Zarsan rode in the middle of the escort party, alongside Florian. His mood was quiet, dark, and very miserable.
"Do you have a family, Florian?" He asked.
"I have a wife and a daughter, sir. My daughter is thirteen though, not a babe in arms. You miss them already." Florian answered.
"I do." Zarsan agreed. "Aside from the million other things waiting for me in West Agalia, I must also secure a home for Harper and Zari, preferably in three months."
"You'll be provided with a guest villa on our return but I'm not sure how suitable it is for a family. It's a pity a Regent's villa didn't come with the job, like the Emperor's villa." Florian smiled and Zarsan was developing a genuine liking for the calm and friendly Councillor.
"Designed to promote self sufficiency, so I believe. It would come in useful though." Zarsan rolled his eyes. "I'm still stuck with three months no matter which way we look at it. Harper's twenty first birthday."
"Ah I see." Florian nodded. "Still, she has a good father back there, if I may say so."
"Absolutely." Zarsan agreed. "It will still be the longest quarter of my life."
Emperor Kerrin and Emperor Waylon, plus Waylon's Regent, Lafi, were in West Agalia's Governmental Hall. The topic of conversation was Kerrin's unconventional choice of Regent.
"Waylon, I wasn't as fortunate as you and I wasn't blessed with an extensive family. With Nian gone, I looked elsewhere. Zarsan Holt comes from an outstanding military family. His father was a decorated General and widely known as a strategical genius, as was his father before him. His mother was an accomplished scholar and had many contacts in the world of academia who came foreward after her death to ensure Zarsan's education. He's probably more qualified for the position than I am." Kerrin rubbed his tired eyes. He was exhausted and the burial arrangement for his son were seriously wearing on him. Waylon seemed not to notice this.
"He's not a politician." Waylon snapped. Kerrin's immediate thoughts were 'nor are you' but he kept that comment to himself.
"I'm of the opinion that 'politician' is a learned and acquired set of behaviours, Waylon. It's a part of you, rather than a defined position." Kerrin had devised and rehearsed that because he knew it was going to be a point that Waylon would raise every time.
"Kerrin he's a soldier!" Waylon said in exasperation. "As outstanding as his family military records are, he's still not Noble."
"He's more noble than half the government." Kerrin felt his temper bubbling. Snobbery irritated him hugely but it infuriated him when coming from the Emperor of East Agalia. "He's not exactly a peasant, Waylon, and it says nothing in our Laws about selecting our Regents from the Noble classes. It was purposely devised that way. I respected your reasons and your selection of your own Regent. Kindly grant me the same courtesy."
"You're making a mistake, Kerrin. I'll blame your tiredness and your grief for it." Waylon said stiffly.
"Oh so you did notice that." Kerrin muttered under his breath. "Waylon you must excuse me for now. I still have preparations to make." He walked briskly out of the main hall before Waylon could raise more 'points of concern'.
Zarsan's 'unsuitable for a family' villa was twice the size of Elias Bright's cottage. It was light and comfortable and Zarsan wondered how far he'd get with smuggling his family in. Not very. He smiled to himself. He was quite impressed to find that his few belongings and fewer clothes had been moved into the villa. He changed into full dress regalia, befitting the burial of a Regent, then walked into his sitting room. Florian was in there, standing by the door.
"The carriage is here." Florian informed him.
"Carriage?" Zarsan laughed. "Florian I could walk to the Crypts in five minutes."
"May I suggest something?"
"You're a General and a pending Regent. Get over it." Florian sniffed and Zarson laughed loudly.
As expected, the burial of Regent Nian Ilvya was a very grand affair. Zarsan noticed Emperor Kerrin and saw how exhausted the man was. He seemed to have aged too much since their last meeting. Zarsan also noticed Emperor Waylon who was chattering to Regent Lafi, both of them periodically glancing at Zarsan. He concentrated on the service in an attempt not to think about the next service where he'd be the subject. In due time, the burial party departed to the Government Hall in order to give the mourners an opportunity to offer condolances to Kerrin.
"Emperor Kerrin, I'm so sorry about Nian's death." Zarsan eventually got to speak to the Emperor. "You look tired, sir."
"I'll be fine and thank you for your condolences. These days the death of a Regent is quite rare. It's so rare that there isn't a standard time for appointing a successor. The longer the role was empty, the longer I'd be reminded of my son's absence. I made the decision to appoint you immediately. I hope my decision didn't inconvenience your arrangements in Luh too much. I know it was very short notice." Kerrin explained, although he wasn't obliged to explain anything.
"I understand, sir. I remember when my father died and I was unsettled until one of the other Generals took over his duties. I'm sorry if that's a foolish comparison." Zarsan hoped he was saying the right thing.
"Not at all. Thank you Zarsan." Kerrin smiled. "I'm sure your position in Luh is in good hands. Jonas Marsh is an excellent soldier."
"It's all in hand, sir." Zarsan assured him. Now wasn't the time to bother the Emperor with his own domestic situation.
"We should make our way to the Oaths." Kerrin referred to the Hall of Oaths, where business such as Imperial appointments were conducted.
The Oaths was quite austere. The Crypt Home was twice as lavish and ornate. Kerrin stood behind a rich oak table that had taken four men to lift. Waylon stood to his right, and Lafi stood to the right of Waylon. Along the egdes of the room, various members of the Government were seated and the Swearer of Oaths sat at his own smaller table. Zarsan walked confidently to the front of the room and caught the look of distaste on Waylon's face. All that did was increase Zarsan's confidence out of sheer stubbornness. The service itself was spoken largely by Kerrin, with the occasional input of the Swearer of Oaths. Zarsan lost concentration after twenty minutes so he admired Kerrin for having memorised the entire forty five minute ceremony. At last, Kerrin took two gold bands and clamped them on Zarsan's wrists. Everything was finalised by a list if signatures, including those of Waylon and Lafi.
Under the circumstances, Regent Zarsan's ascension banquet was quite modest, much to Zarsan's relief. He was pleased Florian was there, at Zarsan's request, otherwise he'd have known no one on a conversation level. Overall, Zarsan found it taxing and rather pompous, despite the reduced numbers.
"Regent Zarsan." Emperor Kerrin's smile was genuine. "I'm getting word from the streets out there that you are a very popular Regent."
"I am?" Zarsan was quite surprised.
"The people know you Zarsan. They've seen you out there with them as an ordinary citizen. Sometimes people don't even get to see their Regents until they're appointed due to them being from the Classes in the Clouds." Kerrin smiled in amusement. "You'll be an excellent Regent Zarsan. I know these things."
"I appreciate your confidence in me. I have much to learn and I know you're an excellent teacher."
"Lesson one is tomorrow morning in the Hall. Emperor Waylon insisted on a meeting." Kerrin couldn't repress an irritated sigh and Zarsan tried so hard not to notice. "Oh it's fine for you, young Zarsan. The man's trying to see me off through lack of sleep."
"You really should rest, sir." Zarsan told him. "Even Emperors need time to themselves on occasions."
"You're right. Emperor Waylon is distracted by the wine table. I'll escape through the library. Until tomorrow morning."
"Until tomorrow morning." Zarsan reciprocated. It would be another three hours before Zarsan could make his own exit.
Emperors And Kings