Yes indeed!” Mebri replied excitedly, “I will remain a member of the Council of State. My main focus will be on spending time with my family and doing philanthropic work. It has been customary for the Sultana Mother to also be the Chairperson of the Association of the Friends and Veterans of the Carriers of Mercy, so I might take over that role from Sultana Gamesha. But that leads me to my advice for you as a wife. You need to put yourself first. In our society, women are expected to endure a lot of hardship. My husband was physically and verbally abusive towards Thumim and I, but I was forced to stick around because of social and political pressure. If you experience unhappiness, a lack of fulfillment or stagnation, do not be afraid to leave. There is a second matter. I believe you are aware that the Sultan sought a doctor’s advice on whether he could sire a son?”

“Most would say that I am quite good at putting myself first,” Saga said wryly, “But I understand what you mean.” The Duchess paused as the conversation approached a more delicate topic, “I am aware,” she finally said, “Though given the biological incompatibility, I cannot imagine that such a child would come from me.”

Saga affixed the Sultana with a steely gaze, “It is a pity that the Council once deemed artificial insemination and adoption to be out of the question, though I am given to understand that you disagreed on the matter. One must wonder whether the new Council would feel differently, particularly when the offspring originates from the Sultan himself.”

“I certainly hope that the new Council might consider artificial insemination or adoption as options”, Mebri said. She looked down and clasped her book tightly, and took a deep breath, “But I must be honest, Saga – if I may be so bold as to call you that – the reality is that I sincerely doubt any Council would approve this option. There are other ways that Packilvanians have to secure an heir where perhaps there might be some barrier preventing the couple from having children. I am certain that what I am about to tell you, Thumim will and would never ask of you and will be furious with me if he found out I asked you. I am simply presenting the notion to you, because ultimately the decision will lie with you. In the event that it is discovered that Thumim can indeed sire his own children, would you be open or at least willing to contemplate the possibility of allowing Thumim to take a second wife?”

“You are a terribly honest woman, Mebri Bedon, to suggest such a thing to me.” Any humor in Saga’s smile had evaporated. “I do not think you ever need to ask anyone’s permission to be bold again. Let me be honest too then - I will not support such a thing, much less encourage it. Nor should you.”

Mebri’s gamble had not paid off and she tried to rectify her blunder, “I am deeply sorry, Duchess, if I offended you in any way. I know that our ways are difficult, even for us, let alone a foreigner. Look, I will say that Namdun took more wives as a consequence of his selfish appetite for women, but Thumim wouldn’t even entertain the thought. All I ask is that you give some thought to the future.”

“I will expect that he shall not,” Saga said tersely, “But the thought is given, Lady Sultana.”

*Written with @Cryria *

Sultana’s Palace, Bingol, Packilvania.
3 January 2023.

Sleep had come, in the end. Sunrise over Bingol found Saga in the gardens again. The expansive greenery was reminiscent to her of the palatial styles of Cryria, if perhaps lacking a certain intricacy. But it was not any particular appreciation for the scene that had brought her back out by the reflecting pool. The Duchess was instead caught in her own thoughts today, something she was both ill-accustomed to and ill-inclined to make apparent outside this secluded corner of the Palace.

Saga’s fingers tapped impatiently against the bench’s armrest before she finally came to a decision. The Duchess fished out an archaic-looking flip phone, that same one which had been offered to her over a year prior at a restaurant in Gezer. She dialed a number and called.

Arasho , Prince Bedon.” Saga paused, then corrected herself, “Though I suppose I should say Sultan now. I hope you are not too busy for lunch?”

“Will I ever convince you to say ‘Ashamiliya’ ?”, Thumim said with a giggle, “I always have time for you, my juniper.”

As noon approached, a small table was set up in the gardens at the request of the Duchess. She had always found the climate here to be quite agreeable in its own fashion, and so rarely missed an opportunity to dine outdoors.

Saga had spent the preceding hours calling home - To Tynam, Leidenstad, and Gazny Khot. Idle catching-ups, for the most part, but there had been little chance for it since she had arrived, and the time zones were such that she took advantage of those moments she had. Heavens knew, she had already earned a poor reputation for often vanishing without so much as a word.

By the time the Sultan arrived, she had already made her way back outside to the waiting table, which had since been filled with platters of food. It was a modest affair compared to the previous night’s feast, but plenty for two.

The Duchess offered a lazy wave to Thumim when he arrived.

“We have had little time to talk of late,” Saga said. For once, no formalities preceded her words. “I hoped that we might do so now.”

She paused, and then as if feeling she had been too abrupt asked, “You have been keeping well, I trust?” Saga eyed him critically and said, “Not eating enough, clearly. Come!” She motioned towards the table.

Thumim blushed, kissed her on the cheek, and replied, “You know me well. I rarely eat as often as I should. I’ve been keeping as well as I can. Ordinarily, I’m terribly worried about or hyper-fixating on some new problem and forget to spare my body any kindness in either the form of rest or food. For a change, however, I am excited about the future and our life together.”

“One should be more careful,” Saga chided as she returned to the table and opened a bottle of Calthian cider. “I would have brought wine, but you are, as you say, busy,” she said wryly. “And my head is still in three different time zones.” She poured out a pair of glasses and offered one to Thumim before seating herself.

“To the future then, good Sultan,” Saga grinned, “And it is good that you mention it. There is something I had hoped to speak of.”

The Duchess paused, contemplatively chewing on her words, and then shrugged, “Well, it is best to be direct about these things, and you may forgive me for being blunt later. I am given to understand that you may yet be able to father children, and have adjusted your succession accordingly.” Saga’s expression had turned more serious now, “I am given to assume nothing but the best of your intentions, Sultan, but I wish for us both to be clear-eyed as well. What is it that you are expecting in this matter?”

