The Caliph, the Sultan, the Emperor

This is part 6 of a series that consists of the following:
A Tiger and a Gem (Part 5), The Crowning Moment (Part 4), His Enlightened Reign (Part 3), A Bingolian Invitation (Part 2), and Better the Devil You Know (Part 1)

Introduction and Recap

Prince Lohadek was the Minister of State Security of Packilvania. He was responsible for overseeing the intelligence agencies and policies of the country. In that process, he had overseen the biggest expansion of camera and internet surveillance in the country’s history (rivalling the scope and scale under the Packilvanian Communist Party) and the systemic infiltration of the military, state militia, and local and provincial governments by intelligence agents while pitting these agents against each other to ensure the balance of power under the Bedonite dynasty. His devotion and competency kept him in favour with Sultan Namdun III. However, it was his rapport, and diligently and hard-won trust with then-Crown Prince Thumim V that was his focus.

With the then-second-in-line Prince Abuyin being a secret homosexual due to his relationship with Jasper Ray, a non-binary politician from the Kohatu Isles, the line of succession and the future of the family were under threat. Prince Lohadek hoped to manage this relationship by having Jasper Ray arrested by Oan authorities and tried for corruption for a business venture they helped start with Prince Abuyin. Unfortunately for Prince Lohadek, Prince Abuyin exposed himself to Prince Kujil, the then-Governor of Kemer and a member of an association of likeminded politicians called the Club (luFerayn). Prince Lohadek was powerless to stop him from telling the others, who against Prince Lohadek’s desires wanted something done about it.

According to Packilvanian secular law and religious law, “intimate relations between people of the same assigned gender were prohibited” with Packilvania taking the stance that capital punishment was the only fitting punishment. This crime was such an affrontery to the conservative authorities and views that governed the country, that not even a Prince could escape it. With the monarchy of Allegheny having fallen as a direct result of public outcry over the Alleghenian King’s choice of romantic partners, the Bedonite dynasty was not in the mood to test the public so as far as luFerayn was concerned, there was no world in which Prince Abuyin nor the family could escape this disaster while he was still alive.

It was apparent from his lack of self-control in practically confessing to Prince Kujil, that he could not be trusted to restrain himself. Frankly, if Prince Thumim became Sultan, he would not protect his brother and this scandal could jeopardise his reign before it began and even threaten the survival of the monarchy. So the club decided in order to spare Prince Abuyin the humiliation of being outed and to protect the family, he could no longer be permitted to live. So, luFerayn, set to work the elaborate plan that would culminate in the attempted assassination during the visit of the United Malordian president, laid the foundations of Prince Thumim convincing Namdun III to abdicate, and set in motion the schism of the dynasty into factions.

With the dominoes falling, seemingly uncontrollably, the gang of five people that was luFerayn had triggered changes in a country of over a billion people, that they would not have predicted in their wildest nightmares.

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The End of Prince Kujil
Bingol Royal Palace, Bingol, Packilvania
15 April 2024

Sultan Thumim V was a gentleman. Despite his reputation as a tyrant, he was rarely vulgar. But as he sat across Prince Lohadek in his study, he felt irritated at his report.

“Prince Lohadek”, Thumim said, “I am getting irritated that after a year of having Prince Kujil in custody and investigating, you have not found out who’s conspiring to kill me”.

“Sir”, Lohadek replied, “He acted alone. Perhaps you underestimate him. There is no evidence that Prince Kujil had any assistance. We have used all the methods at our disposal. It is time to end this and have him executed and bury this awful nightmare that’s haunted us for over a year”.

“Prince Lohadek, do not hide anything from me”, Thumim said.

“Sir, you and I have been back and forth about this matter. You took him from my care and asked the police to question him and they failed to get accomplices, then to the military police and the same thing. You gave him back to me because they all failed and even as we questioned him, again, the answer is the same”, Lohadek said.

“My Caliph”, Lohadek said, kowtowing before Thumim, “Let us end this. I beg you”.

Thumim, on his couch, asked Lohadek to stand up, “Alright, cousin. You may stand”. He walked to his desk and signed the order that Lohadek had brought him months ago to allow the Imperial Procuratorate to proceed with the treason trial against Prince Kujil".

