Chapter 4

Two weeks passed by and Zarsan's first task every morning was to read Harper's letters and to reply to them.

"Florian! Harper says Zari slept all through the night." Zarsan beamed proudly.

"Lady Harper is very lucky, in that case. My Flora kept Phylis and myself awake for three years. I'll take your letter to the Scouts."

"Many thanks." Zarsan stood and put on his cloak. "I've been called to the Hall. I was supposed to be inspecting the barracks this morning."

"Would you like the carriage?" Florian asked with a smirk.

"Florian I can all but see into the Hall windows from here. See you later in the day." Zarsan waved and left for the Hall. It wasn't a surprise to see Emperor Waylon in there, as well as Regent Lafi, in the company of Emperor Kerrin. Waylon had spent a great deal of time in the West, which was quite normal after the appointment of a new Regent.

"Zarsan. Apologies for the short notice." Kerrin indicated a seat for Zarsan. "Emperor Waylon brought my attention to a ... point of concern. As you know, a Regent's position is fortified and the stability of Agalia is strengthened by various pacts and trade deals. You may not be aware of Regent Lafi's own betrothal to Lady ... umm ... Crowfoot who ... "

"Clayfoot." Lafi corrected.

"Quite. Lady Clayfoot who comes from a very respected scholastic family right here in West Agalia. This is a prime example of the types of alliances that keep Agalia strong." Kerrin tried to fathom out Zarsan's expression.

"Political marriages. Yes I'm aware of them." Zarsan answered carefully.

"You object to them?" Kerrin asked warily.

"No, sir, not at all, if the circumstances are right. I know of many such marriages that have lasted a lifetime and been been very happy unions. Sir, I think I'd like to speak with you in private." Zarsan had a feeling as to where this was going.

"Regent Zarsan." Waylon heaved. "This is a very straightforward matter. You don't need Emperor Kerrin's personal attention."

"It's fine, Waylon, it's fine. Members of the Government know they have my ear should they need it." Kerrin said reassuringly.

"Defeating the purpose of an Imperial meeting." Waylon said shortly. "What Emperor Kerrin is trying to say is that I think it would be productive and beneficial if you entered into a marriage with a party from the East, as Lafi did with his betrothal."

"Emperor Waylon, it would be productive and beneficial, I'm sure." Zarsan was feeling light headed. "In my case, I must request that another form of alliance be found. I've recently invested in the building trade, I'm sure I could organise a trade alliance with a business in the East."

"We need more than that!" Waylon raised his voice. "This is the Agalian Empire we're talking about!"

"Waylon, please." Kerrin got to his feet. "I knew we shouldn't have just sprung this on him. Zarsan, Emperor Waylon went to the trouble of selecting a Lady with whom you're familiar. He ..."

"Sir I really must speak with you alone." Zarsan said urgently.

"You do not interrupt an Emperor!" Waylon snapped and Kerrin let out a weary sigh. "I graciously propose my younger sister, Kez, for this marriage. She's thirty three and I'm sure you'll agree that she's a Lady of the highest order and standing."

"Emperor Waylon, I certainly have had the honour of meeting Lady Kez on quite a few occasions and honour is the correct word. I admire and respect your sister enormously." Zarsan said truthfully. Lady Kez Boon was intelligent, refined, funny, gracious and beautiful. He never could understand how siblings could be so vastly different.

"I'll have her informed and brought here ... "

"I have a family already!" Zarsan blurted out. Both Emperors, and Lafi, stared at him in astonishment. "In Luh. I have a month old son. I know, I should have mentioned it." He said to Kerrin.

"It would have been useful, yes." Kerrin snapped.

"It makes no difference!" Waylon shouted. "The fact that his wife isn't here in Agalia with him, means that she hasn't got Agalian citizenship. A divorce would be all but automatic, bar a few minor details."

"That isn't an option, Emperor Waylon." Zarsan glared at the Eastern ruler, deciding not to correct the assumption regarding his marital status. "Your proposal is extremely gracious and I know I'm certainly not worthy of Lady Kez but I love my family a great deal. No divorce."

"Your refusal of my sister is a huge insult to me." Waylon hissed nastily.

"I'm sorry you see it that way, sir." Zarsan replied. "Obviously that was never my intention. As I said earlier, I hold Lady Kez in the utmost esteem."

"Lady Kez who is an Agalian Lady." Waylon growled.

"Clearly this needs further discussion." Kerrin interrupted loudly. The last thing anyone needed was bigoted comments regarding a person's geographical location. "We weren't aware of your domestic situation, Zarsan so obviously that wasn't regarded as a factor. I'm sure you'd agree that under differen't circumstances, Emperor Waylon's offer would be more than pleasing." Kerrin knew Waylon was furious. He'd been embarrassed and also saw the whole thing as a personal refusal of his family by a man who he saw as inferior to himself. There was also the matter of the Regent's wife being Luhan, and his son being half Luhan.

"Absolutely. That was the point I was trying to make earlier, albeit in a very clumsy fashion." Zarsan tried to explain. He could tell by Waylon's face, however, that the damage had been done. "I apologise again for not making my situation clear straight away."

