Chapter 14

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Chapter 14

  1. 1. The Lords of the Isle:Lordship and Dominion<br />
  2. 2. Hey, hey, and welcome to Chapter 14 of The Lord of the Isle, where we mostly follow the adventures of a family which may (or may not) save a foundering Isla from sure ruin. <br />At the same time, however, our chronicles deal also with the Isla itself, and of the myriad races that populate it. These races include the sea-faring Labouisie, the oriental-esqueXianxi, the medieval King’s Men, the Arkyari gypsies, and the lost Elves.<br />Boy, what a bunch.<br />
  3. 3. As the avid Isla historian knows, all these differences inevitably cause friction between the many factions and tribes, and all the land – from the fertile rice fields of Xian’an to the great sprawling city of Meridia and to the busy Labouisie docks and harbors – was rife with strife and hardship and danger. <br />Yet one only has to look a little further back in the annals to realize that things need not to be so.<br />
  4. 4. For long ago, in an era that is now forgotten, the lords of the different tribes were gathered in council to divide the Isla among themselves. For it was the time when the multiplying races of Men were still able to settle their differences with one another, and the land was bountiful.<br />However, it was also the time when the strength and number of the Elves began to wane. The Elf-King realized that the age of the Elder Kind was over, and that suzerainty over the Isla now had to pass on to Men. And so, according to his wish, the Treaty of Elfinar was made.<br />
  5. 5. The chief of the Labouisie, an enterprising and versatile pirate, was given the stretch of coastal land in the east: the East March, the White Avenue, and the district of Serena. In these places the Sea-going folk built their busy ports and beautiful manors and launched their many sturdy galleons.<br />
  6. 6. To the shogun of the Xianxi, proud and stern, was conferred the rule of the wide rice fields of the northwest, upon which the Greater City of Xian’an with its high red pagodas were built. Around it grew the small but clean towns of Lesser Xian’an, Lu Xiang, and Lin, as well as the shogun’s Jade Palace and the fortress of the Iron Pagoda.<br />
  7. 7. And to the joint rule of the King’s Men and the Gypsies, the most populous peoples of the Isla and hardy folk, was bestowed the rolling hills and grasslands stretching from the mountainous border of the elder city of Elfinar in the west all the way until the eastern coast, where the Sea-folk launched their ships. The King’s Men built many towers and cities, especially the Castles of the Sun and the Moon upon the Royal Heights and the stronghold of Kingsfort upon its eastern watches. And there was peace between them and the Arkyari Gypsies for another three hundred years, as the treaty indicated.<br />
  8. 8. Pleased with the concord between the races of Men, the Elf-King and his people retreated into their final haven, the ancient city of Elfinar by the Sea, in the southwest of the Isla, with its beautiful white spires and graceful towers. And while the Elf-King maintained his nominal rule of the entire Isla (a rule that, many say, still stands until this very day), the Elves no longer crossed the borders of their fair sanctuary. <br />
  9. 9. So order came into the land, and for three hundred years the Treaty of Elfinar brought about the First Age of Peace. At the heart of the Isla the new city of Meridia was founded as the new capital of a united confederacy, and like the Isla itself, it was divided into four equal sectors, and everyone, King’s Man, Arkyari, Xianxi, Labouisie, and Elf, was glad.<br />For the four dominions were meant to be just that: four.<br />
  10. 10. But with peace comes prosperity, and with the height of prosperity comes the height of greed. <br />After three hundred years a single man desired to extend his power and make himself the single lord of a single nation. King Solerion V, the last of the Heliopatri rulers, married the Elf-King’s daughter and, through her, asserted his unwelcome claim to rule the entire Isla. <br />
  11. 11. Grasping and unfeeling, the new king levied huge taxes and assembled vast armies to secure his power. The Arkyari, seeing the gathering dark storm, spoke openly against the his policies – and King Solerion dealt a heavy blow upon them. Against the provisions of the ancient Treaty he persecuted the gypsies and drove them into hiding. Hence began the distrust and the alienation between the King’s Men and the Arkyari, which stands even unto this day.<br />
  12. 12. The Heliopatri’s actions alerted the Xianxi and the Labouisie, who from then on dealt no more with the King’s Men. The land of Xian’an barred its gates against the other tribes as its people escaped from the King’s power and sought refuge behind their high red walls. At the same time the Sea-folk opened the ports to folk from the Farther Shores, believing that the newcomers would aid their rebellion against the King’s Men.<br />Troops were raised, sails were unfurled, shots were fired, and families were torn asunder. The Age of Peace was ended.<br />
