Of Green and Gold

Preface

This is a rewrite of the original version of this RP, which had the same name. The broad premise is intended to remain the same, even if this one is massively expanded in scope.

Prologue: The Diverging Paths

Chamber of the Novaran Council
Legatorre
Lucroza, Celanora
July 5, 2021
10:00 AM (UTC-8)

Æthelwine Heardsunu was not the kind of man to make decisions lightly. He had spent much of his career working in foreign affairs, where impulsiveness was not a trait that would do anyone any favors. All risks had to be well-calculated.

It was strange, then, that he found himself in the position he was now, about to make the speech that he was about to give. At the same time, however, what was about to happen was a long time in the making.

Perhaps it was inevitable.

Æthelwine was seated at the desk within the Novaran Council’s chamber that he had occupied for the past year: that of the Secretary-General of the League of Novaris, the presiding officer of the Council. Facing him, in seats arranged in arches, were the assembled ambassadors and representatives from each member of the Novaran Council, from the League’s members to even its mere observers.

They, and by proxy, the countries of Novaris, were waiting for Æthelwine to play his part on the world stage. And he knew that what was going to happen in the next five minutes was going to make ripples across the continent.

He picked up his gavel and struck it three times upon his desk.

“The Novaran Council is now in session for its fifth year. As is customary at this point, I wish to make some opening remarks.”

Here it goes, then.

“We are, for yet another year, collected here in Lucroza, as a testament to Novaris’s ability to unite as one and act in our collective interest. In our mission to seek multilateral cooperation within this often too turbulent continent, in its previous session, this Council has had to deal with perhaps the greatest Novaran geopolitical crisis in more than a decade.”

The rise and fall of Correva had caused quite the stressful summer for Æthelwine, and he knew that he was not alone in this way.

“While it has proven that this League is more than resilient enough to navigate the stormy waters of Novaran geopolitics, we must still take caution. There are yet more storms to come, and we must be prepared to deal with them.”

And so comes the part that Æthelwine knew would make headlines.

“The Council has chosen to trust me with a second term as Secretary-General, for which I am well and truly honored. As the person entrusted with the helm of this great ship, I must be truthful and direct with what we are faced with. The Correvan crisis has caused tensions to spring up across Novaris, the likes of which has not been seen since the Novaran Cold War. We must do well to prevent another similar conflict from happening. I must also thus call out the two powers whose actions threaten to once again tear the continent apart.

“The Volscine Empire has given itself a mission to reclaim all of the lands it has lost since the collapse of the Volscine Confederation. Credible intelligence from the Correvan crisis has also established Volscina’s willingness to threaten other countries with the use of force for the simple crime of having ‘rightfully Volscine territory’ that has not been part of Volscina longer than some adults have been alive at this point. The will of the people of formerly Volscine countries has to be acknowledged and respected without interference, lest we dismantle the right to self-determination.

“I find the Kingdom of Tretrid no better in this regard. While I am aggrieved to find myself criticizing my country of origin on the international stage, my duty here is to all of Novaris, not just Tretrid. Tretrid has been perhaps the greatest victor of the collapse of Volscina, and it is the one country that benefits the most from the current status quo. It has proven itself uncompromising and selfish, and stingy with its spoils.”

Some bitterness managed to well up into the Secretary-General’s words as he said that last sentence. It didn’t need to be this way. It wasn’t always this way. Things used to be different, as Æthelwine knew all too well.

“It, too, is a threat to the peace.”

Maybe if things in the past had gone differently, Æthelwine wouldn’t be here denouncing the country that he had so faithfully served for most of his life.

Yet here he was, burning his bridges in order to move forward.

“There are those out there who no doubt believe that I cannot execute my current duties faithfully and dutily due to my history with Tretrid. After all, I have served in some of the highest echelons of its government, and personally worked with its current Prime Minister. These critics are mistaken. It is precisely due to my past with Tretrid that I feel especially compelled to call it out for the destructive path it has chosen to take, and to warn the wider world of the danger it poses to Novaris.

“If this League is to fulfill the task it set for itself in the Sixfold Declaration in 2017, then it must learn how to chart its course forward through these increasingly treacherous waters. The two nations that have done the most to nearly fracture Novaris are, after all, members of this very League, and they should both be aware that their actions threaten dragging all of Novaris down with them. I therefore must call on both sides to work out a renewed diplomatic framework with which a détente can be facilitated.

“There are many other issues that face our continent today, as well. The work on the Novaran Transportation Network, a sign of Novaran unity and proof of the benefits of international cooperation, continues. The world will continue to throw tests at us and we must rise up to meet the occasion. But we must face this existential threat and prevent Novaris from descending into the factionalism that defined it throughout the twentieth century. I believe we can, and we will.

“I yield the floor.”

1 Like

(OOC: This post was done as an open RP event of sorts. Thanks to Oan for contributing questions.)

Press Room
Legatorre
Lucroza, Celanora
July 5, 2021
3:00 PM (UTC-8)

The Legatorre Press Room was a simple, if spacious area set up for the delivery of statements or press conferences to journalists. Many of Novaris’s news sources found representation here, and so did a few sources from outside Novaris.

The Press Room was most often used by the League of Novaris Secretariat in regular press conferences that covered the day-to-day functions of the LN, but after each meeting of the Novaran Council members of the Council would sometimes make statements about what had happened within the Council chamber.

There were evidently quite a few things on the minds of some of the Council’s representatives, as quite a few of them had chosen to make statements.

First up was Secretary-General Heardsunu, who stepped up to the lectern at the center of the stage, flanked on both sides by the distinct gold flag of the LN.

“Good afternoon. The Novaran Council has recently adjourned the inaugural meeting of its fifth session. As usual, a video recording of the proceedings as well as the official transcript, both potentially edited to redact sensitive information, will be made publicly available within a few days, and uncensored versions will be released to the governments of every Member, Associate, and Observer of the League. The full transcript and video recording of my opening remarks to the Council, and to the League, will also be made available at the conclusion of this conference.”

“As the proceedings of the Novaran Council are kept behind closed doors, I have opted to display the footage of my speech here because I believe it is in the public interest.”

Courtesy of some staffer who was monitoring the conference in another room pressing a button on a computer, a screen descended from the screen. After it was fully extended, a projector on the ceiling turned on, first displaying a slide of the seal of the Novaran Council before fading into Æthelwine’s speech.

While Æthelwine had spoken those very words only a few hours ago, it still sounded kind of odd. He supposed he wasn’t used to hearing harsh criticisms of Tretrid in his own voice.

At the conclusion of the video, the projector turned off, and the screen retracted back into the ceiling.

“I will now answer questions from the press regarding the contents of the address or my plans as Secretary-General.”

Unsurprisingly, the press had a lot of questions. This was going to take a while to get through.

Æthelwine pointed at one of the reporters who had raised their hands. “Cynebury Herald.”

Ah, the Cynebury Herald. One of Tretrid’s major news organizations, which somehow manages to own both an acclaimed newspaper and a major syndicated news broadcast, with a viewership throughout much of Novaris. This should be interesting.

“Mr. Heardsunu, you have had a history of working with Prime Minister Æthelstansunu. Is there anything you would say to him if you had the chance to right now?”