Thumim had expected her question but somehow felt unprepared for it. He drew his breath and answered, “Before I tell you what I intend, perhaps it might be fruitful for me to explain why I took the test and made the proposal that I did. Firstly, Saga, in Packilvanian culture, there is an expectation that a man should have children of his own. It seems that expectation has been imbibed in me to the extent that I had hoped against all odds that I could give you children of your own by me. Thus, I sought the advice and help of a urologist. I initially expected nothing of profit to arise, so it was a complete surprise to me when the physician suggested that there might be hope, however slim. Secondly, there is a political crisis I am hoping to avert.”

He leaned forward and gazed into her eyes and let her gaze into his massive gleaming eyes, “I had a chat with Prince Kujil, and asked him why he would risk his life and the safety of his family to unseat me, especially if we simply had political differences and all he had to endure was a few years of imprisonment for something as manageable as a corruption charge. It dawned on me from my questioning that the appetite for my reign within the family is surprisingly lacklustre, and there are people willing to risk life and limb to not only see me out of the chair but someone, preferably Abuyin, in my place. I am not sure what part he has to play in all of this, and from my assessment of his actions, I do not believe that Abuyin is trying to unseat me, especially given the likelihood that he was going to inherit the throne anyway. Nevertheless, I was concerned enough to want to keep him at arm’s length. What pushed me to keep even the Crown Prince’s office from him, was the fact that I am worried that Abuyin’s, shall we say, romantic inclinations are not in keeping with our values. He had an encounter with someone who was not necessarily of the opposite gender, which he claimed he had no idea about given their feminine disposition. But Prince Kujil revealed that this person with whom Abuyin had been entangled was involved in the conspiracy. Thus, it occurred to me that Abuyin could not be trusted, and the report from the urologist was used to push him out.”

He drank a sip of water and concluded, “As to my intentions, I hope that I can continue seeing the doctor and taking whatever treatment he recommends, but I hope that one day, I can shape the Council of State in such a way as to make them open to the possibility of permitting an heir by artificial insemination. But even if they don’t, perhaps laws may change so that we can have our child even if he cannot rule.”

To this, Saga listened impassively.

“These are all things you should have told me before,” she said evenly when the Sultan finished, “And though I have no wish to speak ill of your family, I think you are correct to mistrust Prince Abuyin. Those who are willing to grow old waiting for a throne are few and far between. But I am happy to hear of the doctor’s report. More than happy. No wound should be carried forever.”

The Duchess stared into her cup for a moment, then snorted, “We would make some strange hands at parenting, I think. Then again, who says man will always hand on misery to man?” Saga shrugged, then smiled. “So be it, Lord Sultan. The Council will elevate its thinking, be it tomorrow or ten years from now. Them and all the rest who would point knives at our backs. We will make it so,” she said, firmly enough that it might be set into stone, “I will not have it be said that there was a child of Saga Tynam and Thumim a-Namdun Bedon who could not rule.”

He held her hand and kissed it.

The fight before the judges.
7 January 2023.
Supreme Court of Packilvania, Palace of Justice, Bingol, Packilvania.

The large Brutalist concrete edifice of the Supreme People’s Court building had been heavily renovated in the years following the end of the Second Packilvanian Civil War with Ornamental Packilvanian design such as adding mosaics, friezes, sculptures, and other embellishments to beautify the severe and imposing building. Nevertheless, the building continued to project the sense of scale and imposing austerity that the Packilvanian Communist Party had hoped to convey. Many architects had called for the building to be demolished, calling it a “hideous chimera of Socialist Brutalism and Paxist Ornamentalism”.

As Erkhad Usmil walked up its many stairs to deliver the urgent interdict against the decision of the Council of State on behalf of Prince Abuyin, he thought that such criticisms were overblown and that the building was pretty and functional enough. As the battle for Packilvanian public spaces and urban designs ensued in the architectural firms and design schools of the nation, so too was the battle for the succession to the Throne of Packilvania ensuing in the courtrooms of the nation.

Distinguished in his field over a decade of serving as an Advocate of the Supreme Court, Erkhad had been astonished by the call from Prince Abuyin to challenge the Council of State’s decision on making him the heir presumptive instead of the heir apparent and thereby precluding him from ascending to the position of the Crown Prince and implicitly suggesting that his position as the first in line in the succession to the Throne was precarious. As the chairman of the Council of State and as the instigator of the unexpected change to the line of succession in favour of his potential progeny, Sultan Thumim V would be the primary respondent.

Erkhad settled in his chair before the bench of the mighty Supreme Court Justices of Packilvania, across the aisle from his adversary representing the Imperial Court and by extension the Sultan. Duke Gurion, the Justice presiding over the proceedings walked slowly up the stairs leading to the raised platform on which the judges’ bench sat. Visibly annoyed by Chief Justice Radeeq placing him on the roll for receipt of urgent applications, he seemed to ignore the smartly dressed lawyers and court officials standing, waiting for him to tell them to sit down.

After a minute or two of him looking down and mumbling silent obscenities, he looked up almost surprised but certainly irritated by the presence of all the people.

“Yes, sit”, he said with a wave of his hand as he continued reading the document.

“Mr Usmil”, he said as he looked at Erkhad, “Another kill on the illustrious roster, hey? Sultan’s a big fish, you know”.

“I’m just here to represent my client, my Lord”, Erkhad said, smiling awkwardly.

“So you say”, Duke Gurion said as he looked over the brim of his spectacles.

“Now”, Duke Gurion said, “I am taken to believe that His Imperial Highness, Prince Abuyin, believes that the Council of State’s decision to adjust the line of succession as announced on the 30th of December is invalid and needs a court order to be stopped”.