Prince Lohadek took the order, “You will not regret this, my sovereign. May your reign be long, and your light shine over us all”.

Lohadek left Thumim. He instructed his secretary to get the trial moving quickly; he wanted Kujil dead by the end of the week so he could bury his failure, closing this chapter as soon as possible.

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Freedom International vs The Oan Isles Trial
Andel, Axdel
17 April 2024

Itahana o te Kuanuka, known simply by his first name, was a well-known advocate (or barrister) from the Oan Isles who through an enviable ability to absorb and remember the law and track record in Auroran law had led Freedom International’s chairperson Rutger Nolan to approach him.

He had never imagined that he’d be presenting cases against the government of his home country before the highest court in Aurora. Yet as Rutger handed him the contract governing their relationship and officially appointed him as their Chief Counsel on a landmark case over a year ago, the reality of his role dawned on him. He spent 2023 preparing a case against the Oan government and working with an international team of attorneys (solicitors).

Today, he stood in the glass and concrete building in Andel that served as the seat of the Auroran Court of Justice. Wearing his black robe and a business suit, he presented his open arguments to the pretrial application which was presided over by a single judge. Embarrassed and surprised by the case that Freedom International requested, the Oan government had been court flat-footed and scrambling to prevent this case from getting to trial.

Fortunately, for Itahana, he didn’t have to prove the merits of the case, just that the trial was worth looking into.

So he began: “Your Worship, per article G point 13 of the Charter of the UNAC, we have lawfully submitted our complaint to the Office of the Court Sheriff who has approved it. We have under Article B point 2 the right to a fair trial before a court of law and are thus entitled to approach the Auroran Court of Justice where we feel our government has not adequately protected our interests as citizens of the UNAC”.

He continued, “In keeping with the Standing Orders of the ACJ, we sought remedies through the judicial system of the Oan Isles according to its laws but we are not satisfied that our rights have been protected. Please find the case numbers in the docket”.

“We bring this matter to the court because we believe that the government of the Pan Isles has violated Articles B point 2, point 7 and point 10 which are the rights to a fair trial, protection from cruel and unusual punishment, and to life. These rights could be violated by the Extradition Treaty of the Oan Isles and Packilvania which was naturalised into Oan law by the Packilvanian Extradition Act”.

“This law allows Oan citizens to be sent to Packilvania for trial and for their sentences to be carried out in that country for certain charges such as treason and murder. This subjects our citizens to potential abuse of their rights for the reason in the application enclosed herewith. So, we approach the court to strike down the treaty which it has the right to do in terms of Article G point 34”.


Freedom International vs The Oan Isles Pre-Trial (Oan government response)
17 April 2024
Andel, Axdel

Although the Oan government did not have long to prepare their response, they enlisted barrister Titamua ko Taiwhatiha as Chief Counsel and a team of attorneys from the best universities and law firms in the Oan Isles. Titamua got his silks several years ago and was accustomed to legal jousts in the Oan Supreme Court and the ACJ.

He had a habit of fixing his wig before presenting his arguments even when his wig did not need to be fixed. It was how he quietly announced his entrance. After Itahana presented his opening argument, the judge asked Titamua to stand.

He said, “Your Worship, is the respected opposing counsel presenting his party’s complaints to the Oan and Pan governments? I suspect the Pan Isles are not a member state of this court. Insofar as the matters concerning the Oan Isles, we see the following”.

He fixed his wig again and stated, “We agree with the complainant that the Sultanate of Packilvania is notoriously corrupt, inept and illiberal, known for imposing inhumane treatment onto its citizens and those of other nations. Before this treaty, our citizens were exposed to the caprice of its judicial and criminal justice system. This treaty aims to protect the rights of our citizens as much as possible. We admit that the treaty is imperfect. Our government is trying to improve the treaty’s conditions through negotiations with the Packilvanian regime. However, it is the best protection that they have”.

“Forcing the Oan crown to rescind the treaty and renegotiate with the Sultan of Packilvania as the complainant suggests will expose our citizens to danger and we will be perceived as an unreliable global partner. Thus, we believe it is not in the interest of justice or sapient rights of our citizens to renege on our obligations”.