“Eoforwine and I have had a long working relationship, as has no doubt been covered quite a bit in the past. We generally see eye-to-eye on quite a few things, and I know him to be very devoted to his office. However, while I believe he sincerely believes that he is acting in Tretrid’s best interests, I would let him know that what he is doing is wrong, and it will harm both Tretrid and Novaris as a whole in the long term. While conflict may be great for cheap political points, true prosperity can only happen through peace. I would implore him to reconsider his options, though I worry that he believes that he is somehow constrained to his current course.”

The Secretary-General pointed to another reporter.

“Mr Æthelwine, this is Imani Lucim from the Auroran Continental Press Organization. The revelations from these recordings are extremely shocking and I can imagine they would at best be disturbing and at worst deeply upsetting for the people and government of the Kingdom of Tretrid, of which you rightly pointed out were a leading voice. In that vein, I have to question: firstly, do you fear reprisals from the government of Tretrid for the critical statements you have made with respect to their foreign policy and geopolitical interests? Secondly, what exactly precipitated this change in perspective given there is not a long history of calling out the Tretridian government on your end?”

“I am still a citizen of Tretrid and care for Tretrid as a whole; my vocal disagreement is with its government and its foreign policy, not with its people. Under Tretridian constitutional law, as a citizen, I have a right to disagree with the government, so there is very little it can do in reprisal within the bounds of the law. As for measures outside the law, well, having worked with the RIS in my capacity as the Foreign Minister of Tretrid in the past, I strongly believe that they would consider any actions taken against me to risk creating much greater fallout than anything I could possibly say.

“As for your second question, this change in perspective was largely caused by the actions taken by the Tretridian government in the Correvan Crisis. While we can speculate on allegations of false-flag operations and election interference, what we know for certain is that Tretrid has played its part to severely inflame its bilateral relations with Volscina in its backing of Correva and consistently chose to take escalatory steps that would have risked the outset of war between the two countries, the likes of which would not have been seen since the Great War. Furthermore, the Tretridian government tried to use the Novaran Council for its own ends over the League’s in trying to get Volscina expelled from the League, which would have severely harmed the League’s goals.”

It was probably for the best that Æthelwine avoided the conspiracy theories. He was already dangerously gambling on his credibility, so he needed to stick with what was demonstrably true.

Next question.

“Sir, this is Fukram Wasail of The Crescent - News from Packilvania. It is remarkable that a politician of your caliber and your long history of working with the nations which you so bitterly criticize would pivot and expose this to the Novaran Council and people of your nation. How are we to believe that you are not orchestrating this for your political ends? Secondly, do you not fear that this divisive rhetoric will expose the diplomatic fissures in your alliance that hostile powers within and without would seize upon?”

Æthelwine figured that the Packilvanian outlet wouldn’t have asked a question like that if they were familiar with the situation in Novaris. Though, again, Novaris was probably very difficult for outsiders to keep track of. There was a reason why the Tretridian diplomatic corps had always nicknamed West Novaris “the Dumpster Fire.”

“Those are some interesting questions. I am curious as to what you would consider my ulterior motive for criticizing Tretrid, as given that I have built up my career through Tretrid, I would have very little to gain and quite a bit to lose for criticizing it in this way. I believe that my statement was a very significant gamble on my credibility, but I also sincerely believe that the statement was one that needed to be made. I am prepared for a significant fallout for my address, but I believe that is a small price to pay to inform the Council and the public of the challenges facing the League in the modern day.

“I believe the characterization of the League of Novaris as an alliance may be a bit… charitable. I say this as one of the League’s proponents, but its member-states are only slightly more closely bound than, say, fellow members of the International Forum. Novaris is so politically fractured both historically and in the modern day that a simple speech is not going to create any more fractures than had already existed or had been brought into creation by the Correvan crisis.”

Another question, from the ACPO reporter this time.

“Mr. Heardsunu, Imani Lucim again, I would like to follow up on Mr. Wasail’s question. I find it interesting that you would not regard the League of Novaris as an alliance given that the organization has undertaken joint military activities such as those in Cavellan. I’d imagine that some level of unity of vision and purpose and coordination of policy is required. Nevertheless, the policy mechanisms of the LN are neither here nor there. What I would like to know is that do you believe that Tretrid’s attempts to undermine Volscina will debilitate cooperating on key security issues especially issues that could be of widespread concern such as the propagation of weapons from active War zones, potential for violent criminal activity. And how would they react if Volscina pivoted to forming Alliances with nations that would be adverse to the interests of the LN, namely the Sultanate of Packilvania.”

The military intervention into Correva was an unprecedented step, but desperate times had called for desperate measures. It was something that was major enough for the Council to approve without any nay-votes. Even both Tretrid and Volscina had both voted for it.

Nonetheless, that was not what was being asked.

“There’s a rather interesting thing that was going on in the background during the Correvan crisis that was originally in the headlines before Correvacci executed his coup. Vakarastan tried to invade Durakia, leading to a coalition of Durakia, Meagharia, Norgsveldet, Volscina, and Tretrid to form to fight Vakarastan. The resulting Irnac War lasted well into the Correvan crisis, and what fascinates me is that, despite the frankly irresponsible amount of brinksmanship played by both Volscina and Tretrid over Correva, the two sides still managed to find a way to cooperate in Irnac. With that in mind, I believe the two countries would still be willing to cooperate on issues in which their strategic interests agree, but given the disposition of both nations there would not be a lot of areas where their interests line up.

“As for your second question, I unfortunately cannot speak for Tretrid regarding any moves it may make in response to such a scenario, though if you stick around until after I finish my briefing, I believe the Tretridian representative to the League is scheduled to also make a statement.”

In about an hour, in fact.

Another question from Wasail. “Mr. Heardsunu, I would like to express my dismay at Ms Lucims ridiculous allegations against the Sultanate of Packilvania. Our relations with the League have greatly improved and there are rumors that there will be a trade agreement between Packilvania and the League. On that, if such an agreement was ever formally proposed, could we expect Tretrid to sign that agreement? Secondly, what actions will you take to ensure that the nations you have complained about do not derail - as you alluded - the mission and vision of the LN?”

It couldn’t be a press conference, the Secretary-General figured, without him having to bluntly repeat a relatively brief message in response to irrelevant questions. Message discipline had always come in handy, whether as an ambassador or a politician.

“As I have not represented Tretridian interests for slightly over a year, I cannot speak on behalf of Tretrid on whether they would be willing to sign on to such a deal.

“Regarding the measures I can take to keep the League true to its mission, well, the tools at the Secretary-General’s disposal are largely administrative. These duties include enforcing discipline in the Council to make sure that the meetings do not devolve into, well, anything resembling some of the higher-profile breaches of diplomatic protocol within the IFGC—" one of Æthelwine’s eyes twitched as he mentioned the International Forum—"or the breaches of conduct in the Syrtæn’at Tsyrel’se. As long as diplomats are able to engage with one another on the basis of civil discussion, and the League continues to work together on the many matters on which it can agree, the League is still quite capable of carrying out its task. The League will of course continue to seek to act as mediator and as one of the primary locations where geopolitical dilemmas can be discussed in good faith and on an honest basis like it did during the Correvan crisis, and the proper application of procedure where necessary will help the League maintain that position.”