  13. 13. The Elder Kind was already too reduced in strength and number to change the tides. Seeing that there was nothing they could do, the greater part of the remaining Elves finally forsook their city of Elfinar, fled to their ports, and journeyed towards their long home beyond the Sea, never again to be seen.<br />The Isla was left to its fate, left to fall into decay and ruin and the fires of despots. Men allowed this to happen. Their petty differences and their blind thirst for power brought about their own demise. And now the peoples of Men stood alone, soon to be engulfed by the wave of chaos, and all would perish.<br />Or so it seemed.<br />
  14. 14. For in a final desperate effort, the remnants of the faithful King’s Men, led by the patriarch of the thrice-renowned Mercator Family, rose in an uprising against the terror of King Solerion. A great host of bright banners and glinting swords rode against the royal stronghold of Kingsfort and did battle with the King’s Army.<br />
  15. 15. It was a terrible battle, but in the end the might of the righteous proved the stronger. The evil designs of King Solerion were dashed to the ground along with his life, and the Heliopatri monarchy was abolished. From the fires of the fallen old kingdom the Count Mercator re-established the rule of justice and order, and for a long time it seemed that hope had returned to the Isla and beauty and prosperity would come again.<br />
  16. 16. Yet victory had been achieved at so great a cost. The legions of the Isla’s dead stand forever as testimony of the trials and tribulations, the deaths and the hardships, and the long night that the many peoples of the land had to endure to restore peace. If only the people would not forget.<br />But people have forgotten the bitter lesson of history. And now, once again, that hard-fought peace is put into the test.<br />
  17. 17. Once again, one man’s lust for power threatens to plunge all into darkness.<br />
  18. 18. * * *<br />
  19. 19. “You called for me, Husband?” Mistress Hakono, Lady of Xian’an, dutifully asked her spouse, the Shogun, who had summoned for her.<br />“My son...” the Shogun’s voice came in a heavy wheeze, “Prince... Hongsun...?”<br />“Our son is well, Husband,” the Mistress answered his unfinished question. “He is nearly finished with his studies. And he is a sensible man.”<br />
  20. 20. “Good... good... very goo—” the Shogun’s reply was cut short by a violent cough, and his chest tightened extremely that then and there he thought of dying.<br />As soon as he stopped, Mistress Hakono inquired, “Husband?”<br />“I fear... my time... soon over, Wife,” he groaned before his coughing fit resumed.<br />
  21. 21. “I... sick... some time... now.” the Shogun laboriously went on.“Will never... never... never see... kingdom... my kingdom.<br />Prince... the Prince...” the Shogun coughed again. It took him a full minute before he was able to continue. “He must... go on... one kingdom... one—”<br />
  22. 22. “No more talk of this, Husband,” the Mistress said, helping the Shogun to his sickbed. “You must not let your anxieties weaken you. All is well.”<br />
  23. 23. “Our invincible army marches victorious all throughout the land. Only yestereve the City of Meridia fell under our banner. The Mayor of Serena is our ally – the district is as good as ours. In the next week the King’s land will all be ours.<br />
  24. 24. “Opposition is feeble,” the Lady of Xian’an continued even as she stroked her husband’s silver hair. “The King’s Men are disunited. They have no real ruler. The Labouisie, too, are frail. Their old leader has departed, and his heir is still inexperienced. In a month our men shall reach the eastern coasts.<br />The entire Isla will soon be yours to rule, Husband.”<br />
  25. 25. The Shogun smiled. “I... thank you... Wife.”<br />“You are welcome.” And, with a similar smile, Mistress Hakono added, “your Majesty.”<br />
  26. 26. * * *<br />
  27. 27. “I hardly think this is a good idea, Artie.”<br />“Of course it is not, Robbie. If we have a choice, I would personally settle for diplomacy. But the Red Army seems not to consider this as an option.”<br />“Well, what does brother Roland think of this?”<br />
  28. 28. “Well, launching five hundred burning ships against the enemy heartland is certainly not feasible either, Robbie,” Roland said, laughing. Arthur noticed that his twin’s mood had improved dramatically. At the least Roland was no longer unbearably dour. “Even if we do have the resources, Xian’an is a landlocked city. So fire ships are out of the question.”<br />Robert shrugged coolly. “I only gave my suggestion.”<br />
  29. 29. “But we must act at once, in any case,” Arthur stressed, cutting his brothers’ quips short. “I mean, true, Robbie, you still have yet to graduate, and Roland – well, you have businesses of your own, as you so mysteriously told me. However, you may yet contribute to our plans. With each passing day the Shogun triumphs. We must not let that happen.”<br />“True, true,” the two agreed in unison. “But what can we do?”<br />