“Yes, my Lord”, Erkhad replied, “In line with the Civil Procedure Act and precedents set by this court in the Crown vs Rajeed, J., Prince Abuyin requests this interdict on the basis that, weluWajah[1], he will suffer irreparable harm, I.e., preclusion from the office of the Crown Prince, if the line of succession as per Decision 7812 of the Council of State is allowed to stand. Given that the amendment to the line of succession was proposed by Sultan Thumim V, the Chairperson of the Council of State, and that the basis for the decision was predicated on dubious claims regarding the fertility of the Sultan, Prince Abuyin does not believe that he has any recourse to appeal Decision 7812 to the Council of State and thus had no option but to request an interdict of that decision. Furthermore, the Prince believes that the Council failed to exercise due diligence in examining the report presented with respect to the Sultan’s capacity to sire heirs, and thus its decision represents a failure to exercise its duties”.

“My, my, what a feast of legal precedents and theoretical analysis this will be! Oh, joy!” Duke Gurion declared sarcastically.

  1. OOC: weluWajah means “on the face of it”, similar to the phrase prima facie and means “based on the dominant impression created by the action x, y, and z will follow”.
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The Sultan’s lawyers bite back.
7 January 2023.
Supreme Court of Packilvania, Palace of Justice, Bingol, Packilvania.

The justice motioned to the lawyer for the Sultan, Advocate of the Supreme Court, Yamilanoi Thehadek. Being among the handful of women whose professional career ascended to the highest echelons of the legal profession, it seemed apt that the Sultan’s team at the Imperial Court called on her to thwart the attack (as the Sultan saw it) from his brother.

She stood up when the judge motioned to her to present her opening arguments against the motion from Prince Abuyin’s lawyer, Erkhad Usmil, and responded, “Thank you, my Lord. The Crown would like to argue that the Supreme Court does not have jurisdiction to hear the matter presented by the complainant at all let alone to grant the interdict sought. Firstly, according to Chapter 3 of the Constitution, the Council of State shall have the power to resolve all disputes regarding the line of succession, thus it would be an overreach of the Supreme Court’s powers to grant an interdict of the line of succession. Secondly, the Council of State does have internal remedies to the claims by the complainant regarding appealing Decision 7812. Contenders of the claims against the line of succession can file an application of their claims. The complainant is in a privileged position because as a member of the Council, they can expedite the discussion of and voting on these claims through requesting a meeting and motioning for the adoption of an amended line of succession. Thirdly, the irreparable harm that the complainant claims that they will suffer through preclusion from the position of the Crown Prince is false given that the Sultan has the discretion to appoint a Crown Prince”.

She paused to let the judge absorb what she had said. Before, she could continue, Duke Gurion said, “Now, now, Ms Thehadek. As you know, the respondent is making their opening statement on the basis of jurisdiction, it is not permissible to present arguments on the merits of the complainant’s claims until the basis for jurisdiction is resolved”.

“Yes, my Lord”, she said, “As such, the Crown would like the case dismissed with costs. That will be all for the Crown’s opening statement”.

Erkhad could have been celebrating, but the victory over Yamilanoi was shallow at best. She could still challenge the merits if the court asserted its jurisdiction. Additionally, he had portended that the Crown would start by challenging jurisdiction, but given that the Crown had not presented its statement in open court or in the filed papers at the time, he was unable to preemptively argue on the basis of jurisdiction given that he was approaching the court on the merits as the complainant tends to do.

In theory, he was supposed to explain why the court was the appropriate avenue for the resolution of such a dispute but he took the circuitous route of explaining why further recourse was not possible. But, he had miscalculated his strategy. Luckily for him, the Judge called for a recess so that they could each form their counter arguments, buying him time to formulate his response to the question of jurisdiction. Questions of jurisdiction were exceptionally annoying if they were not set by existing precedent, because they cleaved the case in two, forcing the complainant to defend the court’s jurisdiction first before moving to the reason they had come there in the first place.

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The Prince must account.
Bingol Royal Palace, Bingol, Packilvania.
8 January 2023.

“Unbelievable, simply unbelievable”, Thumim said as sat on his Throne looking down at Prince Abuyin from his dais. A look of both disappointment and disgust formed on his face.

“You are my brother, my Special Advisor”, Thumim stated, “And yet here you are, taking me to court. How exactly is it supposed to look to the public and the world that a Minister in my government and a member of my family is taking me to court and intimating that I am lying about the possibility of having my own children one day. Instead of being happy that there might be hope for me, you call me a liar!”

Prince Abuyin looked at his brother, eyes almost blank like he was not even there. He said to him,“Don’t forget that you are my brother too and that your decisions directly affect me! I have always wished that the abuse you endured at father’s hand could be reversed but the evidence proved the contrary. Yet, a few days after your ascension, you are suddenly potentially perhaps maybe who-can-say-for-certain able to sire heirs? How stupid do you believe we are? The rest of the governors and I saw behind your ruse. Do you despise me so much that you would conjure this entire report just to deny me my rightful position as the Crown Prince?”

“Are you mad?” Thumim asked him, veins protruding at the sides of his temples and neck in visible anger, “You still have all the power and influence of the Crown Prince! I had hoped that we could have a productive working relationship and I had trusted you to be professional and clear sighted. Instead, you have gone on to publicly embarrass the entire monarchy and Imperial family with this absurd case! I order you to dismiss this case, immediately!”

“You really are a piece of work, aren’t you brother?” Prince Abuyin said.

“And it seems you think you’re not?” Thumim said as he clapped his hands in shock, “I have always tried to see the best in you. Even now, I am hoping you will come to your senses, but it seems that window of opportunity is fast closing. Well, sir, let me apprise you of some things. Are you aware that Creature of yours is alleged to have conspired with that devil Kujil to assassinate me?”

