Emperor Waylon and Regent Lafi sat in Waylon's villa in West Agalia. The Emperor was not in a happy mood.
"This can't happen!" Waylon growled.
"The effrontery of him!" Lafi snorted in outrage. "We are far better than that, Uncle. Put it out of your mind."
"You don't get it, do you? It goes way beyond the effrontery of the man. If he marries Kez then I'll have my sister's husband as Regent in the West, and my nephew as Regent in the East. Once the lot of you get to reproducing, I'd have two family members on both Agalian seats. Family loyalties are the strongest of all, Lafi." Waylon explained.
"I never thought of that." Lafi conceded.
"You haven't thought of much. Do we really want a Luhan village girl as an Emperor's Consort? We'd be a complete laughing stock to the entire Realm! Even more serious is her son. Zarsan has a ready made Regent in waiting and he's a half-breed. It makes a mockery of everything that Agalia is. It takes an Agalian to run an Empire. Ludrig's shower have proved that. They're all left to the wind down there. What next? Prince Keegen in charge here? Some random Golon madman? Agalia is what it is because we're Agalian, Lafi."
"I couldn't agree more." Lafi nodded. "I can't see a way through it, though. We can't force him to disown his wife and son and if we force his resignation there'll be riots out there."
"Blast the man and blast Kerrin for being so useless. There's always a way through. It's just a matter of finding it." Waylon pursed his lips. "We need to look harder, Lafi."
"Only another three weeks." Zarsan smiled and handed Florian his daily reply to Harper's letters. "Our villa up on North Ridge should be in perfect order by then."
"It's looking really good Zarsan. I was up that way yesterday evening. Lady Harper will love it. Anything else for me to do?" Florian pocketed the letter.
"Nothing exceptional, no. I'm in an Administrative meeting this morning, then checking the rotas in the barracks after that. See you later in the day, Florian."
"Are you sure he's the right one?" The jailer of the city prison lead Regent Lafi down a damp, stone tunnel and down to the worst dungeons that East Agalia had to offer. "I've never known a Pardon for a Golon spy in all the time I've worked here."
"Daclar Hood. He's the right one. The details of the legalities are not your concern." Lafi stood before a filthy cell containing a filthy looking prisoner. "You can leave us, Jailer. I'll make my own way back."
"I'd rather stay, sir. He's a nasty set of goods."
"I trust that three inch thick, solid wooden door. Thank you, Jailer." The jailer shrugged and ambled back along the tunnel.
"Did he say Pardon? A Pardon for me? I really do believe that." Hood laughed. "Whatever it is you can shove it." He spat on the floor.
"That's fine. I believe Fynn Olgan is down here somewhere." Lafi feigned disinterest.
"Wait! Fynn Olgan is scum and that Pardon doesn't go to the likes of him. I'm listening."
"I thought you might."
Zarsan was almost at the barracks when an errand boy caught him up and told him he was wanted urgently at the Hall. Both Emperors and Lafi were already there.
"Zarsan." Kerrin welcomed him. "We have a situation in Jullit. Farmers and merchants are rioting in the streets due to increased taxes on grain. This message was sent to East Agalia and by good fortune, Regent Lafi was there on business. Obviously he came straight here with the message." Zarsan took the missive and read it. He was actually quite surprised at this news. Jullit was a sizable city about five days ride north of Agalia. Because of its remoteness, Jullit had been granted a large degree of independence, including an Administrative Government and its own army division.
"It seems that lives are in danger, Zarsan." Kerrin said. "There have been numerous reports of injury and damage to property."
"I'm surprised it was too much for their own army. I've worked with them and they're very efficient." Zarsan nodded.
"Be that as it may, they need help." Waylon retrieved the missive. "Regent Lafi has offered to lead a section of our troops to Jullit to quash these riots." Lafi nodded although he clearly had misgivings about this. Zarsan only just stopped himself from laughing. Lafi Boon couldn't lead a sing-song let alone a military party and Zarsan had actually seen Lafi on a horse. It amused him for days. Waylon continued. "However, Lafi would be the first to admit that he's not qualified for the task. He saw it as his duty as the longest serving Regent between the two of you."
"That's quite astonishing." Kerrin said in bewilderment and Zarsan had to suppress another laugh. "An astonishing offer to make, I meant. Quite noble of you, Regent Lafi. May I suggest that we ask Regent Zarsan to lead these troops? It seems rather ridiculous to send Lafi when we have a trained General sitting right here with us. Zarsan?"