  30. 30. “What can we do, indeed,” Arthur repeated. “Yes. Individually we can do little. And yet think of this, brothers: what if each single individual in the Isla were to think as we do, then nothing much would be achieved. But... suppose we turn things the other way... in concert...”<br />His siblings were already ahead of him. “Someone has to lead. And...well, you do have the Elf-King’s sword.”<br />“And ‘Whosoever hath the sword...’ Well, that, and you are quite popular, too.” <br />
  31. 31. “No, no. Bad idea,” Arthur quickly dismissed the notion. “To lead as Heir I can do, but... you could not possibly think—”<br />“Why not, Artie?” Roland’s voice was quiet, but firm. “Reconsider. The Isla had never been right without a—”<br />“Your brother has a point, Arthur,” came Jasmin’s calm, cool voice. “By all intents and purposes you have been groomed not just to be Heir, but to be—”<br />
  32. 32. “But—”<br />“No, Arthur. You cannot turn away from this. I would say it is your destiny, but it is your choice, in truth. And I do hope you choose the right path in this one. Moreover, where did all your talk of ‘getting out of hiding’ go? ”<br />“Yes, yes, step up and all. But this is another matter – for one, it is rather prolonged and—”<br />
  33. 33. “You fear repeating history? But you know full well the divide between good and evil, Arthur,” Jasmin stated. “You know better than to cross the line.<br />I place my trust in you.<br />We all do.”<br />
  34. 34. “I... well...” Arthur stammered. “I always thought that being Heir... but never... never this.”<br />“Eh. We pretty much rather thought things would go this way, actually,” Roland commented.<br />“I shirked from calling it destiny. But I have no qualms in saying this is your duty.”<br />The Heir sighed.“Fine. I shall... consider.”<br />
  35. 35. “But it is a whole new level from the Heirship. I would have to drag you into this, too,” Arthur went on to tell Jasmin even as they clasped hands.<br />“It is the price I have to pay,” she answered with a playful sigh. “But our paths diverge for a little while. There are some... people... whom I want to speak with first.”<br />“You do that.”<br />
  36. 36. * * *<br />
  37. 37. “Well, any reports?” the uniformed soldier roughly inquired of the ninja.<br />“None. The path to victory is clear,” the other replied. “We will be storming the coasts in a week, at this rate.”<br />“Storm? We? You jest,” the soldier scoffed. “You ninjas always leave us to do the hard work. But no matter. The Shogun will be pleased.”<br />
  38. 38. “The Xianxi are not a particularly friendly people, are they, Papa?” Jeanne remarked.<br />
  39. 39. “As a matter of fact, they are not,” Damian replied.<br />“And not particularly smart, either.”<br />“Oh, I do not know about that,” the old man said, smiling a little as he leaned his still limber body onto their rock-cover. “But I daresay we have them in our net this time.” <br />
  40. 40. “So, this would be the part where we get to kick some evil arse, right?”<br />“Alright, alright,” Damian agreed with a nod. And then, in an obvious attempt to make it sound like an afterthought, he added, “I am very proud of you, daughter.”<br />“Why, thank you, Pa,” Jeanne nonchalantly answered. But her wide smile said it all.<br />
  41. 41. “But really, we tarry, Jeannie. We ought to get a move on.”<br />“Aie, ‘tis true. After you, old man.”<br />
  42. 42. Two well-aimed shots sped through the air, felling two of the invader’s vanguard. Seeing their comrades struck dead, confusion spread through the ranks.<br />“Halt!” the general cried, pulling his steed into a stop. At his loud command the Xianxi host reorganized, rallying together to their leader. “Ambush!”<br />
  43. 43. “It is one of those damned rangers!” one of the soldiers spat. “They have been active in the forests for the past weeks!”<br />“Are you cowing down?” snarled the general, leaping down to the ground as he scolded his men. “Are you not proud men and Xianxi? Scour the area! Make ready for battle!”<br />Another shot found its mark; another of the footmen fell, struck in the chest.<br />
  44. 44. “There they are!” howled the general, pointing towards the source of the last missile. “Charge!”<br />
  45. 45. * * *<br />
  46. 46. The ancient Elfin city of Elfinar, so all the tomes of lore agree, is a deserted ruin. Once splendid and populous, famed for its white towers, well-tended gardens, cool fountains, and graceful monuments, all that remains now is a shadow of its old self. The pillars were broken, the towers were shaken, and pavement had given way to wild flowers.<br />
  47. 47. Silence now haunts the ancient avenues, once tree-lined and filled with little pattering feet and gay elfin laughter. The untended trees now grow wild, hanging ominously over the highways, creating many distorted shadows at night that even Jasmin would not have dared to venture into the City after the sun has set.<br />
