Stags [closed]


Það er alltaf sólríkt í Býkonsviði
TNP Nation
"I am not meant to discover more countries than this one we now live in. This is as far as we go together."
-Sigurðr Wulfing upon reaching the Esþthursian lands

27 January 2023
8:46 am
On a Friday
Býkonsviði, Prydania

"I am wondering," Jörn Stöðuvatn asked as Tobias was poked and prodded by attendants to ensure his red tunic, laced with black and gold, with a stylized emblem of a stag and wolf nuzzling each other in the shape of a heart on each collar, was just right. Jörn studied the look of mild irritation on the King's face, knowing he never liked wearing the regalia but also feeling he had to. Today more than some other days. Jörn just...well... it did him good to see Tobias like this. It was a sign he'd done his job.

"Já?" Tobias asked as he finally was able to convince one of his Norsian attendants that his uniform wasn't getting any more pressed.

"Well," Jörn continued, "I was wondering. Do you remember what I asked you when I gave you that?" he pointed to Jægerblað, sheathed in its scabbard, hanging from his hip. It was another thing Tobias had hoped he wouldn't have to wear. He'd set it back in Vortgyn I's tomb for a reason, only faking it out when necessary. Was this necessary? He supposed... but it was all so... formal.

He let his hand go down to the hilt of the sword he'd carried for the last five years of the Civil War and felt it for a moment. The familiar feeling of the worn wood...

"You asked me what I wanted people to say about me in a thousand years," Tobias replied, thinking back to the night Jörn presented him with a blade said to be forged from the blood of his distant ancestor Æschere.

"I did I did," Jörn replied with a smile.
"Do you remember what you said?"

Tobias blushed a bit. That night... like most of the nights from the War he had clear memories of, was something of a heavy memory to deal with.

"I think..." he said as Jörn teasingly raised an eyebrow causing Tobias to chuckle.
"I think..." he continued sounding a bit more relaxed, "that I said I wanted to be a good King and end suffering."

"Have you?" Jörn asked.

The question caught Tobias by surprise as he stood next to the heavy oaken throne of the Kingdom of Prydania. One of two, side by side.

"I think..." Tobias began, feeling his heart start to race at the question, before his wife kissed him on the cheek.

"Of course you have love," Alycia replied, herself in an immaculate dark blue Norsian military uniform trimmed in gold. Her kiss immediately followed up by an attendant who wiped away the lipstick on his cheek.

"I think I've done what I could to end the suffering of the War," Tobias replied.
"But being a good King, I'm still not sure."

"Well," Jörn replied, "I asked you this because we're half a year away from being six years out from the end of the War. And eleven from when I asked you that question. I suppose I'm curious," Jörn wondered as he watched the light dance in the stained glass behind the thrones of the stags amongst the forest, "if you've given any thought to changing that answer. How you want to remembered in a thousand years."

Tobias furrowed his brow as he thought for a moment.
"I think just wanting to be a good King is a noble goal."

"I think so too," Jörn replied.

"Your namesake, St. Tobias, was a devout Messianist. And despite his faith he made peace with the Thaunics. Like you made peace with most of the Syndicalists after the War."

Tobias smiled a bit, still blushing just a tad. He hadn't wanted to sign that pardon back in 2017, but he had. And he was glad for it.

"I'm not sure I get your point though," Tobias added. Jörn though, he smiled as he always did, and walked up to the King, leaning in to whisper so only he and Alycia could hear him.

"After Syndicalists, Esþthursians will be easy to forgive," he said as he pat Tobias on the shoulder before making his way out of the throne room, bustling with attendants and officials as the ceremony was being readied.

"Ah!" Jörn said as he was leaving, passing an arriving Kjell Svane.
"Mr. Prime Minister."

Alycia watched as Jörn and the Prime Minister of Prydania talked on the far end of the room.

"I wonder why he said that?" Tobias asked.
"I don't feel like I have to forgive them for anything."

"Maybe you should?" Alycia posited.
"They're an arrogant lot."

"More than the Syrixians?" Tobias asked, and Alycia smirked.

"Well no one is," she added.
"But it wasn't right what happened when their Chancellor stuck his nose into Prydanian business. Feeling like he had to be such a republican he was fighting a foreign King."

Tobias though, shrugged.
"I'd like to meet him, actually. Jeremy Wilson. I think he'd be interesting to talk to."

Alycia smiled. Her husband's less antagonistic attitude hadn't changed her mind but she admitted she appreciated the way he himself had changed. From the angry young man who'd gone to Lundr on his mother's birthday to kill Syndicalists to avenge her death to someone who wanted to talk to republicans.

She'd almost admit he had a point except that... well... how she felt didn't change. But she didn't push it. She just wrapped an arm around her husband a leaned into him, and he did the same. They loved each other's company but it was made better because now they had some freedom. The children were too young for something like this and they were being tended to.

"Your Majesty, Your Grace."

Tobias and Alycia were snapped out of it as Svane approached.

"Kjell," Tobias replied.

"The Esþthursians will be brought here. We'll do the meeting ceremony, and then well, we get down to business. How are you feeling?"

"Maybe we should ask you that," Alycia replied with a smile.
"You had the more forceful statement when all of this happened."

Kjell smiled.
"Your Grace, I may be the Prime Minister of this realm, but I assure you I'm a diplomat at heart. I'm well versed in finding ways for everyone to avoid apologizing while also feeling like the other side has."

Alycia smirked, but nodded. She didn't involve herself much in Prydanian affairs but Kjell Svane was someone whose dry humour appealed to her as a Norsian.

Svane stepped by them and to the side of the throne.

"Well, let's get ready," Tobias said, as he and Alycia each took their seats in the old oaken thrones.

27 January 2023
8:47 am
On a Friday
just outside Býkonsviði, Prydania

Prydanian and Esthursian flags fluttered as Laurids Hummel stood on the tarmac. He and the rest of the Knights of the Storm in their ceremonial uniforms. As Lord Marshal of the Knights Laurids held the rank of Royal Executor and could act in the King's name in certain limited situations. This was one of them. He'd greet their guests, and bring them to Absalonhöll.
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Friday, 27 January, 2023

"Yes, I've turned my watch back, Jeremy." A slightly tired Harold Osborne, hit by the double whammy of being stuck with his former second-in-command and jet lag from the long flight, retorted sharply.
"Hey, calm down." Jeremy Wilson, in comparison gleeful at the opportunity of being in Prydania on his own fencemaking trip, replied. "Why are you so..."