Prince Abuyin seemed to have been knocked by a mighty fist. Recovering from the shock of the revelation, he said,“I was not aware of this”.

“Then, now that you see just how dire your situation is and how greatly I have protected you from its most adverse effects, you will see that I owe you nothing and have gone over and above the call of filial piety and political expedience to shield you?” Thumim asked,“And yet the more you speak to me, the more you reveal the deep seated poison you harbour underneath your tongue to strike me with. And the more I am starting to be convinced that you are not innocent”.

“Don’t you dare accuse me of trying to kill you”, Prince Abuyin said, “I was in the same parade that you were and equally likely to be harmed by the falling debris of the bridge of the shrapnel from the explosion of the device. This has nothing to do with that! I am challenging you for what I know to be rightfully mine”.

“You vain, pathetic man. Do you know who I am? I am the Sultan, the Emperor of the largest nation in the world. It would behoove you to obey me”, Thumim declared.

“I am sorry, Your Imperial Majesty”, Prince Abuyin said, “I cannot do that”.

“Then I have no choice”, Thumim said. He seemed to almost hesitate as though waiting for Abuyin to change his attitude. As such a change was not forthcoming and the seconds seemed to stretch into hours between responses, Thumim said, “You are dismissed as the Special Advisor to the Sultan and as a member of the Council of State”.

“As you wish, my Liege”, Prince Abuyin said, giving a deep and solemn bow.

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Avoiding a war.
Bingol, Packilvania.
10 January 2023.

“How gracious of you”, Princess Yadika said as she sat in Thumim’s parlour in the Imperial Apartments at the Bingol Royal Palace, “I read the papers. Apparently he resigned”.

“As far as the public and the law is concerned, that is what happened”, Thumim said as he drank a cup of tea. The warm liquid flavoured with spices and honey seemed to coat the anxiety in his throat for a moment.

“I’d imagine that the Governors will not be impressed”, Princess Yadika said.

It had basically become an open secret in Packilvanian political circles that Prince Abuyin was backed by the Governors. Some analysts had hoped that he would marshal them to Thumim’s side, but when they all voted with him and not Thumim, it was apparent where the lines were drawn.

“I’d imagine that too”, Thumim said, “Although I think they stopped being impressed when I didn’t make Abuyin the Crown Prince. It’s really rather petulent of them given that Abuyin had all the power of a Crown Prince and then some”.

“To me”, Princess Yadika said, as she played with her dress, “It seems that the Governors are going to be a political liability and we need to expedite their removal”.

“I agree”, Thumim said, “But it seems that they have allies in the Council”.

“I know”, Princess Yadika replied. “The Minister of Home Affairs has been exceptionally slow in getting the Fixed Terms and Retirements Act to Parliament. I’ve heard that every report from his staff he has turned back. As the minister responsible for provinces and local government, he needs to give the go-ahead for that report”.

Thumim heaved a tired sigh and replied, “And without that report, his department can’t begin drafting that law”.

“Perhaps”, Princess Yadika said, putting her fingers together as though presenting an uncomfortable proposition, “Perhaps, instead of going on this circuitous route of using an act to kick them out of office, you should just do what father would have done and simply fire them”.

“I cannot do that”, Thumim said, “Father had a clean slate when grandfather Amhoud passed away. Unlike him, I must face men who have had decades to entrench political networks and accumulated vested interest in remaining in their office. The lines of battle would be drawn and I would not be surprised if they conspired to unseat me and replace me with my brother”.

“Brother”, Yadika said, trying to sound comforting, but internally rolling her eyes, “You’re being paranoid”.

“Sister”, Thumim replied, “People as low as Prince Kujil have been willing to try to assassinate me. What would stop the most powerful men in the country from putting a Sultan in power whom they could control”.

In her mid-range and some-what husky voice, Princess Yadika replied, “Maybe they wouldn’t if they had reason to believe that Abuyin was not the man they thought he was”.

“Whatever you are alluding to, stop it”, Thumim said, “We might have suspicions and there might be spurious evidence, but without definitive proof, I will not use my brother’s mistake for political leverage”.

“He is certainly ready to fight you in court”, Princess Yadika said, “And now that thing he once called his lover is mired in the conspiracy to kill you? The coincidence is shocking! Brother, is it perhaps that you don’t want to know the truth”.

“I don’t want to know any other truth than the fact that my brother made a mistake”, Thumim said sounding even more exhausted than when the conversation began.

“I see”, Princess Yadika said, standing up.

“Off so soon?” Thumim asked, his voice dampened with disappointment.

“Yes, brother, I must be off. much to do”, she replied.

“Of course”, Thumim said as he gave her a kiss on the cheek. She gave him a curtsy and walked out ensuring only to turn her back to him when she reached the door, as was custom.

As she walked out of the palace and into her car, she rang the Prime Minister on her PrimPhone, “Luwadeen”, she said, “He won’t do it. We’ll have to do it for him”.

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Heads will roll.
Imperial Executive Building, Bingol, Packilvania.
10 January 2023.

Bingol was a diverse expression of historic influences and economic strata. Unlike most cities where an “Old Town” existed, many ancient neighbourhoods tracing their origins over a thousand years ago were scattered here and there. Unlike most nations where the old is razed and new places erected, the city has favoured outward expansion, leaving the old areas in tact to varying degrees. Thus, the shining lights and modern buildings of the hip and affluent Upsarion District sit not far from the grand plazas and palatial buildings of the Imperial District where the Parliament and Bingol Royal Palace are located. The newly built densely populated and poorly run low income neighbourhood Alkhameez is a stone’s throw away from the century-old sprawling mansions and golf courses of Masuwar.