  48. 48. The houses are in a most dismal state, too. Long abandoned by their inhabitants, the Elfin abodes have already fallen apart. Even though these dwellings still retain a glimmer of their ancient dignity, the traces of loneliness have taken hold of them, too, and only the stray birds and smaller beasts live in them now.<br />
  49. 49. Such was the state of the entire city as Jasmin, heiress to the rule of Men and Elves, entered it: a dead, forlorn center of a civilization and an age long gone.<br />Or was it?<br />
  50. 50. For as Jasmin explored the span of the ancient city, she noticed certain peculiarities, peculiarities that, though initially easy to overlook, were in truth very telling hints. <br />In the old Court of Flowers, for instance, she noted that while the plants had, for a hundred or so years, been left to grow wild, there seemed not to be an offending weed or a tangle of thorns about. Also, the fountain was still in perfect order, and it was not filled with mildew nor cluttered with fallen leaves.<br />
  51. 51. At the center of the Court of the Hearth was an ember, the remnant of a campfire not less than three days old, judging by the glow of the cinders.<br />
  52. 52. There was also some cut wood nearby. Stacking these in an orderly manner, the White Gypsy lit a new fire, and the wood burned readily, making merry cracking noises. <br />The logs were perfectly dry, and served as excellent firewood.<br />
  53. 53. No, no. Had she not lived long enough, had she not seen enough, to not know that nothing is what it ever seems? <br />Her life with the Arkyari Gypsies were, after all, had taught her that they were not the mere charlatans and thieves her father, the last King, would have desired all to believe. Also, her long acquaintance with the Mercators told her that they were not the blustering, carefree, and innocent folk she once believed Damian to be.<br />
  54. 54. Indeed, upon further reflection, Jasmin acceded that even she was not what she seemed. Her long untied hair hid the telltale Elfin ears as much as her gypsy’s tattered garb concealed her royalty. But this image of a normal human Gypsy was not she, as Mother Trisha so wisely reminded her. And, come to think of it, there was something about the Mother of Gypsies that told Jasmin that the former was not what she seemed, too.<br />
  55. 55. But perhaps all these illusions were inevitable, she thought. Necessary even, perhaps, given these dark days. Hiding would mean keeping out of the violent cycle, and that means survival.<br />However, all this hiding... Arthur was right: hiding would never bring things forward. And she had been right: is it not one’s duty to step forward in crises? Rise to the occasion, as it were?<br />
  56. 56. And at last, the challenge came. “Who goes there?”<br />Princess Jasmin smiled at the apparition of the Elfin retinue. I knew it. “One who asks for your audience, O Ancient One,” she responded.<br />
  57. 57. Past the long silent avenues walked the last Elves of Efinar, remnants of a race that had long ago passed to the Farther Shores. Still led by the Elf-King, these secret folk, who had stayed behind even as their brethren departed, still guarded their own realm against enemies. Even after all the years they still hoped that the darkness would yet be lifted and the kingdom of the Elves restored to her former splendor. And so the old borders of Elfinar were watched by the Elfin soldiery, and the Elfin loremasters still kept the wisdom of the ages in their sanctums, though the other peoples knew these not. But in Elfinar the women and children were few.<br />
  58. 58. Therefore, Jasmin’s presence had quickly caught the notice of the unsleeping Elfin eyes, and her clear, even voice likewise amazed them. <br />But to the Elf-King one more element captured his interest. “That face,” he murmured to himself. “I know that face...”<br />
  59. 59. “Well played, Janessa, child.”<br />“Yea, verily. You shall make the best minstrel yet, sister!”<br />“Hush, Arienne. And I thank you, Papa.”<br />
  60. 60. “A man asks for your hand in marriage, child. You know of young Solerion in the Castle of the Sun, do you not?”<br />“...Yes, Father. I understand.”<br />“But you are yet far too young for this. If only we can do things otherwise.”<br />“I love you, too, Father.”<br />
  61. 61. “Oh, Jasmin, my love. Why do you not essay to learn one of the crafts? Swords and governments are the domain of men, not of us women. Come, now, you must learn to play the harpsichord, at the least.”<br />“But Mother, I do not desire this. And you have enough skill for the both of us.”<br />“What must I do with you, child?”<br />
  62. 62. “But must we run from our own home, Mother? We may yet fight – to the death!”<br />“Must you quarrel with me even now? Obey me for once, Jasmin!”<br />“But—”<br />“Just run!”<br />
  63. 63. “Fare thee well, child.”<br />