A slight pause, then Osborne filled the gap. "Impatient? It's almost as if I'm considering whether you're going to represent our nation and undertake yourself with the respect this deserves." Osborne sighed to himself, noting his tone had sharpened a little too far, and also wishing he'd travelled with the King instead.

They both headed onto the road, accompanied with the Esthursian delegation - and soon, the King's, he was sure. On their way, Wilson once again noted how... stern Osborne seemed. "Come on, lighten up. I'm not going to do anything. I'm here in a serious context. You know that."

Osborne's silence was broken with the ambassador's retort from behind - "He knows. Kindly don't remind him, or he'll remind you why you're here in the first place." - followed by an uneasy separation as Osborne began talking with ambassador Gordon Hall, a man who Jeremy thought reminded him of an elderly accountant.

Wilson suddenly strode forward. "Listen, I'd be happy to remind you what I did. I stood up for Esþursian values, principles, and I-"

Unsurprisingly interrupted, Osborne spoke quickly - "That's the problem, you just don't get that you can't expect every nation to think the same way you think, or even the same way Esthursia as a collective feels. These folks have a right to safeguard themselves by what means they deem necessary against the very real threat of authoritarianism. We are privileged in that not really being an issue back home. I know how you feel about privileged people sticking their noses where they're not wanted."

Jeremy, slightly dishevelled, responded. "But you agreed with me. I know you still do, Harold."

"Right... listen, whether or not I agree with their law, that's not the issue, my issue for that matter. And, we're nearly there. Don't stir things up before we're even there." Osborne straightened his suit jacket slightly, and after Wilson had left to head on his way to his own fence-mending, the King's delegation entered view.


"I'm too old for this." The white-haired, wizened man, dressed almost humbly considering his position as a foreign King, grumbled to himself. Picking himself up, he muttered "it is surely worth it, and I shall make it worth it if not", before greeting Harold Osborne's delegation. "Pleasant flight, I trust, Forethane?"

Osborne, slightly brightened up by both shedding his former deputy and the company of the King, smiled in response. "You could say that, your Highness."
"Hm. I would rather be in your position, Harold. Having been in an aeroplane, sent halfway across the world, at my age... I definitely think being in your nineties is somewhat more tiring than being with Jeremy. Just about."
Osborne politely smiled again. "I'd say, your Highness, you've got to mete him out. Large doses of company with Jeremy and... well, added to the fact that I'm finally admitting I'm not 28 anymore, I'd say it's most certainly slightly tiring. He also never seems to age. It's actually quite annoying."
"It comes to us all, Harold."
"Yes, yes, I know." They approached the Prydanian delegation, noting the Esþursian and Prydanian flags bestowed proudly in front of him. "Can't miss it, can you?"
"In fact, I'd certainly say George*, were he still around today" - Osborne noted to himself that the King had probably completely missed him saying that - "would be reminding you that you were once idealistic, if faintly irritating, in your youth."

Osborne reflected for a moment. George Asmont's legacy for Esthursia was certainly positive, but having spent the formative years of his adolescence under what was effectively the pupillage of an elderly Asmont, his name brought more... personal, fonder connotations. And with it, a deeper sense of loss. "I fear you're right, your Highness."

The King approached Laurids Hummel, and the Knights of the Storm, now gradually; his Forethane and delegation followed patiently. Upon reaching their counterparts, the King offered his hand, with it a polite greeting of "Greetings, and I thank you for receiving us.", as Osborne behind him began to wonder whether he should've allowed Wilson to tag along after all.
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just outside Býkonsviði, Prydania

Laurids Hummel was a veteran.
That itself wasn't shocking. Most people above a certain age were. It was hard, though, for him to shake that. He'd run away to join the FRE after twenty-five innocent people, including friends of his, had been hung by the Syndicalists in his hometown of Darrow, and that had been eleven years ago. And now here he was... Lord Marshal of the Knights of the Storm. The King's guard. It was a monumental honour for him, but it was also restraining in a way. As the man who was not only tasked with the Royal family's security and overseeing the security of most of Prydania's diplomatic missions abroad but also representing the Knights of the Storm, there were things he couldn't say. And couldn't do. Tobias would happily talk about most things candidly in private, but in public the King took his duties seriously, as much as they seemed to wear on him. And therefore so did Laurids.

Which meant that he couldn't give Jeremy Wilson a piece of his mind, no matter how much he wanted to. After all, he'd seen friends of his hanging from a Syndicalist rope, and Wilson thought that he, of all people, could lecture Prydania on how to move on from that? He had half a mind to think Wilson was a Syndicalist sympathizer himself. That's what his pabbi had said to him anyway, and he'd passed that opinion on to the King.

Tobias though, Tobias didn't agree. The King seemed more interested in meeting the Esþthursians, Wilson included, then being angry. Laurids was a soldier, not a politician, but he was around them enough to pick things up. And he seemed very keenly aware that Prime Minister Svane was more annoyed over the whole Jeremy Wilson business then the King was.
It made sense, the Office of the Protection of the Constitution Act at the centre of this all was Svane's proposal. And as a diplomat he was likely annoyed at the breach of diplomatic etiquette. All the while Tobias, who had his misgivings about the whole thing anyway, found the back and forth between his government and the Esþthursians' more interesting than anything.

Laurids had found himself more sympathetic to the Prime Minister's position than he was the King's, but Tobias had been very blunt.
"We're making friends," he'd told him.
"We've gotta do our duty."

And Laurids Hummel was a veteran.
He knew his orders and what was expected from him. So he stepped forward, planning on being cordial. But then Arthur, the old Esþthursian King, stuck out his hand, and Laurids couldn't help but crack a small smile. Because despite Arthur looking as old as Tobias was young, the Esþthursian King's willingness to shake a hand in lieu of something more formal was the kind of thing Tobias would do. He took Arthur's hand and nodded, shaking it.