Admittedly, the comparison to the IFGC might have been a low blow. He had read reports by the Tretridian representative to the IF in the past, and that institution had a rather unfortunate cultural issue with civility. There was a reason why he personally sought to keep tight control over the Council in his role as its presiding officer.

“I also plan on taking more proactive steps to try to, at the very least, keep the situation from deteriorating further, or if I’m feeling particularly optimistic, to work to bridge the divide between Tretrid and Volscina. While I will not disclose the nature of what I have planned at this time, I can assure the public that more will come of this,” Æthelwine added. He was pretty sure saying anything about it would spoil its chances of going anywhere. They would just have to find out along with everyone else.

A second question from the Cynebury Herald’s reporter. “Mr. Heardsunu, how do you think the geopolitical situation in Novaris will be affected by denouncing the Tretridian and Volscine governments?”

“What I hope will happen is that Novaris and the wider world become more aware of what it is dealing with, and that it may be able to use that knowledge to forge a lasting peace in West Novaris. As for what will happen, well, that remains up to the people of Novaris, and to the governments of Volscina and Tretrid. It is up to them to chart their way forward, but I am confident that they can do the right thing.”

He was actually quite cynical about how Volscina and Tretrid would respond, but he didn’t let that show through. He needed to put on a brave face for all the world to see.

Æthelwine checked the time. “Well, unfortunately, there’s a full schedule for the press room this afternoon, and it looks like my allotted time is up. As always, further questions can be directed towards the Secretariat Press Office.”

And with that, as if he were finishing just any other press briefing, the Secretary-General gave a nod and walked away from the lectern.

(OOC: This post, too, was done as a sort of open RP in the League of Novaris server. Thanks to Shadow, Cowlass, Gonggong, Socdyl, and Dead for participating.)

Ministry of Foreign Affairs Building
Cynebury, Tretrid
July 5, 2021
4:20 PM (UTC-7)

Eoforwine Æthelstansunu’s day had rapidly become a complicated one. As soon as he had heard about Æthelwine’s remarks, he quickly moved to clear up his schedule and to go over to the headquarters of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to play damage control.

It, too, is a threat to the peace.

Those accursed words were still echoing around in his head. They sounded surreal, but Eoforwine knew that he was not in a dream. No, this nightmare was very real, and one of his own creation.

He looked at the display showing the Secretary-General’s press conference before glancing to Foreign Minister Sæwine Wealdmundsunu.

“He’s serious about this.”

The Prime Minister did not want to believe that this was the course of action Æthelwine had chosen to take. Not after everything Æthelwine had done in faithful service of Tretrid. And yet he still had to face this very unfortunate reality.

You too, then.

Eoforwine didn’t truly know how he felt about this whole deal. If anything, he was numb, and was burying himself in micromanaging damage control so he wouldn’t have to feel anything.

There was perhaps that innate instinct to lash out like a child throwing a temper tantrum, to use the full resources of the Kingdom of Tretrid to bear on the League of Novaris. He pushed down those thoughts as soon as they came up.

He had to keep his reaction under control. He was the most powerful person in all of Tretrid, if not South Novaris. He had to at least act like he was worthy of the office, even though he believed he wasn’t.

Lashing out would do Tretrid no favors.

Sæwine nodded and handed him a paper. “I took the liberty of having some staffers draft a statement, though given the nature of this I think it’s best if you personally approve this.”

Eoforwine read through the document before grabbing a pen and scribbling out some parts, before writing a few comments of his own. “I want our ultimate message here to be that Tretrid is, whatever Æthelwine might say, a productive member of the League and that his actions today have thrown his ability to moderate the Novaran Council impartially into question. I don’t think we should push for Æthelwine’s removal, at least for the time being, if only because the optics would look quite bad.”

Yes, the optics. Tretrid’s international standing. He knew how hollow his focus on that was. It was no substitute for truly standing up for peace.

“I’ll send the document back with your feedback, then. Do you also want to review the revised version before we send it to our Ambassador to the League?”

“Yes.”

Eoforwine looked back at the screen, where Æthelwine was still giving his press conference. “If there’s any upside to this, it doesn’t seem like he’ll be giving Volscina any preferential treatment, even if his harshest words are for us. He’ll hopefully be similarly harsh on them.”

Of course, Æthelwine wouldn’t have needed to have been harsh on Tretrid if Eoforwine had just exercised more caution with Correva. It was his fault and he knew it.

It was his own web of lies and deception that had forced this reckoning.


Press Room
Legatorre
Lucroza, Celanora
July 5, 2021
4:00 PM (UTC-8)

Some staffers in the Legatorre had worked to replace one of the two LN flags on the stage with that of Tretrid. The lectern was now flanked on one side by the gold flag of the League of Novaris and on the other side by the green flag of Tretrid.

Beorhtsige Wulfricsunu, a bespectacled man in his late thirties, walked up to the lectern. As the Tretridian Ambassador to the League of Novaris, it was his duty to speak on behalf of the Tretridian government at the Legatorre.

“Good afternoon. The government of Tretrid, as it has always done after the first meeting of each session of the Novaran Council, will outline the issues that it believes are important for the League’s ultimate goal of enabling international cooperation within Novaris.”

“The most pressing matter facing Novaris currently is that of the future of Cavellan. Last year’s crisis showed just how willing various groups were to disrupt the Cavellanese people’s right to self-determination. It is the position of the Tretridian government that the current solution, that of a League-endorsed Tavari-Durakan occupation of the country, is only viable as a temporary fix used to buy time for a more lasting one. The Cavellanese Question must be solved, and it is our position that Cavellan’s right to decide their own future must be respected.

“When it comes to less extraordinary matters, Tretrid will continue to advocate for the respect of sapient rights and political freedoms throughout Novaris. We believe that everyone needs to be treated with the respect and dignity that they all deserve. We will continue to be one of the foremost voices for democracy within Novaris.

“We will also continue our foreign aid initiatives to impoverished and developing countries, and will push for more action from the Novaran Aid and Development Office. We believe that everybody should have the chance to live a prosperous life without needing to constantly worry about whether there will be food on the table. It is the duty of the more affluent countries in Novaris to help those torn by war or famine. Tretrid will continue to lead by example with foreign aid.

“Tretrid will also continue to push for the expansion of the Novaran Transportation Network, both for the tangible benefits it gives for the League’s members, but also to prove that the League can both symbolically and literally build bridges between countries.”

Beorhtsige took a deep breath. Those remarks had been prepared more than a week in advance. Now for the statement that he had been emailed about twenty minutes ago.

“Lastly, the government of Tretrid would like to deliver its response to remarks made by Secretary-General Heardsunu earlier today.”

The ambassador had been quite blindsided by the statement Æthelwine had given. Beorhtsige had once worked directly under Heardsunu, and it simply didn’t sound like something he’d say.

Of course, professional ambassador that he was, Beorhtsige had stuck to his script when it was his turn to speak and reported back to Cynebury for further instructions. Their response was, well, the one that had just been sent to him.

“The government of Tretrid is shocked and aggrieved to hear the accusations made by Secretary-General Heardsunu, and maintains that it has only acted in the best interests of the Cavellanese people. While we believe that the circumstances surrounding the collapse of Correva have served as a wake-up call to Novaris and the League, we strongly object to the characterization of our actions as escalatory, and maintain that the crisis was entirely the result of Volscina’s pursuit of irredentism and its willingness to violate Correvan sovereignty.