In this diversity of interests and locations, the citizens of the city existed. At the heart of them was the Office of the Prime Minister which moved the leavers of the government. Now more than ever, Prince Luwadeen had to exercises the power of that office to shield the Sultan he had grown to deeply admire, respect and influence. A small inner Cabinet comprising himself, Prince Lohadek (the state security minister) and Princess Yadika had formed the primary advisory body to the Sultan. They were the most dedicated and efficacious at ensuring Thumim’s will manifested.

Prince Luwadeen had invited the Minister of Home Affairs, Prince Imayad, to the Imperial Executive Office Building to explain and account for his lackadaisical progress on the Fixed Terms and Retirement of Public Officials Act. This law had not even been drafted, but according to the decree from Thumim, it was meant to compel senior public officials such as Governors to resign once they reached a certain age or once their time in office spanned over a certain period. Although pitched as ensuring dynamism and vibrance in the state, this was Thumim’s way of ensuring that he could unseat the Governors calmly and disentangle their political networks.

However, it was the Minister of Home Affairs, as the minister responsible for provinces and local government, who was supposed to draft and present the legislation to the Parliament for approval. However, he was dragging his feet on getting the report that was required to initiate the drafting process approved.

“With only a month before this year’s Parliamentary session starts, we are no closers to getting the law off the ground”, Prince Luwadeen declared. He was calm but visibly annoyed. He was an effective politicsl actor because he was calm and likable but shrewd and strategic.

“Well sir”, Prince Imayad replied, “I have been trying to ensure that the report which will underpin the first draft meets quality control standards”.

“That’s not good enough”, Prince Luwadeen said, “We don’t even have a draft yet never mine the fact we must still publish the law for public comment. The Council is no closer to putting this law before Parliament than when His Imperial Majesty first proposed it”.

With both Prince Lohadek and Prince Luwadeen standing before him, especially the latter being quiet but menacing, Prince Imayad in a mildly quivering voice said, “I will immediately fire the people in my department who are not doing a good job and put in place new people who will get the report moving”.

“Prince Imayad”, Prince Luwadeen stated, slowly and manageably losing his cool, “It will take weeks to fill those posts and get the people up to speed. No, sir, I think you must take personal responsibility for your failure and be the one to exit”.

“Excuse me, sir?” Prince Imayad asked, surprised.

“You heard me”, Prince Luwadeen continued, “You have failed to exercise your duties to the Sultan and the government and are thus no longer fit for the job. To have a graceful departure from politics, I would recommend that you resign”.

“If you feel strongly about my lack of performance then I will leave”, Prince Imayad said gathering this courage, “But I will serve a two month’s notice”.

“You insolent man!” Prince Luwadeen said, noticeably becoming annoyed, “You will resign with immediate effect!”

“I am sorry, Prince Luwadeen, but you cannot dismiss me, only the Sultan can do that. Neither can you dictate my notice”.

“Perhaps not”, Prince Luwadeen said as he put his hands on the armrests of Prince Imayad’s chair and put his face barely 5 centimetres from Imayad’s.

Imayad felt terribly awkward and Luwadeen breathed slowly and heavily over him like a tiger. Luwadeen said, “Prince Lohadek, please explain to Prince Imayad how much more preferable a quiet resignation will be”.

Prince Lohadek lifted a folder from his desk and approached the two men. He stood beside Luwadeen and waved the document. He said, “This is a list of all your transactions leading to purchases of undisclosed items and repayments of unknown loans to an offshore account based in Blueacia. This account belongs to a company of which your secretary is the sole shareholder and director. How do you think your wife will react when she finds out? Or the public? Or even the Magisterium? I’ve heard that the punishment for adultery is not pleasant.”

“Have you been spying on me?” Prince Imayad asked fearfully.

“This is Packilvania!” Prince Lohadek declared as though stating an obvious fact, “We spy on everyone!”

Prince Luwadeen continued, “Thank you, Prince Lohadek. What will it be, Your Imperial Highness”.

Almost without thinking, Prince Imayad stated, “I will resign with immediate effect. Please don’t tell my wife”.

“Good man”, Prince Luwadeen said.

Prince Lohadek replied satisfied and almost boasting, “Please send our regards to Princess Rakhel and the kids”.

“I will, sir”, replied Prince Imayad walking out of the room at a brisk pace.

“I will deliver the message of Imayad’s resignation to Thumim and advise him to appoint Yadika as the interim Home Minister”.

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Settling jurisdiction.
Supreme Court of Packilvania, Palace of Justice, Bingol, Packilvania.
12 January 2023.

Assembled in the mighty halls of the great Supreme Court were the lawyers and clerks of Prince Abuyin and Sultan Thumim V, back again for another round of legal jousts.

Meaning to lay down the gravity of this case and its implications on the powers of the Supreme Court, the Chief Justice decided that the jurisdictional question required the attendance of the entire bench.

Unlike the initial proceedings, this day was well attended. Prince Abuyin got the very public battle that he sought.

Yamilanoi opened with her arguments against the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court, “The Constitution clearly states that the Supreme Court has the final power to review legislation for its constitutionality and is the final court to which appeals can be presented. Furthermore, it states quite clearly that its appellate powers meaning that its interpretation of the law is binding on all matters. Barring a few cases, the Supreme Court is not a court of first instance. Firstly, this case presented by the complainant was not presented to a High Court before being brought before this august body. Secondly, even if the case had arisen from the High Courts, the Constitution grants the Council of State the final say over laws of succession. On those grounds, the respondent believes that this court does not have the power to hear this case and requests that the court dismiss this matter with costs”.