“In conclusion, we ask this august court to dismiss this matter with costs”.


Freedom International vs the Oan Isles (pretrial judge’s response)
17 April 2024
Andel, Axdel

The judge responded, “Thank you, gentlemen. I will review your arguments and submissions and come to you with a decision on the 22nd of April, 2024”. The session ended and Itahana and Titamua left the court with their respective teams.

Conversation between Lohadek and the Imperial Procurator
18 April 2024
Bingol, Packilvania

On 16 April, Prince Lohadek’s secretary submitted the Sultan’s order to resume the trial process for Prince Kujil to the Bingol Imperial Procuratorate. The secretary added that Prince Lohadek wanted the case to be completed by the end of the week.

The Imperial Procuratorate wrote back on the 18th, that since the Sultan’s order does not explicitly prescribe a time scale, it will decide the appropriate time and date to present the case. It added that it needs time to review the evidence and schedule a date with the court which may take longer than he wanted. Worst of all, they stated that it was executive overreach for the Minister of State Security to prescribe how the Imperial Procuratorate should perform its functions and that if he attempted to pressure them any further, they would take legal action against him.

When Prince Lohadek received this information, he was seething. He remained fairly well-composed but it was obvious that he was angry and offended.

“Sir, shall I bring you water”, Yareel, his secretary, asked him.

“Thank you, Yareel. I appreciate that, but no”, Lohadek replied, “Please get the Director of the Bingol Imperial Procuratorate”.

“Yes, sir”, Yareel replied.

After the phone rang for a few seconds, the voice of Director Thurkhad Furdahan came from the speaker, “Ashamiliya, Your Imperial Highness”.

Ashamiliya, Director”, Prince Lohadek replied, “I received a response from your office that the case may not be presented and completed by the end of the week as I have asked you. Why is this?”

“Sir, firstly, there are practical limitations as we have cited, but the fact is that the independence of the Imperial Procuratorate is protected by the Constitution which explicitly states that unlawful interference with its work is illegal”, Thurkhad said calmly, “We warned you in the letter that we will not accept undue pressure from the executive branch”.

Prince Lohadek replied, “You are civil servants and employed by this government. I command you to start the case now! I am your superior and in terms of the law, I have the power to have cases brought of significant national security”.

Thurkhad replied, “That may be true, but firstly the order came from the Sultan and not you. Secondly, you have no authority to prescribe how and when we do our work. You have violated the law by asking me this question, and I am now forced to confer with my team about how we proceed”.

Before Prince Lohadek could continue, Thurkhad interjected, “That’s enough, Minister! This conversation is over. Ashamiliya”.

The call ended, and another fight was about to ensue.

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Challenging the Executive Branch
19 April 2024
Bingol, Packilvania

One thing that Thurkad knew about the executive branch was that a single red flag was enough. When his call with Lohadek ended, he rang the National Director of the Imperial Procuratorate to inform him of what Prince Lohadek asked him to do.

The National Director, Likhyam Najdim was not unfamiliar with the executive branch’s attempts to interfere in their work. He had worked for years to stave off their intrusion. He found himself purging and even arresting procurators. Some were friends and years-long colleagues. However, flaws could not be accepted if the Imperial Procuratorate is to function properly and bring justice to an otherwise unjust society.

Several minutes after Thurkad’s report, he issued a memorandum to all the employees. He instructed that all communications with the Department of State Security were to first go through the Office of the Director at each level of the organisation. He then stated that procurators were not allowed to go alone when meeting State Security agents.

He then issued a formal complaint against Prince Lohadek to Sultan Thumim citing the call to Provincial Director Thurkhad, and he opened a case against the Department of State Security in the Bingol High Court.

Within two hours, the Imperial Procuratorate closed ranks and kicked up a dust storm of proportions that Prince Lohadek could not have imagined. He got a call from the Sultan’s office demanding he attend an emergency meeting of the Cabinet.

“Prince Lohadek!” Thumim yelled sitting at the head of a table surrounded by the rest of the Council of Ministers, “Explain yourself!”