"And indeed you should." Kerrin said sternly. "You may leave us now, Zarsan. Emperor Waylon and myself have much to discuss." Zarsan nodded and gratefully left the Hall. He needed time to take in what he'd just heard. Would Lady Kez see it as an insulting refusal? Had her brother even mentioned any of this to her? He genuinely did like Lady Kez and would hate to think she'd be offended by him. Was he to blame? This marriage was probably proposed in good faith because neither Emperor knew about Harper and Zari, and that was Zarsan's fault. One thing he did know for certain, he'd never give up on Harper as long as they both breathed, and he would not have her insulted, as Waylon was about to do a few times had Kerrin not interrupted.

"Oh Harper, I need you here with me." He sighed, sinking into one of the chairs in his sitting room. "The longest three months of my life."

"This cannot be allowed!" Waylon roared as soon as Lafi had been dismissed too. "He must divorce this woman and marry Kez. I've refused many offers on her hand for such a situation as this and what does your new Regent do? Wed a Luhan and father a half Luhan son! It cannot be allowed, Kerrin! It will take us both to force the divorce."

"That's only a piece of paper, Waylon. He won't give them up. I've known Zarsan all his life and I know it will take far more than the both of us to make him disown his family. Had I known he had a family, I'd never have collaborated with you on the notion of a marriage to Lady Kez. I was as shocked as you were and Zarsan was wrong in not telling me." Kerrin actually sided with his Regent, secretly of course. His own marriage to Celeste had been of their own free will and he couldn't imaging forfeiting that for anything.

"Wrong? Wrong? It's inexcusable! If he won't give up on this Luhan in favour of Kez then he should resign his position as Regent." Waylon shouted.

"A bit extreme, Waylon." Kerrin scowled at his counterpart. "Also a bad idea. Have you taken notice of the people out there? Not just here in the West, but in the East too. Zarsan's the most popular Regent appointed in modern times. His resignation would raise a few questions out there."

"So we answer those questions! A Regent who will not attempt to strengthen our Empire is a weak Regent."

"Waylon, come and sit down." Kerrin indicated a seat for the furious Emperor. "Our citizens are ordinary folk who work hard for a living. Of course they're concerned and interested in the stability of Agalia, but a good old style love story will soon get their attention. You must also remember that Zarsan isn't from our Noble classes. He was raised out there with our people, Waylon. When I appointed him my Regent, I effectively created a peoples' hero. If he does resign, and I do think he will if he's pushed into it, and the reasons for that resignation are given, we, as Emperors, will be about as popular as the pox. The citizens don't put the true importance to political marriages because they have no need to enter into them. We need our people, Waylon. The Empire is nothing without its people."

"I hold you responsible for this, Kerrin." Waylon pointed his finger at the Western Emperor. "It was a disaster waiting to happen right from the start!"

"If it makes you feel better, then yes I take the responsibility." Kerrin told him. "Marriages are a good way to secure stability but they aren't the only way. An alternative will be found. Meanwhile, I have issues to raise with my Regent. Excuse me Waylon. We'll speak of this again, I'm sure."

"We'd better." Waylon said darkly. "I'll be in my villa, should any apologies or changes of view arise. Good day, Kerrin." The Emperors left by opposite doors.

Emperor Kerrin simply walked into Zarsan's villa while he was writing to Harper.

"Emperor Kerrin!" Zarsan leapt to his feet.

"Easy, Zarsan. Sit back down." Kerrin waved towards the chair before lowering himself into a more comfy one. "Not the wisest of omissions. Why in the Realm didn't you tell me you had a wife in Luh?"

"It hardly seemed appropriate, or important, sir, given the situation here. I was wrong. Of course it's important for an Emperor to know of his Regent's domestic situation. I'm genuinely sorry for all the embarrassment that caused you, and Emperor Waylon. I hope Emperor Waylon will come to accept that it isn't a personal snub and reassures Lady Kez likewise." Zarsan said truthfully.

"I'm not completely sure that the Lady even knows of this so put that from your mind." Kerrin told him and Zarsan was very relieved. "As lovely as Lady Kez is, she'd actually be a dubious choice and concerns would surely have been raised."

"How so? I though someone like that would be ideal. In other circumstances, of course, not mine."

"Think about it. His nephew rules the East, his sister's's husband rules the West. Potentially, Waylon could end up with two descendants ruling the whole of Agalia. I'll not point that out to him if you don't." Kerrin laughed. "Seriously, Zarsan, any other surprises? Now would be a good time to say before I try and negotiate an alternative alliance method."

"I'd hate a repeat of this mess." Zarsan took a deep breath. "I'm not married."

"What?" Kerrin looked quite close to slapping Zarsan. "Would you care to explain?"

"My betrothed isn't twenty one for another three months so she can't obtain Agalian citizenship, nor marry. I'm in the Military, sir. I cant marry anyone who isn't an Agalian citizen, or has dual citizenship."

"I see." Kerrin nodded slowly. "So your family will be here in three months? All married and legal?"

"Yes. My biggest obstacle was finances, but I'm in a much more stable position than I was in Luh." Zarsan told him.

"Very well. I suggest we keep this between ourselves. The situation is tense enough. Florian?"

"He knows, sir. He was there when my son was born. Er ... well not there as such, in the garden." Zarsan waffled. "I trust Florian but I'd appreciate your advice."

"Florian is a fine man." Kerrin got to his feet. "Despite this confusion, you're doing an excellent job, Zarsan."

"Thank you, sir." Zarsan watched the Emperor get into his carriage, then he went to finish his letter.

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