"I'd see it as part of my duties, sir." Zarsan accepted and Lafi deflated in relief. "I agree with Emperor Kerrin, Regent Lafi. That was a very brave and admirable offer to make. I'd be honoured if you'd like to accompany us."
"I feel I must decline." Lafi smiled. "I'm not a trained soldier and I fear I'd be a hinderance."
"If that's your wish." Zarsan said smoothly. "Right! I'll take Blue Squad. They're already kitted up for the border patrol. I have a problen, sir."
"One we can resolve, I hope." Waylon said testily.
"The Division in Luh is due to change over. I have detail lists and was about to have them delivered by an escorted Scout." Zarsan said.
"I'm sure we can sort that out." Waylon smiled.
"Thank you. They are quite important lists, sir, that's why they go with an armed escort." Zarson reinforced the point.
"Understood. I'll see to it personally, as a response to your understanding of Lafi's limitations in the military department." Waylon said graciously. "Good luck."
Zarsan made time to write another letter to Harper, telling her he'd still write every day but for her not to worry if his letters were delayed. Blue Squad were so organised that they'd sorted themselves out and were ready to go. Zarsan lead his men out of the city gates and it felt wonderful. He loved being soldier and he missed being on active duty. Despite the seriousness of riots, Zarsan was quite looking forward to it. He'd been on the Jullit route many times and knew there were established spots to make camp. Zarsan intended to make good time and stop at camp two.
"What's the plan sir?" Captain Gwyn asked as they made camp.
"Meeting with Overseer Granger. We can help better if we know all the circumstances. Grain riots! I thought they came to an end decades ago." Zarsan shook his head.
"Well something's gone wrong quite quickly. My brother was in Jullit not two weeks ago and all was fine." Gwyn shrugged.
"We can't underestimate the situation. We work on the assumption that there are full blown riots and be prepared accordingly." Zarsan said and Gwyn nodded his agreement.
The situation couldn't have been more overestimated. Overseer Granger met Zarsan at the city gates and looked rather confused, moreso when he saw five dozen men behind him.
"Riots?" Granger blinked a few times. "Sir, we had absolutely nothing that could constitute a riot."
"Evidently." Zarsan was very annoyed indeed. "I'm not sure how such a miscommunication happened but it's unacceptable."
"It most certainly is!" Granger agreed. "My Advisor was with me when I sent out the report and I mentioned no riots. Why would I?"
"So what necessitated this report in the first place?" Zarsan asked testily.
"A drunken brawl outside the City Hall." Granger sighed heavily. "The local Watch had it sorted out in minutes. The City Hall door was damaged during the fight and I'm legally obliged to notify Agalia when government property is damaged due to a violent act. I did mark the letter accordingly, sir, as a low priority issue."
"That's not the letter I read, in that case." Zarsan exhaled loudly. "May we look around the City, Overseer Granger? That's for my own report. I owe you no mistrust."
"Certainly, Regent Zarsan. I can't imagine what's happened here. I feel like I must apologise to you. I'm sure the Agalian army has better things to do and I know the Regent must have." Granger lead Zarsan and Gwyn into Jullit.
"I doubt it's your fault, Granger." Zarsan said, much to Granger's relief. "Low priority missives are just ordinary letters delivered by ordinary Scouts. Am I right in saying that many messages are collected at once then sorted out by region? We have a similar system in Agalia."
"That's right, sir. The collections destined for Agalia make the usual stops at the camp sites, then the collections are handed over to your own Scouts in Agalia." Granger explained.
"It's my guess that your message will turn up eventually, swept under some collection hut cupboard or it's been blown to the winds. Lost accidentally, Granger. It happens every day." Zarsan theorised.
"But you did receive a scroll from Jullit. We've had no Grain Riots for over twenty years, sir. I can swear to that."
"That I'm not sure about. I'll speak with Regent Lafi on our return. I'm sure we can unravel this between us." Zarsan assured the Overseer. "Have you no objections to us making camp outside your south wall?"
"None at all. I'll have rooms provided for you, Regent Zarsan."
"There's no need, the camp will be fine." Zarsan smiled at the look on the Overseer's face. "You can't take the soldier out of the man, no matter how many titles you give him."
Emperors And Kings