  64. 64. “You look... just like her...” the Elf-King slowly spoke, even as comprehension dawned upon him. “Pray tell me your name, child,” he requested.<br />Now, standing before the Elfin retinue in her full regalia, the lady replied, “I am the High Princess Jasmin, daughter of the Heliopatri and the Elves of Elfinar, by birth lady over Men and Elves, and I request the Elf-King’s audience.”<br />
  65. 65. “As well as a grandfather’s attention.”<br />“I.... I knew it...” the Elf-King said at last, even as he drew near smiling. “But I cannot believe it... are mine eyes deceiving me?” He reached out his hand to stroke that long-lost face, to see whether his daughter’s image in this vision of his granddaughter would dissolve and scatter like dust into thin air with his touch.<br />
  66. 66. But Jasmin did not fade.<br />“At long last,” the Elf-King whispered in contentment, even as he held his daughter’s daughter. “I welcome you at last, Granddaughter. I am glad.”<br />“As am I, Grandfather,” Jasmin responded. “However...”<br />
  67. 67. “...there are more pressing matters to address right now.”<br />The King of the Elves drew himself up at this. “Name these matters,” he said. The tone of authority rang still in his voice.<br />“The Isle is in dire straits, and the war with Xian’an is not going well. The Elves must help, Grandfather. They must march to the field once more.”<br />
  68. 68. However, the lord of Elfinar turned his back. “No. This matter is beyond the Elves,” he said quietly. “Control of destiny is no longer our hands, just as the Sword is no longer in mine. It has passed from me to your father when he wedded your mother, just as power had passed from Elves to Men.”<br />“But Grandfather,” Jasmin interjected. “Is it not the Elder Folk’s responsibility to watch over the Isle? It has been the Task set unto us ever since the beginning!”<br />
  69. 69. “Yes, yes!” the Elf-King exclaimed. “But what would you have us do, Jasmin, child?”<br />
  70. 70. “Our streets re already devoid of people,” the lord of the Elves continued. “The women and the children are few now, and our number wanes with each passing day, each passing skirmish. Throwing ourselves into battle will achieve nothing, child, unless if it were the demise of all our kind.”<br />
  71. 71. “Nay. Even now the Darkness grows stronger. War with Xian’an is only but the offspring of the greater problem, one that is already too late too mend. See! The wild things spread throughout the Isle, and all beauty and light choke against their tight clutches. It is not long before disorder and decay and ruin spread not only in Elfinar (which, of course, is already far fallen from the great City it was of old) but also throughout the Isle.”<br />
  72. 72. What can we Elves do about this?” the Elf-King concluded, not unkindly and yet hopelessly. “We are a dying race. Only Men can attempt to save all of us from utter destruction – that is, if they would set their differences aside and pursue the right path. And I assure you, Jasmin, that through all my years I have seen enough of Men to know that this would never be so.”<br />
  73. 73. “But you and I are part of this Isle, are we not?” the Princess declared. Looking towards the other Elves, she added, “Are we not?” <br />She continued, “And what if Men do fail? What then? Would not harm come upon us, too? For even if we hide and flee, we would be unable to do so forever. If we let Evil win here and now, what cause would it have to halt its advance even to our very ports and havens?”<br />
  74. 74. “From all the time I have spent among my Human kin and friends, I have come to learn that times come when we all must take a stand. Should we allow the tide of darkness crash upon us without even essaying to stem it? No – and now is as good a time as any to resist those who would wish to conquer and lord all over us.”<br />
  75. 75. “And Men are fighting a good fight, Grandfather. Even as we speak, battle is joined right outside your own borders. Who knows? Men may yet save the Isle from the dreaded ruin.”<br />
  76. 76. “But our friends cannot stand alone, Grandfather.<br />Would we let them fight through this night alone?”<br />
  77. 77. “Shoot.”<br />
  78. 78. “So it is you,” a stout voice rang as the general of the Xianxi rode forth, brandishing a long sword. “You and your confederate were the ones causing our soldiers great... inconveniences.”<br />“Yea, truly. And so?”<br />The horseman’s eyebrows shot up; his mouth twitched into an ugly shape. “And so?” he growled. “And so? Why, you silly girl! Have you any idea how angered the Great Leader was?”<br />
  79. 79. “And so,” the general repeated. “And so... you shall die. Terribly.”<br />Told you, Jeanne. Smart talk never did do anyone any good.<br />“Er... I will bear that in mind, but... any help would be nice right about now,” Jeanne whispered. Not even at the point of death would she allow the enemy to think she was unhinged and hearing voices no one was supposed to hear.<br />