"A pleasure to have you in Prydania Your Majesty," he replied, before turning to the rest of the Esþthursian delegation.

"Your Majesty, Foreþane Osborne, Chancellor Wilson, Ambassador Hall, welcome. On behalf of the Prydanian Realm I hope your travels were easy. We'll be escorting you to Absalonhöll."

His men led them into their limousines as he climbed into the armoured SUV that would trail the diplomatic convey when the voice of his second in command, Hallveig Skogen, broke his concentration.

"You managed that alright," she said with a mocking smile. Laurids, however, just grunted softly.

"I am, despite all evidence to the contrary, a professional. Let's get them to Absalonhöll safe and sound."

"Aye, Lord Marshal," Hallveig replied, giving a salute before walking off.

Laurids nodded to his driver, the SUV moving out as he radioed back.
"We're in route" he said over the crackle of the radio as the convey began to leave Býkonsviði International Airport.

Býkonsviði, Prydania

"They're en route from the airport," a Knight of the Storm announced as Kjell Svane nodded. He looked over to the King, who was slouched back in the throne. He always tended to do that, as he found the prep that went into these ceremonies somewhat dull.


"Very," Tobias said as he gave Kjell a smile before going back to focusing on something just ahead of him.

Alycia looked over, knowing the truth though. Tobias wasn't looking at anything specifically. In all likelihood he'd found some spot in the green tiled floor before him and was focusing on it as his mind raced. And she knew her husband. Of all the things he could be worried about? He was likely only thinking of one thing- making a good impression.
Friday, 27 January, 2023

King Arthur sat himself down slowly, beside the Forethane. A begrudging Ambassador Hall realised he'd be stuck next to Wilson.

The King himself, however, felt himself almost torn about being there. After all, he was in half a mind that he needn't be there at all. This wasn't his mess... and yet, he felt it wasn't the Forethane's either. They were both representing the nation, he told himself, attempting somewhat unsuccessfully to alleviate himself. He leant over to Osborne again.

"Chancellor Wilson. Your old deputy does seem to have, somehow, retained his importance? Your new Chancellor cannot be so pleased about that, I'm sure, if she was told."
Osborne chuckled slightly. "He's never had a lack of publicity, your Highness. The issue is, I feel, he gained the wrong kind so subtly that it took me until after he'd gone to notice. I'd hoped his publicity wasn't ours, but seems as if we're stuck with it." He noted how his hosts had seemed actually quite genuinely pleased to host the delegation. Although, as with everything, a lot of that had probably got to do with the King. Or maybe they were as hopeful as his delegation were.


Gordon Hall realised he'd been sat next to the former Chancellor for several minutes in silence. Looking out of the window to see a land blanketed in white, he said the first thing that comes to any Esthur's mind:
"It's cold here, isn't it?"
Wilson found himself almost amused by Hall's gesture. "It's winter, and we're quite a lot further north than home, so yes. I can understand why these folks found a home in Asthonhelm those centuries ago, that's for sure."
Another pause, before Wilson spoke again. "Listen. I'm here for the same reason as you. We're here to make friends, rejuvenate our ties with our friends over here in the west, and, and-"
"And fix the mess you made, yes."
"You could put it that way." Jeremy forced a smile.
"You're a politician, Mr Wilson. It's your job not to say that bit, I get it. But you've got to force that out, if you're to have any hope here. I also get you're new to this diplomacy, so let me put it as bluntly as I can - most people here are reserving a variety of opinions, most of them directed or relevant to you. You're here to at the very least appease their worst opinions."
"Opinions? Like what?"
The ambassador sighed slightly, formulating a way to convey the obvious without being patronising. "Right. These folks have just been through a civil war, you know. They essentially just got rid of the Syndicalists, as you know, while you were... tinkering with numbers in your old job. So when a left-wing republican foreigner, from a left-wing country, starts preaching about technicalities in a very overtly left-wing manner... it brings up a bitter feeling, if not actual suspicions. I know you didn't mean it that way, but that's the problem with letting you politicians dabble in diplomacy."
Jeremy Wilson sobered himself slightly. Hall's spirits almost lifted at the observation that there was a serious moment of contemplation, almost re-realising the problem everyone had already worked out months prior.
"So you're saying I shouldn't have said-"
"Fucking hell."


"The Prydanians, Forethane. What do you feel you can gather from this?" The King mused.
"Hopefully, we'll get some serious movement, your Highness. It goes without saying that democracy in the East is under threat. But that there's also... hope. What with the retreat of the Aurorea, the UAS finally beginning to unify some... semblance of democratic interests perhaps, although even that last point might be giving it too much credit. You know what I'm getting at though."
"Things are the worst, and best, they have been for as long as I can remember... certainly since you were born."
"It does feel a bit unsettling hearing you talk in terms of lifetimes... but you're probably right. And that, I feel, is what makes this so important. We might have Wilsons back home saying what they'll say, but I feel like this isn't just desirable, it's necessary. I feel even though there might be quite a lot of democracies, there aren't that many anti-authoritarian democracies. The more Esthursia can reach out to those who are willing to push against that kind of state, the more this wet rock stands a chance of not blowing itself up or sending itself back a thousand years or two. And who better to co-operate with than those who know the horrors of authoritarianism so directly, your Highness."
"It does almost appear as if, Harold, you are also here because those who know the horrors of authoritarianism did not take too kindly to Jeremy's commentary on those horrors."
Harold Osborne felt himself remembering the chaos that ensued every single time Wilson seemed to speak out of step. Press officers in absolute pandemonium, like headless chickens, trying to reconstruct whichever institution he'd shot down on this occasion. Every single time, Osborne found his marriage of convenience to the old Progressive leader would just about hold through, but each time, it'd take longer to reconcile. Finally, by 2017, he remembered how he'd passed off the note to inform Wilson he no longer had a job while Wilson was speaking on his budget. At first, he went down slowly, then all at once. At least this time, he'd - by some freak coincidence, and with the side effect of destroying his own reputation - set up the foundations for something positive.
Osborne sighed slightly. "I've been on a flight with the man for several hours. I've had to put up with him for years. Now the Prydanians have felt the wrath of Wilson's antics. We're also kindred spirits on that regard, if you like. I am truly sure me and Prime Minister Svane can reconcile our differences over that."
"You will laugh about all this one day, I am truly sure, Harold."
"That's a bold assumption, your Highness. Just ready yourself, to meet a nation who are trying to work out whether we're here as a force for good, or as a moderate irritation."
The King nodded in agreement, mentally noting how close to Býkonsviði - a city they still saw as an enigma, trying to picture what the city must look like in their minds - they must have got by this point. Both settled themselves down, and prepared for arrival.
Fastvi Lerum, the Minister of Culture, leaned over to Kaare de Vries, the Minister of Health. They were both standing in the throne room, off to one side.
"This was a mistake," she muttered.