Erkhad, stood up on behalf of his client, recognising that he was on one of the greatest legal battlefields and that no matter his victory or failure, his advocacy and the legal precedents set would be studied by Packilvanian law students for decades. He began, “My Lord, the Council of State does not have the final say over the line of succession. The Constitution has the final say and it bequeathes certain duties to the Council of State, which includes the power to pass laws regarding the line of succession in line with the Constitution. No other courts have the power to interpret and apply matters concerning the Constitution except for the Supreme Court, given that the scope of the Constitution encompasses not merely a single province, but the entire nation. As such, no High Court is qualified to make pronouncements on the meaning of the Constitution with respect to matters concerning the entire nation. Specifically, the Constitution states in Chapter 6, that the high courts only have the power to set precedents that are binding within their provinces. Thus, it is the Supreme Court that must hear the matter and no other court”.

  • Is Erkhad, Prince Abuyin’s lawyer correct?
  • Is Yamilanoi, Sultan Thumim V’s lawyer correct?

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A verdict reached.
15 January 2022.
Supreme Court of Justice, Palace of Justice, Bingol, Packilvania.

Yamilanoi and Erkhad stood before the bench of the Supreme Court which consisted of 5 Justices including Chief Justice Radeeq and Duke Gurion.

Duke Gurion as the judge allocated the case read the verdict, which was agreed by all the judges unanimously, “In ruling on this matter, the Supreme Court considered the Constitution specifically chapter 3 which contains provisions governing the powers and roles of the Council of State with regard to the line of succession in our nation. Then, we considered Chapter 6 of the Constitution which sets out the duties and powers of the Supreme Court and the rest of the judiciary. Additionally, we considered the Judiciary Act of 1985 as amended, which outlines the powers and functions of all other courts under the Supreme Court”.

Erkhad found the long Preamble that preceded the decision of the Supreme Court or most appellate courts incredibly annoying. He sat in irritation and anticipation as Duke Gurion drank some water and continued to read, “The Judiciary Act creates courts that act as both appellate and trial courts. Of note, is the High Court, of which each province and autonomous or imperial City has one with divisions. This court is empowered as a court of first instance and the first court to which appeals must be sent and subsequently originate before being escalated to the Supreme Court”.

“The Judiciary Act does not explicitly assign matters concerning the Council of State to any court. But read together with the provisions on appellate courts more generally, it is apparent that cases should originate from High Courts. Thus, the Supreme Court rules that the High Court has jurisdiction to hear a dispute arising from a ruling by the Council of State”.

“Taking together the Judiciary Act, and the Constitution, it is apparent that even when hearing cases regarding the Council of State, the extent of the judiciary’s power is limited. The Supreme Court has the power to strike down succession laws that violate the Constitution as passed by the Council of State. This would be the extent of the powers of the Supreme Court. However, such a ruling, if at all given, must arise from a case brought on appeal from a High Court. The High Court has the power to adjudicate civil disputes that exceed the powers of the Magistrate Courts in their province. As no, Magistrate Court has been granted the power to hear a request for an interdict of an administrative law dispute of this scale and nature, it is thus sensible that the High Court should hear the matter. In light of the fact that this application for an interdict did not speak to constitutional law but instead spoke to the damages likely to be incurred by the complainant from an administrative dispute, this case falls squarely in the realm of the administrative law jurisdiction of the High Court and it is thus appropriate for the High Court to hear this matter”.

“In light of this, the Supreme Court instructs the High Court of Bingol to receive the request for urgent interdiction on its behalf in line with the instruction on the remit of its power as discussed previously”.

No one really knew, how to act. Yamilanoi was happy that the Supreme Court clearly defined the jurisdiction of the judiciary, but they did not rule out a court hearing the case and they instead delegated the decision to the High Court which in practice could be appealed to the Supreme Court again. Erkhad was glad that judicial power was not ruled out altogether, but was annoyed by the the fact that they did not rule on this case themselves. Although appealing any decision to the Supreme Court was possible it was unlikely to be added to the roll of the court, given that the court had already heard the matter and it was unlikely that the High Court would make any meaningful blunders that either side could exploit.

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Expelling traitors.
Imperial Executive Office Building, Bingol, Packilvania.
16 January 2023.

“Apparently, women are indecisive”, Princess Yadika said to the ministers assembled in the Council of Ministers’ room.

“Apparently this government is divided”, she continued, “That is no longer acceptable. We must be united in purpose and conviction. We must stand behind my brother, the Sultan, and defend his reign from any attack and no minister who disagrees with that sentiment should remain in office”.

“Thank you, Princess Yadika”, Prince Luwadeen said. He watched the faces of the ministers who bore faces of agreement and of concern.

“As you know, Prince Imayad resigned from the Council because it was apparent that his attempts to sabotage the Sultan were fruitless and dangerous. Thus, I would encourage any minister who shares Prince Imayad’s sensibilities to tender their resignations as well”.

“I must add to what Prince Luwadeen and Princess Yadika have said”, Prince Lohadek stated. He had his hands and arms stretched out on the table like a calm and deadly tiger waiting to pounce, “There will be severe consequences for ministers who are under the illusion that they can assist the Governors prevail in their mission against the Crown. My department stands with and will defend and uphold the rule of the Sultan. Who else will stand with us?”

The Ministers were silent as they tried to process what had just been said.

“Please forgive my ignorance as it seems I might have misread the agenda for today’s meeting”, Prince Duwal, the Minister of Justice said.

“What exactly are we here to do? I assumed this was an ordinary meeting of the Council, but we seem eerily reminiscent of the Communist era Politburo meetings”.

Prince Lohadek responded icily, “You would know a thing or two about those meetings, ey? Former secretary of the Commissar for Finance”.

“Excuse me, Prince Lohadek”, he replied, in annoyance, “I was a junior official in the Communist government while you were still learning your multiplication tables! Don’t you dare use my past against me!”

“You are right, Prince Duwal”, Prince Lohadek said, “You were just one small time official among many. Yet you owe your rise, your position and your status to Sultan Amhoud I, and he lives on in his heirs! It would behoove anyone who has delusions about their place to remember that we are here because of and at service of the successors of Sultan Amhoud I of whom Thumim V is the incumbent”.