“Furthermore, the Secretary-General’s accusation that the Tretridian actions during the Correvan crisis were intended to push for Volscine removal from the League, thereby weakening the League for Tretridian political gain is categorically false and a mischaracterization of our foreign policy principles. Tretridian policy during the crisis was aimed at demonstrating to the continent that Volscina was directly violating the sovereignty of its neighbor. We continue to hold that it is no longer acceptable conduct for any state to threaten to invade its neighbor and to directly violate its territorial sovereignty, especially when both countries in question are part of the League whose very purpose is to enable the mediation of disputes through diplomacy instead of by force.

“Lastly, the Secretary-General’s statement has called into question his ability to carry out his duties impartially. The Secretary-General’s office was never meant to be used as a soapbox for any individual to announce their political opinions to the world, and there is no reason for Mr. Heardsunu to start using it in that way. He is not only undermining his own credibility as a diplomat but also that of the office of the Secretary-General as a neutral moderator of discussion, that of the LN Secretariat as a disinterested pan-Novaran administrative body, and that of the League of Novaris itself as an organization that can produce results that are favorable for peace.

“I now welcome any questions the press may wish to ask me in regards to Tretrid’s future plans as a member of the League of Novaris.”

A reporter for the Vinlander news source For King and Country raised their hand.

“In reference to the Secretary-General’s question, when will we see Tretrid stop their grandstanding and admit for once to the public that they are not doing what is best for them, but what is best to keep the wealth of the Tretrid elite’s heavy?”

Beorhtsige supposed a news source in such a country as Gamlevinland was bound to, well, be liberal with the truth . Maybe the loaded questions could have stood to be tad less obvious.

“Such a question relies on the presupposition that Tretrid is acting in the interests of its elite instead of the public at large, which the Vinlander reporter who asked would know is completely false and a politically motivated fabrication if they had gone to the trouble of accessing the relevant records, which, I should mention, the Tretridian government has freely made available to the public in the interests of transparency, instead of asking a loaded question in bad faith.”

They would have to try harder than that. Another day, perhaps.

The next question came from a Kemonomimi reporter from Red Dove , a news network with a following in the Federation, and more recently, Ymirland.

“The People of Ymirland would like to question about the Novaran Transportation Network. Concerns has been raised about potential civil rights issues coming from our neighbors, in particular Jarisven. As such the people of Ymirland holds a embargo on Jarisven. Would the new transportation system link the countries or would nations be allowed to opt-out from linking ourselves with such nations.

“Our second concern would be coming of the Novaris Aid, would this be open for all Novaris nations, or would restrictions be set in place for potential bad actors abusing the system. If so, what safeguards would be set in place?

“The third concern is what is the Tretrid and the League as a whole doing to secure the democratic will of the Correvan people?”

Ah, finally, productive questions. Beorhtsige gave a smile.

“I’m glad you asked. Firstly, NTN construction is only allowed to occur within countries who have acceded to membership in the Novaran Transportation Commission, and individual countries within the NTC largely retain sovereignty over what construction can occur. Thus, if one country is in the NTC but its neighbor isn’t, or if both are in the NTC but one of them objects to a connection, an NTN connection between the two countries will not be built.

“Secondly, we believe that states that request aid should be reviewed by the Novaran Aid and Development Office–within reason, of course, we don’t want too much red tape–and that the use of aid should be monitored by both the League and independent watchdogs to prevent the misappropriation of aid or other abuses. We strongly believe in the power of transparency to ensure integrity.

“Thirdly, the League has done a lot to stabilize Cavellan after the collapse of the autocratic Correvan government, and we believe that gives the League a great amount of maneuvering space within which it can restore democracy within the territory. It is the stance of the Tretridian government that, firstly, we ensure that the current military occupation is temporary, and, secondly, that the future of Cavellan is in line with the vision the Cavellanese people have for it. We believe that, for example, an independent, democratic Cavellan would be very well suited for such a role.”

Beorhtsige picked another reporter. “Krzysztofmiasto News Station.” Some broadcast from Piorunpreria.

“What is Tretrid’s stance on nations using their imperial power to exploit other nations and get away with war crimes. Alongside this what is Tretrid planning on doing about these nations, especially referring to what has just happened with Korćetta in the Zachodnipaństwo War for Independence.”

Beorhtsige’s particular assignment meant that, while he was intimately familiar with what was happening diplomatically in Novaris, he only knew so much about what was going on in Gondwana. Cynebury liked to compartmentalize.

The question was something that pertained to international law, however, and the general rule of thumb was that Tretrid was generally to defend the rule of law. After all, it did bring some level of stability and predictability to foreign affairs. It helped, too, that Tretrid’s place in the world was secure while the status quo held.

“We believe that no country is above the international rule of law,” he answered. “Tretrid will continue to campaign for the respect of sapient rights, the laws of war, and customary international law. We will push, through our bilateral relations as well as through international organizations, to make sure countries that violate these principles will pay the consequences.”

It was certainly vague and noncommittal enough to be sufficient for now, unless Cynebury were to suddenly take an interest in Gondwana.

“What kind of aid does Tretrid and the League plan to administer? Will it be purely financial or are necessities such as education, sheltering, and medication also within the foreign aid plans?”

The next question came from a Kuduk reporter. “What kind of aid does Tretrid and the League plan to administer? Will it be purely financial or are necessities such as education, sheltering, and medication also within the foreign aid plans?”

That was a question that Beorhtsige had prepared a response to.

“Our government prefers to take a holistic approach to promoting international government, and so we believe that money alone is not sufficient to bring a country to prosperity. We believe basic necessities like medicine are critical for foreign aid programs and we will push for their inclusion in foreign aid programs by the League.”

He then called on another Kemonomimi reporter, apparently representing the Association of the Servants of Akua. He silently decided that since he hadn’t previously thought hard about the Secretariat’s decisions over who got to be part of the LN Press Corps, he wasn’t about to question it now.

“Question for religious minorities within the league. Akuanists have long been discriminated against historically in several member state nations, does the Tretrid and League as a whole have a plan to promote religious freedom within the League or would it be an exclusively national issue for member states.”

And there was the inevitable religious freedom question. Now, there was a minefield. It was one of those cases where Cynebury decided to go with realpolitik in regards to maintaining friendly relations with Meagharia and Hustreache (especially considering Meagharia’s connections to Durakia and Hustreache’s connections to Great Morstaybishlia). The truth would cause… a quite large public relations disaster for Tretrid.

“Tretrid holds the principles of religious freedom quite dear, due to its own past periods of intense religious persecution. It is inscribed in the core of Tretridian constitutional law, after all. We believe that people all over Novaris should have the right to choose who to worship and whether to worship at all. One of the primary goals of our current foreign policy is the promotion of global sapient rights through intense bilateral and multilateral engagement. However, at the same time, the ultimate decision regarding religious freedom can only be made by the people themselves, as they should have the right to choose their own destiny. As such, we will do everything we can to promote religious freedom while not excessively interfering with the internal affairs of other countries.”

The caveat was quite strategically placed, and it sounded nice while being vague enough to allow flexibility in interpretation.