"You really need to be more optimistic," Kaare replied with a shrug.
"Sommige mense hou net daarvan om bekommerd te wees*," he added with a self-assured smile. A smile Fastvi quickly erased.

"You know I speak Bayardi, right?"

"Oh," Kaare chuckled, blushing just a bit.

Tobias' eyes scanned the throne room. It still felt "new" to him, its repairs and restoration only completed recently. Though he was getting used to it. He'd come to find some comfort in the ceremonies that accompanied new ambassadors being assigned to Prydania and symbolically accepting their credentials. It was always the same song and dance. One that he, a royal deprived of a royal upbringing, initially found off-putting. Still, it was the routine that made it manageable. These ceremonies were done for a reason, after all. All the pomp and such... it marked meaning in people's lives, for people's efforts. That wasn't nothing. And if he could be part of that, well... he would be.

But this wasn't routine. Esþthursia wasn't sending a new ambassador. Their ambassador, their Chancellor, Foreþane, and King were coming. Indeed it reminded him more of when the Sileans showed up years back... Jesus, it was years back? It seemed like yesterday. Tobias smiled as he looked over at his wife and then scanned the crowd in the throne room. Jörn stood off among some staff, inconspicuous, though he winked at Tobias as the King's gaze caught him. It made him smile, and honestly? He needed that. He was, deep down, nervous.

Why should he be though? He'd survived fifteen years of hell, fifteen years of Syndicalist assassins, two of which were entirely dedicated to killing him. He'd watched his parents die, his country burn, he'd pounded vengeance into the guilty with his fists and still broke down over the act and he'd stared authoritarianism in the face and killed so that a child could live. He'd spoke of hope during war, and been name his countrymen rallied around when they knew nothing but his name.

That was the point though, wasn't it? He'd done this all to defy the Syndicalist regime. It was only after the war that he realized what he had meant to people outside of Prydania. Not just the Prydanian diaspora, but to everyone who watched the news and followed the conflict. Who saw his face, heard his voice, as something in some far away land. For both good and bad. The bad never bothered him. The Syndicalists had said and tried to do worse, and he'd watched his parents die. There were few things anyone could say that made him legitimately angry. Jeremy Wilson had brushed up aside one of the few things that could, though it seemed clear to Tobias that it wasn't his intent, strictly speaking. And after all, if you wanted to build bridges you don't assume the worst.

Still, Wilson was someone whose views seemed hostile to him. For reasons that were unknown. Tobias didn't know this man, and hadn't done anything to him. But his ideology... and that was what fascinated Tobias. Ideology. It's why he was more interested than angry at the end of the day. He wanted to see how he could relate to this man whose ideology was rooted in distrusting who he was. And that was, among other things, nerve-wracking.

Elo Daugaard, one of Tobias' long-time protectors and the Steward of the Royal Household then made his way to the King.

"They'll be arriving soon, Your Majesty."

"Do you think I should apologize for the cold?" Tobias asked with a smile.

"I think it might be prudent to wait and gauge our guests' senses of humour first," Elo replied, his smirk visible beneath his moustache.

Absalonhöll was finally looking like its old self, its understated stylings none the less once again clean and properly maintained after fifteen years of looting and neglect.

As the convey entered the courtyard Knights of the Storm kept the press at a reasonable distance. Laurids Hummel got out of his armoured jeep with a hop and radioed his command in the palace.
"We're here. How're things in there?"

"Looking good boss."

"Alhringja*?" he asked.

"Alhringja, boss."

With the clear way given Laurids nodded as the limousines with Esthursian flags came to a stop. And Knights of the Storm approached, opening them as they stopped before the palace's main entrance.

"Welcome to Absalonhöll Your Majesty," Laurids said with a respectful bow of his head.

*Sommige mense hou net daarvan om bekommerd te wees- Some people just like to worry
*Alhringja- All Call
Friday, 27 January, 2023

"It looks like we're here, folks."
Jeremy stepped out last. Bewildered by the importance of his own mission, somewhere between relations building and reputation salvaging in his own mind, it took him a moment to appreciate that he was actually... there. Taking a moment to gaze up at the palace, he snapped back into reality.

"Right, your Highness."
The King led the delegation, of course. Through his own mind, he reminded himself of what the nation he was in had suffered. Six years ago, the nation was in civil war. A few more, and it was under a brutal dictatorship. He couldn't help cast his mind back to the 1950s - how, had a few events fallen differently, his own homeland could've gone the same way.

He then remembered the televised deaths of their royal family. That might have been him, televised for every Esthur to see, having his family killed for the entertainment of a secluded regime. Every single Forethane, even Osborne, had found his caution almost paranoid; yet stories from nations like the one he stood inside of seemed to vindicate himself. He was also 93. You're aware of a few things at that age.

Yet the palace itself had been... effectively returned to its former state of splendour. Things, on the surface, were back to business as usual. He still couldn't work out whether that was truly the case under the bonnet.

King Arthur, stopping for a moment to thank his hosts, led his delegation into the halls slowly.