Prince Duwal stood up. “It has become apparent that the three of you fancy yourselves the trinitarian executive leadership of the Council! In the decades I have served in the government, I have never seen this! I think it is no longer feasible for me to remain a member of this Council! Look at us! We have women and young boys tweeting like birds thinking they can tell us what to do! Maybe the governors are right. Well, sir, read my lips! I resign from this damned Council”.

“Good riddance”, Prince Lohadek proclaimed as Prince Duwal walked out of the door.

“Anyone else?”, asked Princess Yadika as she sat with one leg over the other, the elbow of her right arm on her knee and her right hand touching her chin, while her left arm sat on the top of the back of an empty chair. Confident and unafraid was the energy she exuded as she looked every Minister in the eye.

An uncomfortable 5 minutes followed as the members looked down, twiddled their thumbs, played with their stationery or glanced at an empty spot on the floor.

“Well?” Prince Luwadeen asked again.

Prince Udahid stood up and proclaimed with his fist in the air like an anti-Communist struggle stalwart inspiring the Carriers to take up arms against the regime, “I stand with Sultan Thumim! Thumim! Thumim!”

Prince Lohadek stood up and enthusiastically joined Prince Udahid in the cult-like chant. The rest of the members stood up, one by one, timidly at first, but boisterously and excitedly in the end, clapping and shouting the name of their dictator.

Cheers for the Sultan could be heard echoing down the corridors.

Prince Luwadeen lifted his hands and called them all to order, “Now! Our objective is this: to thwart the enemies of the Sultan. Chief among whom are the Governors who signed that accursed letter published to the press”.

“Firstly, that damned Editor of the Crescent who authorised the publishing of that letter must be dismissed”, Prince Luwadeen said, “What’s his name again?”

“Fukram Wasail. Well, sir”, Prince Binhamin, the Minister of Finance replied, “I heard that he has already tendered his resignation to the board of the Crescent. Most likely in anticipation of his inescapable dismissal”.

“I see”, Prince Luwadeen stated, “In that case, Princess Yadika, as the acting Minister of Home Affairs, you are to dismiss the entire board of the Crescent and replace it with people who have genuine love for their rightful Sultan and who will appoint a competent and trustworthy Editor”.

“Excellent decision, sir”, Princess Yadika said, “I will get right on it. In addition to that, I have already fast tracked the drafting of the Fixed Terms and Retirements Act, so we should get the first draft by the end of the week”.

“Good, that’s what I like to hear”, Prince Luwadeen said, “Thank you for taking initiative, Princess Yadika. My friends and colleagues, my cousins and beloved relatives, we cannot allow disorderly elements to root themselves in our political order. We simply cannot allow it!”

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Our enemies, our relatives.

20 January 2023.

Bingol Royal Palace, Bingol, Packilvania.

The Bingol authorities were cutting power to different parts of the city for fixed intervals on a rotating basis, to cushion the impact of the diminished electrical supply. They also tried to shield their citizens from its worst effects by cutting power to industrial areas more frequently and for longer periods.

To maintain some semblance of normalcy, there were public amenities such as traffic lights which were kept on. Additionally, emergency and essential services such as hospitals had power on. Students in schools were given an early vacation to reduce the demand for electricity.

This all came on the back of the Coronation and Wedding of the Sultan and Duchess Saga. This event was in its advanced stages of planning by the time that the power cuts were introduced. This event was going to be a significant strain on the existing power supply and the diversion of power to the buildings and areas that supported it.

The Council of Ministers had an emergency meeting to discuss the implications of the event and decide the approach that the executive branch was going to take. The hope was that by the end of the meeting, the government would be united behind a single proposal that the Prime Minister would present to the Sultana Mother, the Duchess and the Sultan on their behalf.

“While our citizens are without power, we continue to act wantonly and consume resources meant for the benefit of all”, exclaimed Prince Malakhai, the Minister of Housing.

“We must not forget that this event only happens ever few decades”, stated Prince Alawadun, the Foreign Minister.

“I agree”, replied Prince Kiran, the Defence Minister, in support, “The fact of the matter is that this event is not only for Bingol but for all the citizens of Packilvania to celebrate and take pride in the accession of their new sovereign and his marriage to our new Sultana”.

“The problem is that the citizens of Bingol will feel the severity of hosting this event most severely, because unlike the rest of the country, they are having a power crisis”, retorted Prince Binhameen, the Finance Minister.

“The assumptions present in your arguments is that we must sacrifice energy for the people for this event”, Prince Udahid stated, “We also have the option to restore the power before the event starts”.

Prince Luwadeen asked him, “So, Energy Minister, how far is your department on making progress on this matter?”

“We have sent our inspectors to the power station and they have sent me a preliminary report. The damage to the facility is superficial at best and the maintenance hardly warrants a complete shutdown, even if the facility was abiding with the strictest regulation from my department”.

“Are you suggesting that we cannot rule out the fact that the Mekedesh Electricity Corporation is deliberately overstating and overreacting to the station’s issues to deliberately cut power to the city”, asked Prince Ravad.

“Surely, you cannot be so naïve, Education Minister”, Prince Lohadek said, “Since the accession of Sultan Thumim V, the governors have criticised and stood against him and this government. The fact that Mekedesh would cut road access and power supply just before the Coronation is indicative that they have declared war against the Crown!”

“Now let’s not be hasty”, Prince Sawadel warned, “Making accusations of treason is a dangerous thing. Treason is a very specific crime with very specific actions”.