“Sir”, Lohadek said. He was taken aback but Thumim’s tone and expression. He seemed properly angry not just his usual sternness. “I was simply urging that the Director treat this matter as urgent and important given it is a matter of national priority as it involves our beloved Sultan”.

“I will say this once”, Thumim said, “Unlawful interference in the work of the Imperial Procuratorate is forbidden! This entire debacle is a public embarrassment! This is your first and final warning Prince Lohadek! That is all, you are all dismissed”.

And so the ministers got up and mumbled “Ashamiliya” as they made their way out.


Preparing the Case Against Prince Kujil
Bingol, Packilvania
21 April 2024

The procurator in charge of Prince Kujil’s case was Jarneem Iltamin. Born in Qadash Kebir to a working-class family, he acquired a Bachelor of Laws at the University of Qadash Kebir. Having formed a relationship with Procurator Mukhtan Alduwab, he became his apprentice. After a failed first attempt, he passed his procuratorial exam and became a procurator in 1996. Known to be competent and ethical, he was surprisingly lighthearted for a procurator. Although notorious for staying later than most, he was a loving husband and father.

With a case as important as the attempted assassination of the Sultan of Packilvania, he was appointed as the Lead Procurator, helming a dedicated task force of procurators and apprentices. When the team was formed, he was placed in the Office of the National Director, reporting directly to Likhyam Najdim.

Given abundant resources, his team collected samples, gathered and questioned witnesses, reviewed hours of footage, checked travel logs, and examined documents. All paths lead to Prince Kujil, the former Governor of Kemer. Kujil hired Ismos, a former intelligence and army officer turned private contractor, who assembled a team of four assassins. He procured a bomb and acquired the procession schedule and route for Sultan Thumim V during the United Malordian president’s state visit. The victim of Sultan Thumim’s anti-corruption purges, he had a motive.

But the case had a gaping hole. Jasper Ray was a politician from a small Auroran country who helped him plan and organise the conspiracy. The State Security Agency detained and interrogated them without procuratorial involvement and presented a signed statement where Jasper claimed to be radicalised by Prince Kujil on visits to the Free Pax States, using them their political opposition to totalitarianism and queerphobia, values that Sultan Thumim V espoused. The Imperial Procuratorate tried to interrogate them themselves or via law enforcement, but the SSA was unmoving—their attempts to get court orders to force the SSA to comply failed. They had to be satisfied with a dubious statement and present it to the judge as fact.

As a procurator, his job was to present cases to the courts, not to interpret the facts or make recommendations on national security. Nevertheless, it was obvious that the SSA was hiding something and it would be remiss of him to let it slide. Much to Prince Lohadek’s chagrin, Jarneem was going to appeal to the Supreme Court to grant the court order to allow the Imperial Procuratorate to question Jasper.

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Appeal to the Supreme Court of Justice of Packilvania
15 May 2024

Appealing to the Supreme Court was a doubled edged sword. As the highest court in the country, its decisions could not be appealed and its word was binding and final on all other bodies of the government. If the appeal was successful, Jarneem Iltamin would be able to force the State Security Agency to surrender Jasper Ray to his custody for questioning. If it failed, the powers of the Imperial Procuratorate and the Judiciary to force the SSA to give them physical access to witnesses would be significantly circumscribed.

The Supreme Court was nominally independent but because it was formally appointed by the Sultan, it was difficult to gauge the extent to which he had influence over its decisions. It was unclear whether the Sultan had a vested interest in the case, thus Iltamin was not sure if any undue influence would be exerted on the court. Under the previous Chief Justice, Prince Radeeq, the Supreme Court had resisted the old Sultan Namdun III, however the incumbent Chief Justice Farmahad Wasoon had been instrumental in preventing Prince Elam and the government of Mekedesh from opposing the reigning Sultan’s wedding and coronation and could be construed as his ally. Despite Packilvania’s reputation abroad, justice did exist to some extent and it was not always obvious which way the court would decide. Thus, as far as Iltamin was concerned, this case was worth pursuing.