Harold Osborne found his eyes darting from artefact to ornament to architecture, until Ambassador Hall stopped him.
"Having a good look on the way in, I see, Mr Osborne."
Osborne actually jumped slightly, bringing himself back into the real world.
"Yes, of course, Gordon. We're in the West, you've got to appreciate the land of our ancestors. It's not quite Strackway, is it?"
Gordon stopped his line of thought. "There's a reason we don't have much of this anymore. I won't go into the depths of it, you know why." Memories of history lessons learning about the rather... hysterical century or two around the collapse and takeover of the Classical Empire reminded Osborne why, albeit warped by forty years of age.
"That's the same reason we've got Arthur. Sometimes, historical horrors bring about treasures." Both of them glanced forward to King Arthur, as they entered the throne room.

The King himself finally noticed his counterpart as they entered. The room, he had to say, was as ornate as expected. He often forgot that other monarchs had considerably more power over their own position than himself. Most of his power, of course, would come from his sage ability to negotiate and advise. That doesn't materialise into architecture.

King Arthur stopped short of his Prydanian equal, once again warmly smiling and offering his hand. "It is truly an honour to be welcomed into such a pleasant country as yours, your Majesty." His delegation stood behind him, Osborne attempting to replicate the warmth of the King, and the ambassador somewhat feeling overshadowed by the other people of importance.

Strackway - a post-industrial city in the southern foothills of Asthonhelm
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Tobias had been through enough of these formal greetings. One hand the ornate ceremony of titles and announcements was a good thing- it gave him time to think on what the specifics of the occasion were. A good few minutes of chatter that he wasn't expected to do anything for and could retreat inside of himself to think.

And also... well... ceremony. William had tried to impart to him its importance but Jörn had made the point far clearer with fewer words- ceremony was how people marked life. Marked milestones. Ceremony and symbolism had meaning because of that.
And in Prydania that abstract was a bit closer to the skin. For a country that had been through what they had, ceremony was a symbolic expression of some form of dignity to hold to when everything else seemed in shambles.

None of this changed the fact that Tobias didn't like it.
He had, after all, growing up in the company of soldiers. Not in Court. Still, over the last six years? He'd come to understand the way these things worked and he had a plan of sorts. Nothing devious but he was, as far as this went, wanting to make a good impression.

He shifted in the throne just a bit, and looked sideways. Elo was there. Elo was one of those soldiers tasked with his protection. And now he was the Royal steward. Day to day it meant he arranged the King's affairs. In ceremonies like this? He had the job of announcing both visiting dignitaries and Tobias himself. And he was watching Elo for good reason. As the wooden doors opened to reveal their guests Elo stepped forward to announce King Arthur's arrival. This would be followed by announcing Tobias, but Tobias stopped it. He held out his hand, just enough for Elo to see it. And Elo, knowing him very well, nodded and stepped back to say nothing.

It was, after all, his desire to make a good impression. And if he could use his guests' uncertain disposition to pomp as an excuse to exercise his dislike of pomp? All the better. Instead he just gave his wife a smile before turning to the delegation and standing. He stepped down from the raised platform the thrones were on, and meeting the Esþthursians in the middle of the throne room he extended his hand. He gently grabbed the old man's hand as he shook.

"Danke," Tobias said with a grin.
"It's an honour to have you, Your Majesty. And you Herra Osborne, Herra Wilson, Herra Hall, it's a pleasure to see you again."

Tobias smiled as he addressed the delegation. That was Jeremy Wilson alright. But he was pleasant. He meant it when he'd said he wanted to make friends.

"May I present my wife, Empress Alycia of Norsia," Tobias stepped aside as Alycia joined him.

"An honour to meet all of you," she said very dutifully. She held no ill will to most people here but she held Wilson in contempt for what she perceived as his arrogance. But despite Tobias introducing her as Empress, this was Prydania. Not Norsia. And here? Here she didn't interfere with her husband's business. If he, in his endless optimism, wanted reconciliation she would not get in the way of that. Like her husband she shook hands with the delegation before Tobias continued.

"And the Prime Minister of our country," he said, "Kjell Svane."

Kjell had stayed back. It was habit mostly. He was a diplomat first and foremost and that meant you stood still at functions like this until someone called his name.

Svane stepped up, extending his hand as well, as all of this was captured by tv cameras and photographers displaying laminated press passes.

"I'm very excited to have you here, Your Majesty, Ambassador, Foreþane, Chancellor."

Tobias, who had been nervous, started to calm a bit. And in a moment of feeling calmness prevail he disregarded Elo's advise and turned to King Arthur.

"I apologize," he said with a friendly smile Alycia had often described as endearing, "for the cold."
Arthur smiled back, clearing his throat slightly. A nod - of approval, or agreement, it was hard to tell - followed.
"There is truly no need to apologise." He replied to Tobias, jovially. "The Prydanian cold feels somehow warmer than the cold back home."
Turning to the Prydanian Prime Minister, he slowly returned Svane's handshake. "I can assure you, Prime Minister, we remain just as high spirited to be received here by you good folks. Your nation's welcome has very much compensated for the wintertide weather."

Harold Osborne, to his side, took a moment to survey his surroundings. Everything felt extremely unfamiliar - the pomp, the privilege, the architecture, even the accents which felt almost like those of the Asthonic but a tad bit stronger. He equally knew that Arthur would be slightly out of his depth; pomp had never been his thing, and he had long told Osborne that his grandfather had done away with much of it in one fell swoop. He'd got tired of it, as such. Standing here, Harold understood exactly where that emotion could come from; keeping up appearances to this level would exhaust him, for sure.

"The privilege is mine, Lord* Svane." Osborne nodded. "We're very much grateful for the opportunity for our two nations to meet here today, and put our heads together." As he said this, it felt a little... forced, scripted. Something was still uneasy; perhaps it was the fact Jeremy Wilson was there, or maybe that Esthursia's diplomatic conventions were sporadic and rare, or maybe a mixture of the two. "It's been too long, has it not?" He remarked respectfully; easing his own gait, after shaking Kjell's hand, he stood back, so Wilson could come forward.

