I’d better stop it with the too-clever-by-half titles before I run out of cheap metaphors.
Being around her for years, I know quite a bit about Aurelia. A good primer is here (parts 1-4). This new woman is a blank to me so I am glad to be older as to who she is.
And no, I’ve no idea where this story is going. For all I know, Aurelia crosses the border with her legions and annexes the territory to the imperium. I don’t think so, but one never can be too sure around these stuck up demi-humans.
With no demi-human on earth a big eater, dinner was standing in front of the general’s tent taking some meats and cheeses from a collapsible table. Jansen had introduced the rest of her party, the other woman was a secretary, one of the men her military advisor, and the remaining three security.
“I didn’t think things were so lawless up here,” Aurelia teased.
“In our country, certainly not,” Colour frowned again. “However, Boston is a somewhat gray zone when it comes to law enforcement.”
“I can see that. And of course, it’s stupid for women to travel alone! Look at me, after all!”
Aurelia watched Jansen once again look about the camp.
“I’m sure,” she began carefully, “a smaller, diplomatic mission, by air or sea, might have been more in order?”
“You think? I sure don’t,” the general replied. “For the empress’ niece who is demi-human and the daughter of one made of diamonds and fire from the sun, I think my escort a little light.”
To try to diffuse the tension in the air, the military advisor, Burke, spoke up for the first time since being introduced.
“Given some of the terrain and former cities you’ve had to pass through, I’m certainly sympathetic.” He paused. “Forgive me, is it Princess or General?”
“As these are not diplomatic negotiations, General Hartmann is fine, Mister Burke,” she replied. “And you are correct. While following my aunt’s campaign against the Satanists in the old Federal capitol, where all who were not killed were evacuated, the devastation of the Breakup and Change from Philadelphia to, well, here, has been something of an eye-opener to me.”
Enjoying the topic, Aurelia pressed on.
“It’s not for me to ask but y’all must have had a goodly sized and experienced force to first repel the overseas invaders who came to Boston. And then to destroy the city,” she said with a smile. “And I cannot imagine the Canadians just let you alone because they’re so polite, considering how they have occupied the former American Midwest and are now looking across the Ohio River at my aunt’s land.”
“We make do, General,” Burke smiled back, revealing nothing.
Hartmann glanced left at the westering sun.
“You,” she nodded at Jansen, “obviously have more to say about me and my army. If you don’t have a billet around here, y’all are welcome here as my guests.”
“Not your hostages?” Jansen snarked a little.
“The north gate is just there,” the general pointed her hand right past the older woman’s face. “Go if you want. Not my problem. We Southrons try to be polite, Yankee.”
“But,” she dropped her hand, “you’ve not been up here long. Your accent and how you carry yourself differ from these five. I won’t question giving authority to recent outsiders, hell, consider my family! But you are merely human. Colour.”
“It is true,” the woman began, finally flustered, “that my parents arrived here on old family land just before the Breakup. But this is our home. This is my home. Aurelia.”
The princess gave a slow blink of her golden eyes.
“What did they do? Your parents?” she asked.
“Dad was a data analyst until everything when to hell,” Jansen explained. “Then he learned to farm. Fast. Mother was a pharmacist but with no more drugs retrained herself as what we call an apothecary. They raised me and my two brothers to love and protect our home.”
“How,” Hartmann came right back, “did you assist in the destruction of Boston?”
“It…” Jansen swallowed at the harsh memory. Her dark human eyes held the demi-human’s bright ones. “It was my mother’s suggestion. Poison their water supply.”
Nearly a minute passed. It was now dusk. Jansen’s entourage was getting nervous.
“I have already offered accommodations for your team. Now, let me add one word: please.” Aurelia tilted her head to the right, like a dog hearing an odd sound. “I want to be your friend, Colour.”
A glance over her shoulder to the five in her group yielded nothing but shrugs. Jansen turned back to the imperial officer.
“We accept your most gracious offer, General Hartmann,” she stated as formally as she could. “And, perhaps, if time permits, we can speak more this evening. And, of course, there is the matter of your army. Here; now.”
“Of course, as you said. That will keep.” The general called orders to those around her, directing them to set up a tent and cots for the five. Aurelia saw the look in Colour’s eyes. “You’re with me tonight, friend.”