After three to four weeks of preparation he stood before the assembled bench of the Supreme Court which had declined to receive the appeal on an urgent basis when he originally came to them on 24 April 2024. Nevertheless, they issued an interim order for the SSA to (a) provide proof of life and (b) to keep Jasper Ray at his current known location.

“Esteemed Chief Justice and Justices of the Supreme Court, the matter before you affects the ability of the judicial branch to stave off the excesses of the executive branch, and to uphold the distribution of power between the branches as envisaged by the Consistution”, Iltamin said, as he began his opening argument, “As the inquisitorial arm of the Judicial branch, the Imperial Procuratorate must be able to demand that the executive branch be compelled to give not only access to but full custody of witnesses. In this matter, the executive branch is represented by the Department of State Security, the respondent to this case”.

“The respondent has invoked the Protection of State Secrets Act to prevent the Imperial Procuratorate from having custody over the witness in the case concerning Prince Kujil, Jasper Ray. We believe that sections of the heretofore mentioned statute must be considered unconstitutional. As an intelligence agency, statements extracted by the SSA do not have the same binding force as statements presented by the law enforcement agencies as contemplated by the State Security Act and the Policing Act”. Drinking a sip from his glass of water, he continued.

“Secondly, it would be a violation of Prince Kujil’s right to a fair trial as a citizen, if the Imperial Procuratorate did not have access to all the information and resources required to administer a fair and just prosecution of his case. As such, we need a binding statement from the witness which only a qualified law enforcement body can take so that the Imperial Procuratorate can present it as valid evidence. Statements from the SSA are meant as intelligence for the executive branch not as witness testimony for judicial matters as was determined in the case the Irkhad v the Director of Imperial Prosecutions in 2006”.

“Furthermore, the Imperial Procuratorate requires ready access to the witness so that over and above his written statement, he can be cross examined by a judge in a court of law, bound by oath, to extract further insight from an enforceable testimony. We therefore request that the court, (a) overturn the decision of the Bingol High Court allowing the State Security Agency to keep Jasper Ray in its custody, and (b) to strike the provisions of the State Secrets Act allowing the executive branch to keep witnesses from the judiciary under the guise of state security”.

Chief Justice, Farmahad Wasoon, presiding over the case, replied, “Thank you, Procurator Iltamin. I grant the floor to the Senior Counsel for the Department of State Security, Abimelek Mustikhar”.

(Written with Oan)

Als Kholynger, Mekedesh Province
May 2024

There is a thunder in the east.

The sound of hooves pounding against the hard-packed earth echo through the stillness of the Packilvanian countryside, a rhythmic, thunderous beat that matched Saga’s own heart. Altansalkhi’s powerful legs stretched out with each stride, devouring the earth beneath her. Wind and dust whip back against Saga’s face as she leans forward, blurring the world into a mosaic of colours - trees and bushes rushing past, their green leaves clashing against the golden haze that arose in their wake.

Up ahead, a lone figure waves, and Saga gently shifts her weight to ease the horse back, gradually slowing their pace. The gallop turns to a canter, then a trot, and finally a walk. Altansalkhi’s sides heave with exertion, her breath coming in steady, powerful gusts. Saga grins and coughs, before reaching down and patting the beast’s neck.

”Amarkhan, khatagtai mini. Amarkhan,” she murmurs soothingly.

The sun hangs low in the sky now, casting long shadows and flashing off the Älemsi Golden’s metallic coat. Its warmth was broken only by a cool breeze that rustles the leaves of the surrounding trees. Saga takes a deep breath, and tastes the scent of pine and earth, now mixed with the faint tang of sweat and leather.

“You are slouching too much,” Jochi rumbles. The towering Burimi man walks up the path to her.

“I am,” Saga chuckles in agreement, “Because I am old.” Gravel crunches under her boots as she dismounts, and stretches her arms with a groan. “I will admit, I am feeling a little cheated. Everyone said age would bring wisdom.”

It had taken no small amount of persuasion to convince her old aide to join her out here, at the far side of the globe. Persuasion and compensation. But Jochi was worth every word, and every Krona. There were good, reliable people at the Sultana’s Palace. But she needed one of her own, one she had relied on for years. And here, at Als Kholynger, a place of her own as well.