Jeremy Wilson, for all his prevarication, was slightly endeared by the entire ceremony, the location. Deep down inside him, a nugget of appreciation for this type of ceremony had lodged itself; though his mind quickly turned away from it. "Thank you for welcoming us so warmly, Prime Minister, and your Majesty." Being called a Chancellor again had also filled him with pleasure. It'd been a good few years since he'd last been called that by the news, or by those back home; he was simply Jeremy Wilson, the left-wing faction leader and rabble-rouser who was once a top minister. And yet that rabble-rousing had landed him in a diplomatic engagement that felt somewhere inbetween rewarded publicity and public retribution for his blunder. The last blunder he'd made lost him his career, so at least that was something he couldn't lose twice. "It's truly a pleasure to meet you all." He next shook his hand. For a moment, he felt like he'd finally returned as Osborne's second-hand man.

The ambassador stood to the side, giving a polite acknowledging smile. Formal to the tee, he couldn't help but think that somehow, Jeremy wasn't going to let the side down, at least not yet. Stepping forward, giving a quick "Thank you for having us, Prime Minister." and shaking Svane's hand, his mind cooled down for the first time in a week. Wilson and Osborne exchanged a friendly glance with one another, with Osborne finally at least to some extent convinced he'd made the right decision in bringing Jeremy here for his fencemending mission.

Lord - An Esthursian term, originally referring to a position of knighthood or barony by the Crown, but increasingly used as a term of endearment or politeness congruent to "Mister". Similar to the use of "sir" in Mercanti, but more formal.
Tobias was often accused- by William, his friends, his cousins, and even his wife- of getting lost in his own head.

But the truth was it was a coping mechanism. He'd seen his parents gunned down by a man he thought was their friend, he'd seen the closest thing he had to a sister killed by the same man. He'd spent the next fifteen years simply trying not to die.
To retreat into his own head, where the world wasn't so bleak, helped him make sense of reality. It was a place he could go that he could control and shape. A place where he could find some comfort and not feel so helpless, and that... that made reality so much more tolerable.

Life had gotten much better over the last five and a half years, the need to run from the world far less. But the habit of retreating inward was hard to break.
That was relevant here because though Tobias had never met King Arthur of Esþthursia his jovial nature was very familiar.

It was in these retreats into his own mind that Tobias built up people, people he didn't know.
He had the mental image of his uncle King Anders III, whose hatreds had put Prydania on the path to ruin.
His mother and father, who he had only the faint and fractured memories of a traumatized seven year old for reference. Trying to imagine what they were like, what they might say to him, based on what others had told him and his own broken memories.
And then there was his grandfather. King Robert VII.

Robert VII was something of an aspirational figure. A man who had taken the throne after defeat in the Fascist Wars, built a democracy, and oversaw Prydania's golden age. Robert VII was proof to Tobias that his family's legacy wasn't the sins of his uncle. He could strive to be like his grandfather.
But of course he never knew him. Robert VII had died in a terrorist attack before he was born, when his own father was just a boy. Everything about the Robert VII that existed in his head was pieced together from clips he'd seen of him, or what William, Axle, Jörn, and others had told him. And King Arthur's jovial, smiling nature just reminded Tobias of this image of his grandfather.
Was this a coincidence? Or had fate planted seeds that were just now coming into bloom? Tobias didn't know how to answer that as the question shot across his mind at the speed of light but he considered it a good omen. If nothing else it helped set him at ease.

Alycia, for her part, stayed quiet save for polite greetings to the assembled delegates. It was her determination to stay out of her husband's business in Prydania, though she watched. She was good at that, watching and evaluating people. It helped her read her own mother, helped her survive Norsian courtly politics, and helped her become Empress herself. She admitted that perhaps she was too predisposed to being negative about him to give Jeremy a fair reading, but Harold Osborne? She got the sense that he felt... well perhaps "uncomfortable" wasn't the right word, but he felt unsure of himself. That much was obvious to her.
But the old Esþthursian King... she could tell. He didn't care much for ceremony. And as she looked at him her lips curved to a slight smile.

"If only you knew..." she thought before looking over at her husband. Her husband, a King that wasn't even thirty yet, and a King pushing a century. But they both felt that this whole thing was a bit silly.

"Oh Toby," she thought, "just try to keep your wits about you," she silently wished her husband before leaning in to give him a peck on the cheek as the delegations had finished their greetings.

Tobias caught his wife's glance and smiled a bit himself before he turned to the Esþthursians once again.
"I think the media has gotten enough pictures," he said as he loosened the collar on his uniform.
"You've all had quarters prepared for you, in Absalonhöll," he continued.
"And we've set up a conference room for you to convene as a delegation. But before we get to all of that... I'd like to invite you all to dinner with myself, my family, and Prime Minister Svane tonight."

He was a bit proud of himself actually. Years ago, not too long after the Civil War ended, his country had hosted the Princesses and Prime Minister of Sil Dorsett. A... reacquaintance... of their governments following the turmoil that had engulfed Prydania.

And though he was the King, he felt terrible inadequate back then. Having not grown up at Court, not knowing proper protocols like Princesses Claidie and Alice did... he felt like he was dependent on William to lead him through how to represent his country.

And now? Well the nerves were still there. They always were. But now he knew he didn't need to be embarrassed about who he was, or what he was. Many people were to thank for bringing that out of him, but he was proud he was in this position. That he felt he could own who he was.

"Perhaps you'd like to all get settled before dinner? And it would give me a chance to get out of this stiff, uncomfortable thing," Tobias added as he smiled and loosened his collar some more.

Svane for his part stayed silent. But that was by design. Tobias knew he'd bring something up to their guests at dinner. Something he thought they'd be predisposed to liking. But for now he was content to say little.

"And I'm off to rescue Zdeňka from the children," Alycia said with a playful smile as she pecked Tobias on the cheek again.

"I'll be right behind you, love," he replied before he turned back to King Arthur.

"As long as you're here, please consider my home yours," he said as he extended his hand once more.
Harold Osborne viewed it was his turn to speak, while the two Kings shook hands once again. He felt - and noticed even Wilson was reacting in a similar manner - somehow at ease knowing the two heads of state were quite openly, and quite earnestly, cordial with one another. The weight was lifted off his shoulders somewhat; for the first time in nobody knows how long, he wasn't in an Esthursian parliamentary office trying to manage a government in what sometimes felt like slow-burning permacrisis.

