This is a cheap and dirty way of exposition for an author to tell his readers something: Q&A between characters. Those of y’all who have been following MacCiv for years know all of this but if I turn this into a novella or novel, it is my responsibility to make sure the future reader knows what is going on.
There have been elective monarchies in human history. They tended to fail quickly. Elective within a family is an idea Dr. Jerry Pournelle mooted in his CoDominium future history. Empress Faustina allows many local forms of government, including democracies and republics, but tolerates none of that at a national level. When she is good and ready, she’ll designate an heir.
What if she is hit by lightning or a truck? I do not know. I don’t think there would be a civil war (and if there was, it would be between Laszlo and Aurie; the rest of the family just doesn’t care or want the awful responsibility of running an empire) but I cannot say for certain.
I’m going to write a little more this evening. Three whiskies in hot-head Filk vs. perfectly sober demi-human Aurelia? This will be a hoot. I hope Colour can keep the peace under her roof. See everyone on Monday!
Colour, once again near tears, watched Aurelia cross herself before slapping her palms together and crying, “Itadakimasu!” before picking up her fork.
“This is good!” she said. “Like simple legionary food: a little carbs, fat from the butter, and protein from the eggs. We’ll copy this. But we’ll add cheese when it’s available.”
“By ‘we,’ you mean your army? The legions?”
“Sure! We’ll call it the ‘Jansen meal,’ if that’s okay?” the general asked.
Colour almost snorted her water.
“That… that’s fine!” she laughed.
Aurelia grew quiet as she ate about half of her meal before abruptly saying, “Go ahead.”
“Go ahead and what?” her host asked.
“Your questions. For me. About me.” Aurelia tilted her head to give a grin to Colour. “To like someone is to want to know more about them.”
“I… I didn’t want to seem rude,” Colour managed.
“Like I’m not?”
“Well, that is true.”
They laughed together and Aurelia took another big bite.
“Will you really invade my country?” Colour decided to start at the top.
General Hartmann made a small sound while she struggled to swallow and then take a gulp of water.
“Whew! No wonder I took to you so quick!” she said once she could breathe. “The imperium will take any action it deems necessary to protect itself. That’s official policy. Do we decide on a case-by-case, moment-by-moment basis? Of course. But if we choose to take action, it is decisive.”
“You didn’t answer my question.”
“I’m aware. Next?”
“You are a princess, right?”
“Good! An easy one!” Aurelia moved to bump her shoulder to Colour’s. “Yes. My father and the Empress are brother and sister, making me a part of the imperial family. However, only the Empress’ seven children are crown princes and princesses. And, it’s just a title. I don’t have vast lands or get tithes from peasants. Even my current rank is from my talent and hard work.”
“So one of your cousins will be her heir?”
Aurelia paused and blinked.
“The Empress can pass her legal and extra-legal powers on to anyone she wants. But we all know it will be to a demi-human. In this Changed world, human minds are too slow and narrow to lead a Great Power,” the princess said quietly to the dim room.
“So, it could be you?” Colour pushed.
“Do you want that?”
Aurelia leaned left so far that her lips touched her friend’s ear.
“I wouldn’t say no.”
With her guest finishing her dinner, Colour thought through that she just given noodles and eggs in her dark, cool house to someone who could rule a huge chunk of the Earth as well as the worlds above it. She shuddered.
“Please don’t fear me,” Aurelia said. “I’m a girl who is a guest in your home. And very happy to be here. Any other questions? Here! I’ve got one! Can I help you with the dishes?”
“An army general and potential empress wants to wash my dishes?”
Colour abruptly stood, her plate shaking in her quivering hand. “I’d appreciate that, Aurelia!”
Just setting the skillet aside to dry, Aurelia heard the putter of a motorcycle turn from the road onto Colour’s long gravel driveway.
“Someone is coming. Motorcycle. Small cc engine,” she announced.
“That’ll be Filk,” Colour replied. “I was wondering when he’d get here. No doubt he stopped at a bar, first.”
“And,” she went on, “I’ve one more question and don’t want my nephew a part of it. You are what, twenty-five?”
“No rings. Not married?”
“Nope. A few boyfriends and I’m not a virgin,” Aurelia volunteered. “The Empress is breathing down my next to get married, though. I’ll have to do it this year.”
“Oh.” A flicker of her demi-human eyes. “You think a marriage alliance with your nephew, to incorporate the Northern Federation into the imperium as a province, no longer an independent country.”
“I…” Colour was appalled but heard the motorbike’s engine stop. “I didn’t think that at all!”
“I just did. Speaking of, should we be doing something lewd when he comes in? I enjoy teasing humans.”
“Behave yourself in my home, friend,” Colour mock-scolded her guest as the front door opened. “Took your time, Nephew!”