  80. 80. “Let her go, men of Xian’an!” a voice cried out. <br />“And now that we speak of it, you may as well consider surrendering and falling back to your own lands,” he added.<br />
  81. 81. “Hahahaha!”<br />“Now, now, who is this lone knight?” the banner-carrier jeered. “And such great demands you fling at us! We, the mighty army of Xian’an!”<br />“Yes! And with what army do you dare challenge us, boy?”<br />
  82. 82. “Not much, I must admit. Only some friends of mine.”<br />
  83. 83. “Only angry, lightly-armed citizens...”<br />
  84. 84. “A few heavily-armed professional soldiers...”<br />
  85. 85. “Scores of Labouisie harquebusiers...”<br />
  86. 86. “In a word, this army.”<br />
  87. 87. ...<br />
  88. 88. “I thank you for the favor, by the way, Lenard,” Arthur said, with a nod to his friend. “I will not forget this so lightly.”<br />“’Tis nothing,” the other replied. “Only – do make sure you grace your sister and I with your presence in our wedding!”<br />“Of course.”<br />
  89. 89. “Well, now for it, men! Now!”<br />“Ride!”<br /> “For Arthur and the Isla – Charge!”<br />
  90. 90. The pounding of hundreds of hooves rang all throughout the vale that day. Thundering from the high ground, Arthur led the cavalry against the Xianxi lines, trampling the Red Army beneath them., scattering the once proud soldiery of the Shogun into leaves thrown into a blowing gale.<br />
  91. 91. “Hold the line! Hold the line!”<br />“Ready... aim...”<br />“Fire!”<br />
  92. 92. The Xianxi were folding on all sides. Their front shattered by the thunderous shots, their flanks crushed by Arthur’s cavalry, the general soon saw the futility of continuing the battle. <br />“Fall back, men! Back to the defenses! Back to our homes! To Xian’an!”<br />
  93. 93. But it was too late. The infantry, both peasantry armed with hammers and pikes and pitchforks as well as seasoned warriors decked in armor, had joined with Jeanne and engaged the Red Army’s rear, blocking their escape.<br />“So, where were we again?” Jeanne taunted the general. And with a great cry she brought her sword crashing down.<br />
  94. 94. ...<br />
  95. 95. “...So, what say you, Grandfather? Will the Elves fight? Or will you leave the Isle to its fate?”<br />
  96. 96. “...<br />...You are right, Jasmin. I see that now.”<br />
  97. 97. And, turning now to the Elfin host, the King of the Elves shouted in a clear, ringing voice, “Hosts of Elfinar! Hear me and make ready –<br />This day the Elves sally forth once again!”<br />
  98. 98. “My work is done.”<br />
  99. 99. But over the House of Bygone Days in the District of Serena, the skies seemed calm.<br />And yet, it has often been said that deep beneath the still waters greater things are astir.<br />
  100. 100. “Ah. Miss Newson.”<br />
  101. 101. “Why, you seem terribly vexed. What service may I render you and your family today?”<br />
  102. 102. But Ginger Newson had no time for civilities. “Grave news, sir,” she cried out, raising her hands in anguish. “It might prove our ruin.”<br />“Go on.”<br />
  103. 103. “The Xianxi were stopped by a motley army near the borders of the so-called Elfin Ruins.”<br />
  104. 104. “The Mercator Family leads the rebels. The Labouisie were allied with them, too.” <br />
  105. 105. “Also,” Ginger continued,” Elfin folk suddenly appeared near the Northwestern Passes, attacking the Red Army encamped there.”<br />
  106. 106. “They are beaten on all fronts, and have recently surrendered.<br />Remember, sir, that we have sold the Xianxi their arms. The alliance might be after us next.”<br />
  107. 107. “I... see. Is this all, Miss Newson?”<br />
  108. 108. “No, sir. This was not my primary errand. ...No.” After a moment’s hesitation, Ginger continued, “I... I have come to report... danger, sir. Danger from within!”<br />“And this would be?”<br />“...Gavin, sir. My... my brother.”<br />
  109. 109. Ginger closed her eyes. In a single, rapid breath she confessed, "He means to take advantage of your generosity, sir. He has framed young master Mercator to curry your favor.” She gasped. “It – it is not right. This was not how we were raised. It is... not right... not right.”<br />“This is no light accusation, Miss Newson. And on your brother no less.”<br />“But I am certain of this. He told me all.”<br />
  110. 110. “Well. I thank you for telling me this, Miss Newson,” the even voice answered. “Have you more to say?”<br />“But sir, have you not–? But you must – take action–!”<br />“Good day, then, Miss Newson. You are dismissed.”<br />
  111. 111. ...<br />
  112. 112. ...<br />
  113. 113. “Good evening, sir. You have summoned for me, sir?” It was Gavin Newson’s unctuous voice.<br />“Good evening... Gavin. Yes, indeed, I have summoned you. We have matters to discuss.”<br />
  114. 114. Gavin Newson spied something lying upon Mr. Cecil Goodytwoshoes’ office desk. It’s the deed to the C.G. Textile Factory! he gasped inwardly, quivering slightly in excitement. Why, if he only would play things right – tonight! <br />“Your sister had just come here right before you did, Gavin. I wonder... have you any inclination, any inkling, of whatever conversation had transpired between us?”<br />