"Thank you, your Majesty. You must take pride in being able to consider this your home, therefore we will receive your offer with gratefulness too."
Allowing their counterparts' monarch to venture off to change ready for dinner - or tea, as he would call it back in Brantley - he turned to Ambassador Hall and Jeremy Wilson.

Ambassador Hall was an austere gentleman. For good reason; he'd been the old Commissioner of the Metropolitan Constabulary, during the heights of the 2010 crisis. That job would take its toll on anyone, but leaving a person (whose personal disposition would probably lean slightly left were he a politically-minded man) in charge of an institution used relentlessly by the declining right-wing government to suppress a popular movement against their own policies and consequences? It left him someone who would calculate everything, who would always try and be somehow the "sensible" middle-man.

He had spent a decade since regretting what he viewed as his failure to "get a grip", as his old man might've said to him back in the 1960s, and put a roadblock in front of the government by refusing to allow police to be deployed in the manner they were, by openly condemning their acts of violence routinely when they happened; the thing he had feared most, being the man blamed by the right for the downfall of a government despite being completely unelected, might've saved the country from much of the social unrest it faced. He became a figure of public condemnation by the end, resigned a man without a career and without a following - the left viewed him as a class traitor, a man from working-class inner Weskerby who'd worked his way up and used his position against the peoples' movement; the right viewed him as incompetent and unwilling to publicly support Einarsson's clampdown on protests.

The years that proceeded led him down a rabbit hole of addiction, loss and pointlessness. He took up severe drinking, he became addicted to gambling. He'd pissed away half his constabulary pension in six years.

Standing there beside Jeremy Wilson, he also couldn't help note that Wilson's own career, his positions, his ideology - that wouldn't have happened without the escalation of that fire. Had he acted quicker, it would be pretty fair - in his mind at least - to say that no steady rise of a hard-left wave would have convinced Harold Osborne, a man he knew was no radical socialist at one point, to begin his own journey leftward. Let alone appoint Jeremy Wilson. If Jeremy Wilson had never been Chancellor, he might've never had reason to make those comments. Maybe he'd have never been elected. Ambassador Hall's iron-clad look of neutrality hid the fact he blamed himself constantly, solely, and deeply for exactly why a populist like Wilson had landed the country in this mire. If he'd stood up to Einarsson, he'd have been at home. The sole benefactor he had to depend on, was that Harold Osborne had offered that wreath - once seeing each other as opposites, the opposition's trade union spokesman and the government's capital police chairman, they now stood together. Maybe all this would go some way to assuaging the guilt he felt, and maybe after all, not acting had its benefits. He was acting for some good, at least.

"Truly." Hall remarked, coldly.

Jeremy took a moment to look at Kjell Svane. He hadn't said a word this entire time, for all intents and purposes. A true diplomat, even Wilson would recognise that from a mile off. Yet, he found himself respecting his counterpart. It was not even an open secret that Wilson had ambitions. The press bigged him up as the potential successor to Harold Osborne, and with the political right all but fractured and picking up the pieces, he'd essentially already been crowned by many on the right and left - regardless of his controversiality. He knew Harold Osborne inside out - his leftward shift over the years Wilson had served, his social attitudes, the way he spoke and presented himself, the brandy he'd sip before major speeches "for courage", the fact he'd done the same evening walk for thirty years every Sunday. So meeting other leaders, and the way they presented themselves, always intrigued him; he knew himself that this was basically his homework for how he would potentially lead when the time comes. Osborne had once told him he intended to retire by the time he got the state pension - 65 - and that put his retirement before the second-next election. Yet Svane, just stood there almost as a spectator to the sport of diplomacy, seemed removed somehow to Jeremy.

One thing that hit him was how much of an elder statesman Svane appeared to him. Wilson and Svane were separated by less than a decade in age; both were in their 40s, since Wilson had turned 40 the previous month. Yet, he knew their character... it was almost as if Svane presented himself twenty years older than he was. An observer would be more likely to guess Svane and Wilson were removed by more like between 10 and 20 years at the least. Maybe, in some way or another, he admired that persona his counterpart had carved out successfully. Becoming leader of a nation young, and fooling the world into not even noticing.

Turning to Osborne, he began. "Perhaps I can accept I was wrong."
Osborne turned back. "Maybe, but that's not what matters. What matters is you understand why you're here." Osborne thought to himself that beneath all the bluster, maybe he wouldn't be too concerned about the Atlish Times' constant prediction that the young man stood to his left would be in his position when the time came. He still wasn't sold on it though. "The good people here have treated you with dignity, and you have responded well. Just continue, and I'm sure you'll make up for... well, in your words, being wrong." Hall nodded, unnoticed, beside them. Making up wrongs seemed quite relevant to him too.

Readying themselves to go into the dining hall, the elderly King prepared to lead the delegation and greet his Prydanian equivalent before going in. After all, he'd done the same for fourteen other Forethanes, three of which had been born in the nineteenth century. But this was one of the few events he felt he could leave lifelong procedure, and be more personal; where his disdain for pomp and privilege was at the very least sympathised with and shared, if not embraced, and where he could replace procedure to some extent with personal judgment and, heaven forbid, personal emotions.
The dining hall of Absalonhöll had been restored to what it once was... mostly. Indeed, even its most defining piece of artwork was returned, safely brought back from its refuge in Saintonge- the tapestry that hung parallel to the dining table may have only dated to the mid 19th century but it depicted a scene far earlier. Hróarr Loðbrók leading his people to what was now Stormurholmr. In many ways the start of the Prydanian nation.

And a scene of some significance to the Esþthursians too- it was under Hróarr's sponsorship that the viking journeys that found Esþthursia had been set out.

The oaken table, the stone walls, and the wood panelling all joined with the tapestry to give the room a proper older feel, even if it was freshly renovated.
The one element that betrayed this were the flags. A series of banners hung from the stone wall above the table. In older times these would be the flags of the Thanedoms and Jarldoms of the Kingdom. Yet when Absalonhöll was liberated and found to be a neglected ruin, the flags were gone.
Early on the flags of various FRE companies were hung. These days, with the current constitution in place, it might be sensible to hang the flags of the provinces. But Tobias kept the FRE flags.