The Red Dove reporter asked the next question almost immediately after Beorhtsige was finished speaking. “You claim Tretrid is doing everything it can to promote religious freedom but still has relationships with nations such as Hustreache and Meagharia. Shouldn’t a nation which claims to value religious freedom and democracy be concern with being in bed with such anti-free nations such as them? Tretrid still holds an alliance with Meagharia which openly guns down anyone who believes in any religion. Does Tretrid hold itself accountable to dealing with such nations or does it fall to the wayside and hope all will ignore it?”

Beorhtsige distinctly recalled a pair of reports over policy regarding those countries. The first one detailed a “carrot-and-stick” doctrine as applied in Hustreache, and the second one, written years later, discussed the feasibility of applying such a system in Meagharia, ultimately recommending it.

Due to their nature, the only people who knew about those reports outside of Cynebury were the relevant ambassadors and their chargés d’affaires . And the current LN Secretary-General.

It just so happened that those reports had been written by Æthelwine Heardsunu. The Secretary-General knew a lot about the inner workings of the Tretridian Foreign Ministry, and it remained to be seen whether he would be using his detailed knowledge about Tretridian diplomacy against Tretrid itself. Everyone was still trying to comprehend what had happened, after all.

“The apparent hypocrisy is not lost on the Tretridian government either, but you should rest assured that we are working behind the scenes to improve religious freedoms in Meagharia and Hustreache. Unfortunately, I am not at liberty to discuss details with the public, as many of the details are highly classified.”

It wasn’t a particularly strong answer, but it was probably better to look somewhat bad than to ruin at least one bilateral relationship.

The reporter from Krzysztofmiasto News Station raised his hand again. “Do you have anything specifically planned to physically reprimand Korćetta for everything they did? Or are you just going to scold them and hope they stop what they’re doing in the future?”

Perhaps he should have asked Wealdbeald Ohtbeornsunu, the Tretridian Ambassador-at-Large to Gondwana, who would be better prepared to speak on such matters. Not to mention how this press conference was specifically about Tretrid’s agenda in the League of Novaris for the current Novaran Council session. It was probably time to exert some message discipline and put the matter down.

“If Piorunpreria wishes to seek reparations or a war crime tribunal from Korcetta, they can pursue it at their pleasure. Our government would be willing to help along the process, but it must ultimately be their initiative.”

“Thank you, that is all,” the Piorunprerian said.

The next question was an older-looking Visnetir Kemonomimi in somewhat old-fashioned brown suit.

“From De Radikale , our readers wished to know about Tretrid’s stance in an acknowledgement of its position as a key power on the continent. How, if any thought is given at all, does Tretrid wish to manage the balance of power between the smaller and larger states of Novaris - in regard to the way in which diplomatic interaction on Novaris may often lead to the voices of smaller powers to be drowned out by the preeminent blocs surrounding Tretrid and Volscina?

That was a fascinating question. A shame that Beorhtsige was not at liberty to fully answer it.

“Tretrid’s security relies almost entirely on the alliances it maintains, so we have a natural interest in valuing each and every relation that we hold with other countries. Since taking unilateral action may harm these relationships, it is within our interest more often than not to take into consideration what stances other countries have. An argument has certainly been made by some foreign policy analysts that this effect is most visible with how Durakia supposedly has a significant amount of sway over Tretridan policy. Similarly, we generally tend to consider what unaligned countries’ stances are in regards to various issues, since we have a similar interest in not antagonizing those countries enough for them to tip the balance of power against Tretrid. I hope that may provide some insight into your question.”

As far as the things that he couldn’t say, well, it was generally in the interests of smaller powers to try to balance between the two blocs, which simultaneously gave them strategic flexibility, forced a balance of power (which would keep one dominant power from drowning out their interests), and allowed them to play the two sides off each other to their advantage. That was the situation where the smaller powers had the most say, and a situation that Cynebury wanted to avoid.

In an ideal world (for Cynebury), Tretrid wouldn’t have to listen to other powers, and it would have room to do what it wanted without regard for anyone else. However, Tretrid didn’t simply have enough hard power to force hegemony on Novaris, so it had to make do with carefully crafted diplomatic relations instead. It was a decent substitute, but not perfect.

He checked the time. It was getting late. He silently decided that the next question would be his last. He pointed to a reporter.

“This is the Cynebury Herald. Beyond your prepared remarks, what personal thoughts do you have on Secretary-General Heardsunu’s statement?”

Oh boy.

“Unless Mr. Heardsunu has unexpectedly changed in massive ways, I personally believe that he sincerely believes he is doing the right thing. However, if so, his actions are severely misguided and call into question his judgment. If he wants to ensure peace in Novaris, condemning one of its powers central to the international system is not the way to do so.”

He paused. “Unfortunately, that is all the time I have to answer questions. Further inquiries may be directed towards my office or towards the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Thank you.”

Beorhtsige gave a practiced smile and wave before walking off the podium.

Office of the Secretary-General
Legatorre
Lucroza, Celanora
July 5, 2021
5:30 PM (UTC-8)

Beorhtsige walked up to a door and knocked on it.

“Please enter,” said a voice from within.

The ambassador obliged, opening the door and closing it behind him. He turned to see the Secretary-General seated at his desk, looking right at him.

“The Government of Tretrid would like to lodge a formal protest due to your opening speech at the Novaran Council and following statements.” Beorhtsige placed a piece of paper on Æthelwine’s desk.

Æthelwine scanned the document and looked back up at Beorhtsige, unfazed.

“Furthermore,” Beorhtsige said, “the Government of Tretrid wishes to know whether the Secretary-General wishes to change its current travel arrangements.”

Some weeks earlier, the Secretary-General had made arrangements to visit Tretrid and discuss certain matters with certain Tretridian officials. This was a relatively routine diplomatic task, though this day’s events made it now substantially more awkward.

“I will not be canceling my visit to Tretrid, and would like to suggest that today’s events may raise the importance of the meeting in the eyes of its leadership.”

Beorhtsige nodded. “I will make sure to relay that back to the Foreign Ministry.”

There was a brief pause as Beorhtsige did not leave the room and instead continued to stare at Æthelwine.

“Ambassador,” the Secretary-General said, “are there any other reasons why you are here, other than to relay messages from your government?”

“I would like to ask a personal question. Æthelwine, what were you thinking? Are you just going to throw out everything you’ve worked for so suddenly?”

It was perhaps rare for one diplomat to ask another for their own personal thoughts instead of their professional assessment of a situation. It certainly wasn’t considered common practice in the Tretridian diplomatic service.

Æthelwine’s expression remained impassive. “I’ve thought about this quite thoroughly, if that’s what you’re asking. As I alluded to in the Press Room, it’s been on my mind since Correva.”

“Do you know what I think? I think you’re making a mistake. You’re letting your emotions guide your actions instead of the best interests of Novaris. You’ve ruined the bilateral relationship between Tretrid and the League.”

One of the worst mistakes that could be made in foreign affairs is for the policymaker to have their policy be guided by their emotions instead of carefully considering whether the policy truly benefited them beyond just making them feel good. It certainly did not stop some countries from acting petulant or vindictive, but it was still something to be avoided.

That line of thinking, of course, has created a stereotype of the Tretridian diplomat and foreign policy analyst as completely unemotional and borderline sociopathic.