  115. 115. “Ginger, sir?” Ginger! She will ruin everything yet! Gavin hissed to himself. But... no matter. I can play this down. It’s my word against hers. “I have absolutely no idea, sir. But I am sure she must be severely vexed, sir. Her nerves... taking care of our younger siblings must be a great burden for her to bear these days, sir. And she is rather nervous by nature, sir, as you well know.”<br />
  116. 116. “Hm... you are right, of course.” Promptly Cecil stood up, headed for the window, and motioned for Gavin to follow.<br />
  117. 117. “Tell me, Gavin Newson...”<br />
  118. 118. “...what do you see?”<br />
  119. 119. Gavin made haste to respond. “I... I see the Factory from here, sir. That... that was where you built your fortunes here in the Isla, quite some time ago. And through your fortunes and your encouragement of the industries, the townsfolk of Serena made you their Mayor, sir.”<br />And, in a supreme touch of flattery, Gavin concluded, “In a word, then, sir, in seeing your factory, I see the whole of Serena, sir.”<br />
  120. 120. “You are, again, quite right, Gavin,” the Mayor replied, nodding. “I see the district of Serena – a district that I had developed with my own hard toil and perseverance. Here, at last, is a small branch, a starting point, for an Empire that is yet to be. ‘...FromVeronaville in the north to Strangetown in the south...’ Yes, that was it. But I must be bothering you with undue talk.”<br />“Not at all, sir. Not at all.”<br />
  121. 121. “But it seems, Gavin, that, alas, I have used up all my energies. I am, after all, growing old—”<br />“Nonsense, sir; Legacy Sims do not grow old.”<br />“You are kind, Gavin, but no. I am exhausted. I need someone to inherit my small fortune – that is, the Factory. Someone worthy of trust. Someone resourceful, self-reliant and of tough will and fibre.”<br />
  122. 122. “Someone – why, someone like you.”<br />Aha! Here it comes! “Like me, sir?” Gavin gasped. The timing, the volume, the pretended hesitation: perfect. “But—”<br />
  123. 123. “Too late, Mr. Newson! I have signed the transfer of the deed.”<br />
  124. 124. “And now, it is yours.”<br />
  125. 125. At last! Success at last! “Th-thank you, sir! You are m-m-most gracious, sir!”<br />“No, Gavin Newson. I thank you.<br />Great success and fortune may it bring you.”<br />
  126. 126. And so, Gavin Newson left a happy, richer man.<br />
  127. 127. Someone knocked at the door.<br />
  128. 128. “It is rather too late for business now, think you not?”<br />More knocks came.<br />“Very well, then. Enter.”<br />
  129. 129. To Cecil Goodytwoshoes’ slight surprise, it was the well-built form of Roland Mercator that materialized into his study.<br />“I was under the distinct impression that I had expressly told you never once more to appear in my presence,” the older man said. But this time under-currents were ruhing even as the sea’s surface remained calm.<br />
  130. 130. “What? No more formalities, now?” Roland returned, even as he sat upon one of the chairs unbidden. This time he would not let him dictate the terms. No. Just as the battle near Elfinar was crucial to hi brother Arthur, for Roland, this fight was just as in earnest.<br />“You are taking great liberties, sir,” Cecil stated, plain and unvarnished. <br />“But I have business, sir. Urgency throws all caution aside.”<br />
  131. 131. “And what business, pray tell? My daughter Cecilia is indisposed. She is rather hurt, as you would know have you been born more sensible.”<br />
  132. 132. “No. My business tonight does concern you daughter, sir. But it does not directly address itself to her.” Roland fixed his stare at the Mayor of Serena. “I wish to deal with you, sir.”<br />
  133. 133. “Come, now!” Something momentarily blazed in the Mayor’s brown eyes. “Have you not read your letters, Mr. Roland? You are acting like a fool, else you would plainly see that I have no reason whatsoever to treat with you.”<br />
  134. 134. “Plain? Then let us be plain and talk not of our letters,” Roland positively snarled, putting his foot down. His voice growing calmer with each syllable, however, he went on, “You perhaps still think that I have been false to your daughter. Yes, I see that I have slipped. But on the whole, I have remained faithful. After all, may a man not kiss a lady on the hand as a show of respect? And I have gone no further than that. You may call Mila – you will deny all associations with her crowd, no doubt, but I daresay Gavin Newson willknow where to call her – and she will be witness to what I say.”<br />