The estate had once belonged to Prince Elam of Mekedesh. The former Prince Elam of Mekedesh, that was. Saga found it difficult to hate someone she had never met, but the old prince would forever be an exception. There had been a special sort of helplessness in reading the daily updates of the energy crisis and Elam’s quiet rebellion against her husband, all while she was half a world away in Tynam. And nothing stuck in the craw quite like helplessness.

With the Prince’s arrest, the estate - a modest Staynish-style townhouse with acres of rolling hills and fields nestled just off the map in the hinterlands between Bingol and Kin - had fallen into government hands. From there, it had been bought at pennies on the dollar by an Ellesborg-based Limited Liability Company, and the rest… well, that was the last anyone needed to hear about the place.

Everyone needed a place to keep their secrets, and their joys. Once, she’d had Symningborg, a cold castle on a hill to keep her confidence. Now she had Als Kholynger, when she wished to fade from the public eye, or the scrutinies of the Sultana’s Palace.

Just for a little moment.

Saga runs her gloved fingers through her hair, and waves her waiting equestrian over to see to her horse.

“The Sultan will arrive in a few minutes,” Jochi says in that bland, matter-of-fact voice of his, “For dinner. I meant to remind you ahead of time, but I do not think you heard me.”

Saga sighs, and squints at the sky. “Yes,” she mutters, “I lost track of time.” Saga swats dust off herself, “Give me a moment, I will be there to greet him.”

In one sense, it was a matter of practicality alone that she had asked her husband to join her for dinner here, rather than at the Sultana’s Palace. The Sultan was in the midst of shuttling between Derengol and Yukader, to personally commemorate the opening of the new high speed rail line. Bingol was just as much in his way as here, it was true, but as Saga had learned from experience by now, moving a motorcade from the airport to the Sultana’s Palace through the city’s sprawling urban mass was always a lengthy affair in its own right. The old Prince Elam had chosen this location well, for the purpose of travel.

But past that… what was a marriage, if not a sharing of secrets and joys? Saga took no guests at Als Kholynger, and her husband made no inquiry of the place. But she would have him here, on this opportunity. She had at last outfitted the place to her liking, and it was as much his home as hers - And as much her home as the Sultana’s Palace.

Saga exhales, and casts one last look around the golden hillsides, and the sun setting the horizon alight. Finally, she begins to trudge the rest of the way back to the townhouse.

There was something important to discuss tonight as well.

“As refuges for respite go, I imagine that this estate is remarkably effective at replenishing one’s spirit, for you seem more radiant than you have in some time, habibi”, Thumim said, before he kissed his wife.

He drew her close to him, clasping her around the waist with his right hand while holding the back of her head with his left as she lay it against his chest. Without the burning gaze of courtiers, affection could be generously and liberally displayed. He kissed her again, their bodies exchanging warmth and scents, cultivating the bond that holds marriages together.

They eased into the evening, delighting in updates about each other’s activities. Thumim spoke with wonder and excitement about the mechanics of trains and the elaborate machinations that enabled them to function, and the deep wisdom and intelligence of the engineers who had orchestrated the construction of the whole thing. He was warmed by Saga’s anecdotes about her horse and her seemingly burgeoning career as a middle-aged jockey. As their conversations tended to do, weightier matters had to be discussed.

“I’ve begun to narrow the candidates for the Home Department”, Thumim said, “And in choosing that person, Prince Luwadeen has rightfully pointed out that there are constituencies whose rising significance necessarily mean that we must consider candidates outside of the Imperial Dynasty. Notwithstanding that we want ministers with skills that portray our government as competent, we must balance the groups that move around us. With Dhakar’s appointment for Justice Minister, the law enforcement and judicial constituencies ought to be satiated”.

He continued, “But the Home Department is notoriously difficult to extract performance from. It has a sprawling, deeply entrenched and change-resistant bureaucracy. But it is costing the government money and its inefficiencies are making it difficult to implement digital transformation and modernisation. As the Chairperson of the Civil Service Commission, Prince Luwadeen believes that we need someone with some currency in the bureaucracy, but with some record of digital transformation. So I need your advice, my juniper”.