“Beorhtsige, I think you know as well as I that the League used to be thought of as a ‘Tretridian bloc.’ The Tretridian government has certainly acted that it is. I am simply acting in the best interests of the League as an institution. It needs to assert its independence from any one country to succeed as a place where the countries of Novaris can work as equals.”

One of the main schools of thought in international affairs theory is realism, which places emphasis on the rational actions of states as individuals in pursuit of their own interests. Under such a school of thought, order between states can only emerge with the consolidation of great powers that are able to impose their own favorable order on smaller countries. Under the lens of such a school of thought, the League was little more than a diplomatic bloc for Tretrid. It was not hard to make such claims, especially when the League’s own Secretary-General was a veteran Tretridian diplomat. At least, it was not hard to claim thus until he had made his speech earlier that day.

“Tretrid has been one of the foremost proponents of the League in the past. We sought to use the League as a way to change the nature of the relations between Tretrid and the rest of Novaris. You know that as well as I do, since you wrote that very policy!

“When I worked as a representative of the Tretridian government, my actions were meant to be in the best interests of the Kingdom of Tretrid. Such was my job at the time, and such is your job now. However, as Secretary-General, I cannot prioritize Tretrid’s interests over that of the other League states. If all the nations of the League are meant to be equal, Tretrid cannot be more equal than the others.”

Another school of thought in international relations is constructivism, which, unlike realism, claims that the interests of each actor is socially constructed, as well as the identity of the actors themselves. It rejects realism’s claims that states must always be struggling against one another in pursuit of objective material goals like power and wealth. Constructivism instead focuses more on how interests are formed through social interaction, and how countries pursue these interests in an international system governed by unwritten guidelines of socially acceptable norms. More critically, constructivism left room for a rules-based international system like that offered by the League.

Both realism and constructivism were not perfect. They didn’t always explain why some countries acted as they did. Balistria, for example, declared war on Alksearia by assassinating its monarch, thus going against its rational self-interest (as a war against Alksearia would necessarily mean war against a very large chunk of the world due to alliances) and international norms (as killing heads of state and violating the presumed sanctity of other countries’ embassies were considered extremely out of line). Though Balistria got pummeled into the ground for its troubles, it remained a spectacular example of how irrational actors could certainly defy the expectations of the international system, and cause very real damage in the process.

Despite these imperfections, realism and constructivism were the two generally preferred lenses through which the Tretridian foreign ministry (and its diplomats) preferred to read events.

“Consider, Beorhtsige, the stated goals of the League of Novaris to provide a neutral ground with which the international affairs of Novaris can be stabilized,” Æthelwine said. “The plan was always to change the norms that governed Novaran diplomacy, which, yes, would hopefully change the nature of Tretrid’s relationships with other countries. Tretridian policy is still largely derived from the Novaran Cold War, and needs to adjust to the times, and Eoforwine and I agreed that the League was a prime opportunity to bring Tretridian methods and ends into a post-Cold War world. The two of us had already worked on ways to do so in the past, so I was confident that the two of us could commit to this as well. Seems like I was mistaken, however. Æthelstansunu seems to have fallen back on Cold War tactics.”

“When you became Secretary-General, you assured me and the Tretridian government that you would continue working with Tretrid. What happened to that promise?”

“You know as well as I do that the success of the new direction of Tretridian foreign policy relied on the success of the League. There’s a reason that, as you said, Tretrid has been one of the foremost proponents of the League. However, during the Correvan Crisis, Tretrid acted to undermine the authority of the League in its own cynical self-interest. If we are to truly secure the peace through making the League the authoritative forum for Novaran issues, then I must act to set the precedent that undermining the League cannot be accepted under our new international system. Though Æthelstansunu may have turned his back on the plan, I will continue on the path we charted out four years ago.”

Beorhtsige scowled. “You’re saying that Tretrid betrayed you, not the other way around. I can’t believe you. Well, if this is the hill you have chosen to die on, then so be it. I’ll take my leave.”

“Just as well, given that we are probably talking past each other at this point. Good day to you, Mr. Wulfricsunu.”

Beorhtsige left the office with a huff.

Lucroza, Celanora
July 5, 2021
7:00 PM (UTC-8)

Æthelwine Heardsunu walked up to the door of a townhouse in downtown Lucroza. It was the official residence of the LN Secretary-General, having been donated to the organization by some well-off Celanoran family. Personally, he thought it was a bit much, and preferred the much less luxurious accommodations that had been provided to him back when he had been a Tretridian diplomat.

Maybe it fed into the prestige of the position, which was something that was quite in demand given how relatively new the League of Novaris was (being just over four years old), or maybe it was a symbol of wealth that was quite unfitting for a humble servant of all the peoples of Novaris. It really could go either way.

He reached into his pocket and pulled out his keys. He unlocked the door in front of him and entered.

He walked into the dining room with little fanfare. There was no food on the table, but Æthelwine had already eaten dinner before he left work. Seated across from the Secretary-General at the table was none other than his wife, Cuðþryð Wynstansdohter.

On a normal day, Æthelwine would have left work perhaps somewhat earlier, and he and Cuðþryð would have eaten dinner together. They’d share what had happened at work. Æthelwine would probably talk about which ambassador managed to make a massive fool out of themselves this time, while Cuðþryð would talk about things like that one time one of her colleagues at the place where she worked as a chemical engineer did something really inadvisable with a bottle of red fuming nitric acid.

Unfortunately, this was not a normal day, which was obvious to both of them. Æthelwine took a seat across from Cuðþryð without saying a word.

After a moment, she spoke. “So you did it after all.”

Æthelwine nodded. “So I did.”

“I’d known that this was going to happen more than a month in advance, but it still feels kind of surreal having it broadcast in breaking news stories in the middle of the day. It’s different, somehow, from the other times your work has shown up in prime-time news. I think it’s just how taken aback everyone is by this.”

“As for me, I’ve spent so long in the service of Tretrid that it just feels so weird actually publicly denouncing it, even as much as we’ve discussed going ahead with it.”

“Well, you’ve made all your choices now. We can’t turn back anymore.”

“I can live with that.” The decision had been made, and, for better or worse, was behind him now. Only the consequences remained before him.

“Æthelwine, if there was one thing I’ve always loved about you, it’d probably be that you’re the kind of person to put your heart where your mouth is. You know that what you’re doing is the right thing. That matters.”

“I sure hope so.” Æthelwine paused for a moment. “So… it looks like the family group chat got a bit busy after I made my little address. I bet that Ceolswíð and Eadwine have plenty of questions. I have to admit that I did not actually read what happened, since Eadwine would probably call me out for ‘leaving him on read.’”

“I told them that they would get their explanation later today,” Cuðþryð said. “You won’t be surprised to hear that Eadwine probably thinks a bit more negatively of what happened, though both of them were caught off guard since they were under the impression that you were on pretty good terms with Eoforwine.”

“Well, to be fair to them, I also thought that I was on pretty good terms with our dear Prime Minister Æthelstansunu. I don’t think whatever friendship the two of us may have had matters that much to him anymore, as painful as it is for me to say. What use is ‘friendship’ in a framework that defines international relations through the lens of state-scale geopolitical actors?” Æthelwine paused again. “You know, it’s been 12 years since the accident. I still remember how much Eoforwine helped me back then. It’s hard to believe that such a person would come dangerously close to lighting West Novaris ablaze. It used to be different.”