  135. 135. “But—” Roland cut Cecil’s forthcoming response “—I think I understand now where you are coming from, sir. I see now why you essay to keep me away from Cecilia. You are taking steps to make sure that thing – that thing that brought you here in the Isla in the first place – neverhappens again. So you would keep her away from love, and especially away from Romancers, like me, who, according to your rigid moral code, are incapable of restraint and discipline.<br />But there you are wrong, sir. Even Romancers are capable of real love. I truly love your daughter. And I shall do my best to keep her from harm.”<br />
  136. 136. “And, if needs be, I shall prove it.”<br />
  137. 137. “A Re Nu Yu Senso Orb.”<br />“So that is what it is called?” Roland wondered aloud, remembering that same night, the night when the mysterious hooded man handed him the device. “Rather odd name, is it not?”<br />“I believe you are digressing, Master Roland.”<br />“Oh. Right.”<br />
  138. 138. Going back to the matter at hand, Roland further said, “After finishing my second year in college, I was offered a chance to change my aspirations. As if by the die of fate, the path of Knowledge came into my head. <br />And now... it makes sense. Should I pursue Knowledge I could not possibly and fairly remain in conflict with your interests. Hence, I shall now take my opportunity.”<br />
  139. 139. “And if turning my own self radically into another is what it would take for you to accept me...” Roland swallowed, “...then so be it.”<br />
  140. 140. “Hm. Very clever. Let us see.”<br />
  141. 141. Roland took his place right before the orb. Well, here it is, he thought. Of course, he had been warned that a slight mishap might cause the whole operation to go awry. But... even if all had gone according to the plan... he would be restructured, reoriented. With different dreams, different hopes... would he still remain Roland? Would he still lo—<br />Ach, hang it! Roland groaned to himself. I have come to prove my point. Should I falter in the last moment? ...Only... I wish I could see... her... in my present form. One last time. Oh well!<br />
  142. 142. But at the last moment, a gentle but determined hold stopped Roland. He knew that touch. “No. That is not necessary,” a low, musical voice said.<br />He knew that voice.<br />
  143. 143. Y-y-you came for me,” Roland gasped. “But your Papa said you—”<br />“—Never felt better,” Cecilia interrupted.<br />And the two embraced tightly.<br />
  144. 144. And they, of course, may or may not have done something a little more rebellious.<br />
  145. 145. “Cecilia, child. Should you not be back in your room?”<br />But Cecilia stood firm. “I know everything now, Papa. I... I remember.”<br />“...Ah. And yet you will pursue this path again?”<br />The lady nodded seriously. “Yes.”<br />
  146. 146. “It may bring you pain yet again, child. History has a tendency to repeat itself.”<br />“And yet it may not, too, Papa. Risks must be taken for love. And who knows? Maybe at home the skies also brighten.”<br />Cecil Goodytwoshoes was silent for a moment. “You have grown, Cecilia,” he said at last. “I see that you are a lady now.”<br />
  147. 147. “But...” a tinge of hesitation overcame Cecilia for a while. “Must you do this again, Papa?”<br />“You know the answer.”<br />“But why?”<br />“Because it must.”<br />
  148. 148. “Roland. You will take care of her, I suppose.”<br />He... he had done it! Roland could not help but smile a little at his victory. “Y-y-yes, sir. I will.”<br />“Hm.”<br />
  149. 149. “Then I am off. Destiny awaits.”<br />
  150. 150. ...<br />
  151. 151. “Farewell, child.”<br />To be continued...<br />(Notes to follow)<br />
  152. 152. My Simself would like you guys to know that he may or may not have been involved in a conspiracy designed to make Roland-Cecilia happen.<br />
  153. 153. This hypothetical conspiracy may or may not have included an AU child of one of my Legacy Sims conveniently placed in Academie Le Tour to meet and befriend Cecilia...<br />
  154. 154. ...or, for that matter, a certain woman of ill repute but great heart, who kept tabs on Roland and helped him along the way to the heart of the matter.<br />
  155. 155. “Okay, guys. I want to keep my involvement here safely hidden. In fact, forget you’ve ever met me.”<br />Yeah. On other news...<br />
  156. 156. Arthur and Roland had graduated years ago. Artie’s clothes would have looked cool if we weren’t going for a themed legacy. Roland... well, I could have lived with that.<br />Yeah. This update was waaaay overdue. I could have released it last month had I been less lazy. Sorry.<br />
  157. 157. The two bolts are more than enough, you see. Hugs and Kisses Lightly are everywhere these days. And I <3 Jasmin, as she complements Arthur’s stats. Which would mean Neat, Shy, Active, and Nice. <br />Well, I don’t hide the fact that I’m superficial. <br />
  158. 158. You be the judge.<br />Credits:<br />Cecil and Cecilia Goodytwoshoesfrom The Squeaky Clean Legacy by profbutters.<br />The Xianxi faction inspired by the Fire Nation in Avatar: the Last Airbender.<br />The Elves inspired by Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, though I moved back to the non-Tolkien term, ‘Elfin’, instead of ‘Elven’.<br />

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