Saga silently selects her words for a moment.

“I have every respect for Prince Luwadeen,” she says. That was the truth. She found the Prime Minister to be an intelligent and driven man, of the sort that every government needed, and every ruler watched carefully.

“But I think we see very different worlds,” Saga goes on, “Perhaps it is because I am unaccustomed to yours. But I know the Home Ministry. Every nation has one. Oh, not under the same name, not with the same portfolio, but it is there - The bureaucracy that reaches into every home unseen and unheard from. Ask any citizen of any country about their nation’s cabinet, and they will speak of the Foreign Minister, the Justice Minister, perhaps the Defense Minister. Nobody will speak of the census bureau, whose numbers draw the electoral lines and distribute the budget. Here, our Home Ministry does that atop overseeing every local government in Packilvania. It implements every policy around marriage and inheritance and the nobility. It follows us from birth to death in ways that the Department of State Security never can.”

“The Prince sees a records office. An old library filled with birth certificates and marriage licences in need of modernization. Now, I think we can find someone who will meet that criteria,” Saga clasps her hands on the table, “And there are more factions to appease than there are positions to dole out. But we should not forget that we too - the Imperial Dynasty - are a constituency.”

Saga pauses, to regard the Sultan with a grave look, "I will never forget the week of our wedding. Not the spectre of rebellion Prince Elam raised. Not the hope that all we build might be built for a child of our own. Someday. So, with provinces and inheritances in my thoughts, this is what I see in the Home Ministry, dear husband - I see the levers that can move the world, if pulled by a subtle and clever hand.”

“I find none more clever and subtle than Princess Yadika,” she concludes, “Her administration and modernizations of the Ministry of Natural Resources will speak well to Prince Luwadeen’s requirements. I do not need to tell you that she is capable, nor that she will be more reliable than any alternative. And an open position at the Natural Resources Ministry can in turn be used to reward someone in the business community… preferably the energy sector.”

“And, I will admit,” Saga adds with a faint smile, “I have grown quite fond of your sister. I think she has her own aspirations which will carry her far, and I think she should have this, if she chooses to accept it.”

“Hmm”, Thumim said as he milled, tossed and sifted through her suggestion in his mind.

Princess Yadika had proven a formidable and capable political ally, who had come to occupy a prominent and important place in his inner circle. As far as candidates went, she certainly had his trust. Despite initial rumblings within the family about elevating women in general too highly, she spoke with a voice that was beloved and not unfamiliar to the Princes of the Realm, no matter where they lay on the spectrum of bigotry and misogyny.

“My juniper, you certainly give me pause. There are levers available to satisfy the competing constituencies while still ensuring competent and loyal people are placed in appropriate areas of the government”, Thumim said.

He asked, “If it were that We should appoint Princess Yadika, whom would you have in mind for the Natural Resources department? There is of course the option of selecting the muSharif of a state-owned corporation or a state agency. I am reluctant to bring in someone from outside of the state since the civil service might see the appointment of muMamlukumnelea Yadika as a snub and resist her, and might want compensation in another luBawaab. Although the tides of retirement may be within view and perhaps even reach for many members of the Council of Ministers, at present there are no other potential vacancies but those in the Natural Resource or Home Departments to satisfy that need.”

“I think the Princess should have the first voice in her replacement,” Saga says simply, “Nobody is better suited to understand the requirements of the position. But since you have asked me, I will suggest the current Chief Executive Officer of the Development Bank. Rava Maktarim, that is. I will admit to some bias here,” she adds wryly, “I am passingly familiar with the man. He came to Tynam fairly often once, to oversee an investment in the Tansu nickel mines, though it was many years ago…”

Five years ago, by Saga’s estimation, though now it may as well have been a lifetime past. But she remembered Maktarim alright - A competent, stolid man with all the personality of a lobotomite. A perfect bureaucrat.

“But he is well connected with both the civil service and the private sector,” Saga concludes, “And experienced in the relevant industries. He would be a competence hire, entirely unconnected from the Imperial Dynasty. I think, if he is inclined to take the position, we could certainly do worse…”