“We shouldn’t dwell on the past too much, lest we get lost in it. We still have the future to face.”

“And face it we must.” Æthelwine sighed. “I think we should discuss this with the kids in teleconference. The chat just won’t cut it. I’ll go set up a Nyoom meeting.”


Prime Minister’s Wing
Witenapalent
Cynebury, Tretrid
July 5, 2021
11:00 PM (UTC-7)

Eoforwine Æthelstansunu was not the kind of person to spend time for himself. Leisure didn’t matter, but the affairs of state certainly did.

The staffers had slowly filtered out of the offices of the Prime Minister’s Wing after 5. After dinner, the Office of the Prime Minister was on its night shift, with a visibly smaller contingent of civil servants working tirelessly overnight to make sure the government wouldn’t be caught off guard by any developments, at home or abroad. The world didn’t wait for people just because it was 3 AM.

But even the “Night Crew,” as the staffers had taken to nicknaming themselves, still had a personal life outside the Palace of the Parliament. Most of them had families.

And then there was the Prime Minister himself, cloistered in the Witenapalent, with nothing to do outside of his job. He had so single-mindedly devoted himself to serving the Tretridian people that there was no part of him that lay outside of that.

It was late in the night when he finally concluded his business for the day. It was always late. He let out a small sigh as he stood up and pushed his chair into his desk. He turned around, towards the window behind him, only to see that the curtains were closed. The curtains were always closed.

There was a tradition in the Tretridian government that dictated that the curtains of the Prime Minister’s Office were to stay shut at all times. There were some choices that had been made in the room that were too awful to see the light of day. The Tretridian people could sleep better at night not knowing just what was being done to protect them. Eoforwine disliked that tradition immensely.

He briefly considered opening the curtains and standing in the city lights of Cynebury that filtered through the window. The curtains hadn’t always been closed during his tenure as Prime Minister, he recalled. Things had been different. Things were going to be different.

Yet the curtains were closed. And, as Eoforwine turned away from the shrouded windows, they remained closed.

After a brief walk through the halls of the Prime Minister’s Wing, he reached the door that separated the offices from the area that constituted his official residence. He gave a nod to the bodyguard who stood vigil over the door, unlocked the door, and walked in.

After locking the door behind him, Eoforwine walked through the residence in silence. The place was designed for the Prime Minister and a sizable family–only that Eoforwine had none, so much of the space ended up disused. Sure, the place would be dusted and cleaned if it would be used to host politicians or dignitaries, but otherwise, it was devoid of the activity that had filled it under previous Prime Ministers.

He walked into a bathroom and filled a glass with tap water. He set the glass down on the counter and opened a cabinet, taking out an opened box of medication. The word sertraline was visible on the label. He pulled a blister pack out of the box and tore it open to take out a single white caplet. He placed the pill in his mouth, swallowed it, and drank some water from the glass.

That done with, he walked into his bedroom and entered a combination into a safe sitting next to his nightstand. He opened the safe and pulled out its contents: a small leather-bound book and a simple ballpoint pen. Taking these two items with him, he walked into the living room, sat down, opened the book to its first blank page, and began to write.

Mōnandæg, July 5, 2021

Eoforwine paused, his pen hovering just above the paper, to take a moment to collect his thoughts. There was a lot on his mind.

With recent events in mind, I’m beginning to think that this diary is the only thing I can truly confide in.

He paused again. Documents could be leaked, after all. If this particular one was leaked, the results would be cataclysmic for the Tretridian government.

I think I’ll burn this book once I’ve filled all its pages.

What’s the point in trusting others with secrets, anyway, if all they will do is stab you in the back when you least expect it?

Æthelwine double-crossed me today. Publicly denounced Tretrid with all of the world to see.

I wonder if the time we spent as close colleagues meant nothing to him. I used to be able to consider him a friend.

The worst part of this whole affair is that I can’t bring myself to even blame him. I think I would have done the exact same thing if I were in his situation.

I can’t help but wonder if this could have been prevented.

He seemed to focus on how I handled Correva in particular. There’s a lot I wish I did differently back then. I have played a massive part in the reignition of tensions between Tretrid and Volscina, and both he and I know this.

Another pause.

Why must I feel hurt by geopolitical developments? Are state actors not meant to make choices solely based on reason, with no room for emotion when it hinders the ability to make rational decisions?

Eoforwine thought about the matter for a moment before writing a response.

I suppose this diary is the only place where I should truly feel anything. My workplace is not a place for emotion. It only clouds judgment.

He gave a slight sigh, set the pen down, and closed the book. He slowly stood up, bringing the diary with him. It needed to be locked away again. It was just what was done, like how the curtains were always closed.

Perhaps, as much as Eoforwine disliked the idea, some things should never see the light of day.

Part I: How It Used To Be

Embassy of Tretrid, Lucroza
Lucroza, Celanora
March 26, 1998
1:00 PM (UTC-8)

Within the Tretridian diplomatic service, some postings were considered far more important than the others. The more strategically important a country’s bilateral relationship with Tretrid was considered, the more prestige would generally be placed on a posting there.

These were highly sensitive positions, so the reasoning went, since even the slightest slip-up could spell disaster for Tretrid’s geopolitical place, which, needless to say, was bad. While the Novaran Cold War seemed like it wasn’t as tense as it had been in decades past (Tretrid had, for example, achieved détente with Mirhaime), the Volscine Confederation would still not hesitate to take advantage of any blunders Tretrid would make.

The most prestigious postings were the ones to countries that were most likely to appear in the headlines: Volscina, Durakia, Mirhaime, Norgsveldet, Morstaybishlia. The postings to South Hills and Packilvania were also considered impressive, since Tretrid wanted to look its best to the other superpowers, though they didn’t appear as regularly on the agendas of the analysts back in Cynebury.

The ambassadorial posting to Celanora wasn’t considered all that lofty, but Æthelwine Heardsunu really didn’t mind. He still had a lot of his career ahead of him, after all, and he doubted he’d be able to predict where he’d be in twenty-five years. Plus, Celanora was hardly unimportant. Sure, it had retreated in itself and stubbornly insisted on neutrality in the wake of the Great War and the following fragmentation, but neutral countries were still worth working with. Plus, Celanora had some power in its own right, and so even if they refused to choose a side between Tretrid and Volscina, there were still reasons to try cooperating with them.

Tretrid had much to gain from maintaining a cordial relationship with Celanora. The issue was that Celanora didn’t really care about tightening its ties with Tretrid.

An aide walked into Æthelwine’s office and placed some papers on his desk. “Good afternoon, Ambassador. A couple of reports regarding matters you were following.”

Æthelwine nodded. “Thank you.” He picked up the papers and scanned them. Routine reports on visas and how Tretridian citizens in Celanora were faring. A few papers and applications that needed signing. Nothing much to report, though it was still important to keep up with them. It was his duty as an ambassador, after all, to look after Tretrid’s citizens in Celanora.

Much more interesting was a dispatch from the Celanoran government. Diplomats from Celanora and Tretrid had been in talks over ways to increase trade between the two countries, and it seemed like the Celanoran government was receptive to the idea of a trade agreement. Given the structure of the Celanoran government (the Tretridian diplomatic staff often jokingly nicknamed it “the three-headed monster”) and its history, it really wasn’t every day that they were inclined towards much of anything where Tretrid was concerned.