“Enforcing an embargo on the capital city to foment unrest and coerce the state into passing adverse legislation does not constitute treason?” Prince Lohadek said, “As far as my department is concerned, Prince Elam and the rest of the government of Mekedesh want to force us to either pause, abandon or amend the Fixed Term Act to their advantage and to force the Sultan to make Prince Abuyin the Crown Prince if not get the Sultan to stand down from office altogether. This debacle started with that sordid letter published by those governors”.

Prince Jahalal, the ever affable Sports Minister replied, “Perhaps we should negotiate and see if there is opportunity for compromise”.

“Are you mad?” asked Princess Yadika in disgust, “We are not going to negotiate with people who are trying to terrorise the state”.

“Ma’am”, replied Prince Ravad, “The actions of the Meked government hardly amount to terrorism”.

“Perhaps instead of protecting them and finding reasons to defend them, we should charging them with crimes and opening an investigation against them”, Duchess Mawara, the Minister of Public Safety proclaimed, “I concur with Prince Lohadek and Princesss Yadika. We cannot allow him to bully the government. It’s even more insulting that Prince Elam refused to meet with the Sultan and will appeal the decision of the High Court to the Supreme Court”.

Princess Zulayka, the Public Enterprises minister stated, “Additionally, the CEO and Chairman of the Mekedesh Electrical Company have declined my calls, showing that they are taking their marching orders from Meked”.

“We are facing rebellion from one governor today, but war will follow us tomorrow”, Prince Lohadek stated, “We must act”.

“Right indeed”, Prince Luwadeen declared, “Firstly, I will advise the Sultan to remove Prince Elam as the Governor of Mekedesh. Duchess Mawara, your department will charge Prince Elam with treason and open a case against him in the Mekedesh High Court. Additionally, you will dismiss the Mekedesh Commissioner of Police and order the police to arrest Prince Elam. Princess Zulayka, you will fire the CEO, Chairman and the entire board of the Mekedesh Electricity Corporation and appoint a single interim leader, and you will draft plans for the permanent transfer of control of that company from the Mekedesh to the Imperial government. Prince Udahid, you will take over Furmeed Station and restore the power. Prince Isakhar, you will take over management of interprovincial roads between Bingol and Mekedesh from now on. Prince Lohadek, you will find, root out and eliminate those who stand with and support Governor Elam and assist the Bingol and Mekedesh authorities to identify and put down anyone who participates in or incites protests against the Crown or this government. Are well all in agreement”.

“Perhaps sir”, replied Prince Duwal.

Before he could finish his sentence, Prince Luwadeen interjected, “Are we all in agreement?”

“Aye!” declared the Ministers one after the other.

“This flagrant challenge to the authority of the government and the legitimacy of the Sultan will not be tolerated”, Prince Luwadeen declared, “The rest of the Governors will learn what the consequences of taking on the national government will be. I will advise the Sultana Mother to continue preparations for the Coronation and Wedding without delay. We have until Monday night to get all our parts right. Any failure will not be accepted”.

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A rude revelation.

Bingol Royal Palace, Bingol, Packilvania.

“It’s funny how you think you’re different from me, even better than me”, Namdun said as he sipped on his tea in Thumim’s study.

He sat across from his son in a suede upholstered chair embroidered with images of plants and birds. He put the tea down on the dark and ornately carved coffee table which matched the colour and material of the frame of the chairs on which they sat.

Thumim seemed weathered by a mighty battle, as though both relieved and surprised that he had escaped from it.

“I am not like you”, he replied.

“Oh, sure? Your methods are more modern than mine. Instead of firing the governors outright and anyone who supports them, you use legislation and court cases and you ‘encourage’ people to resign with threats and ‘alternative career choices’”, Namdun said, sarcastically marking the words “encourage” and “alternative career choices” with air quotes.

“In reality, my son, you are as much of an autocratic dictator as I am. I was impressed that you passed that confounding act in a day! What’s it called again?”

“The Provincial Governance Reform Act”, Thumim replied as he simply looked at his tea, lacking the strength or energy to lift it to his lips and instead swirling it with a teaspoon.

“Even the name of the thing evokes ideas of modernity and progress”, Namdun replied with an amused chuckle, “Foreigners might even get the impression that you are a constitutional monarch presiding over an emerging democracy. But, when it matters, when you have your back against a corner and spears pointed at you, you bite and destroy your enemies, even if that includes your brother”.

“I have protected my brother even when faced with his insubordination and his attempted coup of my government”, Thumim said, half-defiant.

“Ah”, Namdun replied, seemingly envigorated by the drama of the past week, “But that’s where your weakness lies. You try to couch your oppressive and brutal tendencies within legislation and morality. Instead of sending the state security officials to torture Kujil and get the information you needed, you got the Imperial Procurator to get a court order to allow it as though that makes a difference. In the end, you’re just impeding your own momentum with your desire to appear just and fair. We are Sultans of Packilvania. We’re not the loving peaceful leaders of democratic nations. We rule by fear and control. We keep this nation united by our capacity and willingness to use incredible force. Yes, the people adore us because of the economic prosperity our liberalisation of the economy brought and the international stature we have accrued because of our mighty armies and shrewd foreign policies. Perhaps, we galvanise their sense of self and romantic nostalgia for our religion and tradition. But in the end, it is our sheer ruthlessness that wins the day. Where is your so-called ‘enlightened reign’, my son?”

“I don’t know”.

“Hah! There you have it. Enlightened reign my posterior. Well, although you have a cheerful day ahead with the coronation and wedding, I do not think your brother, nor my brothers, will take it lying down”.

“I can imagine they won’t”, Thumim replied.

“Well then”, Namdun said with his right hand in the air like a great public orator in the ancient streets of classical Bingol, “That Saga of yours better be a fighter. There will be no rest or peace for her in this country”.

Thumim closed his eyes and held his cup tightly, as though a knife had pierced his stomach. His tense expression seemed to almost say, “I know”.

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