This dispatch was a confirmation that the Celanorans had finished their final preparations for a summit between Tretridian Prime Minister Ecgswið Eohbeornsdohter, and Matteo Vitali, the Triarch of Lucrovera. It was, to state it briefly, quite big news.

Æthelwine booted up his computer, wrote up the contents of the Celanoran response in a dispatch of his own, and sent his own dispatch to the relevant people in Cynebury.

With that done, he went back to processing some of his more routine paperwork. He understood the need for a significant paper trail for visa applications, but that didn’t make filling out the forms any less tedious. Nonetheless, it still was important work to ensure the maintenance of day-to-day Tretridio-Celanoran relations.


6:00 PM (UTC-8)

Cuðþryð Wynstansdohter returned from work just after 6, which also meant that it was also time for Æthelwine to get off work. He would go back to his office after dinner to finish off any work he wanted done and to check if anything pressing had happened as usual, but only true emergencies could get Æthelwine to spend the time between for anything other than family.

One of the major design philosophies for Tretridian diplomatic chanceries is to give the staff and their families everything they would need for life and work within the complex. It was, strictly speaking, possible for someone in an embassy to stay inside for their entire duration of stay, though nearly everyone spent at least some time out in the host city.

In Æthelwine’s case, it meant that he could leave his office, walk to the embassy’s daycare center, and bring his children back to his residence, all without needing to step outside into Lucroza. It was highly convenient.

His two children, Ceolswið and Eadwine, were eight and five years old respectively. The two bore a resemblance to each other as siblings, though Ceolswið’s hair was a dark brown while Eadwine’s was a dirty blond.

Eadwine was also markedly shier than Ceolswið was when she was his age, and Æthelwine suspected that he tended to attach himself to his sister’s friend group instead of making friends of his own.

Education was one of the few things that the embassy facilities did not fully provide for. Instead, children were expected to go to school out in the city, though the government also required that they take the GCE every year to enforce equivalence with Tretridian educational standards.

In practice, Eadwine and Ceolswið were usually dropped off at school and later picked up by a shuttle from the embassy, along with other children of diplomatic staff. There were also a couple of Diplomatic Security Agency officers in plainclothes who made sure nothing unwanted happened involving the children. Yes, it was awkward, but the Foreign Ministry erred on the side of caution since anything that happened could turn into a diplomatic incident. But it also made it harder for these children to make friends with kids from outside the embassy, since they couldn’t ‘hang out’ together after school.

Today, Æthelwine found Ceolswið and Eadwine lying prone on the floor. Ceolswið was reading a book while Eadwine was doodling on a piece of paper.

Ceolswið noticed him first. She rolled over, sat up, and lightly tapped her younger brother on the shoulder.

Eadwine looked up from his drawing. “Is it time to go, Dad?”

Æthelwine nodded.

The two children packed their stuff into their backpacks, and were ready to go before long. They walked to their residence (a three-room apartment in the residential part of the embassy), where they dropped off their stuff and met up with Cuðþryð, who had returned from work. They then went to the embassy cafeteria to get dinner.

“Dad, I’ve been thinking about something,” Ceolswið said, during dinner.

“Do tell.”

“In Social Studies today, we were doing a lesson on the Celanor Empire, and how it fell apart. Is it true that Tretrid had a part in that?”

“Yes,” Æthelwine said. “It’s historical fact.”

“Yesterday we went over the advancements made in the Celanor Empire. Stuff like the architecture and engineering. The Celanor Empire was good, right?”

“It depends on who you ask.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, if you ask most people in Celanora, most people would think of it positively. If you ask someone in Tretrid, they may say that it was good in some ways but was far from perfect. And if you ask someone in Arlavia, they might say that it was actually quite bad.”

“Why didn’t my teacher tell me that?”

“Your teacher was telling you a simplified version of the history, with the expectation that you’d learn a more complete picture when you’re older. For that matter, I’m also giving a simplified answer. I think you’ll understand better when you’re older.”

“Would you say that Celanora is a good country?”

“No country is without its flaws, but it’s my job to have faith in the Celanoran government and people. I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t.”

“Why have Celanora and Tretrid fought so often, if both are good? Aren’t wars fought only between good guys and bad guys?”

“Not necessarily. Sometimes there are misunderstandings. Sometimes ‘good’ countries are run by bad people. Sometimes mistakes are made. Even good people can come into conflict with one another.”

That was certainly a weighty enough statement to put an end to conversation for a brief moment.

“Actually,” Æthelwine said, “speaking of Tretrid, we’re going to have the Prime Minister over soon.”

That certainly got everyone’s attention.

Eadwine was the first to speak. “Really?”

“Yes, really. She’s going to be meeting with one of the Triarchs. I’ll try to see if I can get her to meet with all of you.”

“I’ll probably get a day off when that happens, then,” Cuðþryð said. “Æthelwine, do you know when the summit will be?”

“We’re currently going over the final preparations with our respective counterparts in the Celanoran government. So, if the staff seem a bit more busy than usual over the next few days, that’s why.” Æthelwine paused. “I might have to stay at the office late for a couple of days myself. Hopefully, if everything happens according to plan, Eohbeornsdohter will be flying over on April 2.”

Ceolswið turned to Cuðþryð. “What’s happening at your job, Mom?”

“Well, we’re currently designing a pilot plant for a new chemical process that we want to test out. We’re hoping it makes certain syntheses cheaper and less high-maintenance. I’ve been focusing on the process design side, since I feel like project engineering is better suited for some of my co-workers. Most of it so far has involved wrangling with computer simulations. It’s great how much computing has progressed over the last couple decades or so, but computers can be a bit annoying to work with at times.”

“Did management actually give you reasonable deadlines this time?” Æthelwine asked.

“For once, I think they might have. They’ll inevitably give us some unreasonable constraint we weren’t consulted on at some point—they never learn, I swear to Thor—but the parameters that we’re dealing with right now are actually pretty reasonable.”

“What’s important about your job, Mom?” Eadwine asked. “A lot of other kids have only one parent with a job.”

“The food you eat was grown with fertilizers, and your consumer products made and packaged with plastics, all of which are produced by the chemical industry. The products of chemical engineering are everywhere around you.”

“She also gets paid more than I do,” Æthelwine added.

“That too. We could get by comfortably just with Æthelwine’s salary, but I’m very passionate about what I do.”

“I hope you become as passionate about whatever you do as a grown-up as your mom is about chemical engineering, Eadwine.”

Eadwine shrugged. “I still don’t know what I want to do when I grow up.”

“That’s perfectly normal. Most people don’t have an idea until they’re basically adults.”

“How do people know what they want to do, anyway?”

“Things happen. I don’t know what it’ll be for you. Maybe you’ll find a subject that you really enjoy or excel at. Maybe something else. I didn’t know I wanted to go into the foreign service until I was partway through university. You’ll be fine, Eadwine.”

Cuðþryð nodded. “It took me a while to find what I was passionate about as well. It takes a bit of exploration sometimes to find something that you’re willing to center your life around. And besides, there’s nothing wrong with doing a job just for the money, as long as you don’t outright hate what you do. You can just do what you enjoy as a hobby, and you can choose the pace at which you do it, which you can’t really do for a job. But always make sure to try new things. You might just find something you enjoy.”

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