The War had defined him. He never wanted it, he didn't chose it, but it was true. The struggle against the Syndicalists had made him who he was. He was, among anything else, the King of the Resistance. The King defined by the FRE struggle.
He could live and reign in peace until he was as old as King Arthur, and that would still be true. So Tobias kept the FRE banners. Prydania would heal. The scars would, eventually, fade. Still, Tobias wanted some reminders when that day came.

So they hung, banners in scarlet and white or the royal black, white, and green. Displaying the FRE emblem, stags, slogans. Even a Bible verse, the verse Tobias' mother had spoken before she was executed by Nielsen.
They hung high above the dinner table, as a silent testament to the recent past.

Tobias, though, was in very high spirits. The formal stiff red and black and gold uniform he'd met their guests in was gone. Replaced by a blue sweater over khakis, and matching blue sneakers. Far closer to his comfort level. People expected him to look like a King for ceremonies like the one earlier. But this was a private dinner.
Alycia was there too, likewise in more casual dress, a white blouse and black dress. And Kjell Svane? Kjell was still wearing the same grey suit as before. But they weren't the only three there waiting to receive their guests.

"High five," Tobias said with a chuckle as he bent down a bit in his chair, giving each of his sons a high five. The twin princes Baldr and Hael, two years old, laughed and returned the gesture to their father. Tobias smiled, laughing a bit with them. The boys were each dressed casually, each in Stormurholmr FC jerseys. Baldr in the primary white and red, and Hael in the clash blue and grey. Their hair seemingly a midpoint between their mother's dark brown and father's blond. Chestnut hair that seemed to have a gold glow to it.

"So you're going to be good já?" Tobias asked his boys.

"Já pabbi" the two replied nodding.

Tobias was going to say something further but he heard the guests approaching as the door to the dining hall opened. He stood, along with Kjell and Alycia, who was holding their baby daughter, Hanna.

Tobias put a hand on each of his boys' shoulders and moved from the table with them in front of them.

"Hello!" he said with a wide smile.
"King Arthur, Herra Osborne, Herra Hall, Herra Wilson. I'd like to introduce you to my family. Baldr and Hael, say hello to our guests, will you?"

Kjell smiled. He'd been elected Prime Minister just when the princes were starting to grow beyond the crib. They were no strangers to their father's side when he'd meet with the King. He'd gotten to know them too. Even if they were only two, he could tell. Baldr, technically the oldest, was far more outgoing than Hael, who seemed to like to follow his brother's lead but not make as much of a fuss.

Here though the boys were very much twins, both of them approaching the Esþthursians and saying in unison
"hello, it's nice to meet you" with a bit of nervousness that came from young children meeting adults.

Tobias patted their shoulders again to reassure them and lead them to their seats, before he nodded in his wife's direction.

"And our daughter Hanna."

Hanna, wasn't even one yet, and she just looked at the room in front of her, not fully grasping what was happening, but happy to be in her mother's arms.

"Please, sit and make yourselves comfortable," Tobias added as he took his own seat. It was at the head of the table, one that he actually wasn't used to. There was a smaller dinning area, in a section of Absalonhöll that overlooked the Ryon River. That was where Tobias, Alycia, and the kids usually ate when they were here. But it wasn't of a suitable size for an event like this, so the palace's dining hall was necessary.
But unlike most of the pomp Tobias didn't mind this. Because this dinner was going to be where Kjell offered the Esþthursians a proposal. Something Tobias was very excited about. And maybe a bit of grandeur was ok in the name of that?
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The arrival of his hosts' little ones brought a particular smile to Arthur's face. His wrinkles gently worked their way up his face. "It is really very nice to meet you too." His eyes lit up; a glimpse of a memory of his young Llyn returned to him. Fuck, that was 70 years ago. "Your parents truly are wonderful hosts."

Osborne, immediately behind, offered a more personal "Thank you very much, guys.", followed by a similar but more energetic sentiment from Wilson, before making their way to their respective places.

The King pondered to himself a moment. This young family, they had kids. Back when he was in their situation, it was the middle of last century, he was dealing with a leader 50 years since dead... dear Margrethe wasn't here with him either anymore, she'd passed on. Arthur thought to himself that the endearing yet stately atmosphere would suit her just fine, as it did when she used to visit. He'd lived through a lot, his country had lived through a lot throughout his long life, but when he compared it to other countries - especially the one he found himself welcomed into now - it didn't seem eventful at all. Those young folks... he hoped sincerely they didn't have to put up with it.

Then he cast his mind back to his counterpart, and realised this young King, perhaps a third of his age, may as well have outlived him, for what he'd put up with, and what his nation had been through. Arthur noted he was already fully grey by the time Prydania's troubles began; though his wrinkles certainly were a little more obvious now.

And back in the room. "Thank you, your Majesty, once again; your kind hospitality once again compliments your nation's warm welcome."

Osborne waited for the King to sit, and then nodded, offered a "Thank you again," and sat. He couldn't help notice the flags of the FRE. After all, he had been in power from almost the same time their resistance had really started. The comfortable, stately feeling of the hall he found himself in betrayed itself - on purpose, he noted, it was most likely. His mind, though, was settled.

It was perhaps Wilson who found himself almost completely distant during all this rearrangement and movement. He found himself very much rubbernecking. It wasn't what he saw that startled him, but what he knew would've been there to see had he come five years, ten years ago. They'd managed to restore normality, albeit with clear influences of the struggle they'd recently undergone. Maybe, he told himself, he was fully respecting the significance of coming here at last.

He contemplated commenting; but, perhaps for the first time in ten years, he viewed the best decision wasn't to comment at all. Maybe he'd heed this lesson back home... even he couldn't fool himself of that one.

Harold Osborne had clocked onto Wilson's silence, a small smirk appearing on his face in appreciation. "Your hospitality, the wilderness you possess and welcome your nation has hosted us with... you're all truly fortunate to spend your lives here, I can be sure of that, whatever our differences, whatever scars the past leaves." Osborne then relaxed a little, turning to King Arthur. "I'm sure his Highness will agree with me too, and then some. He's had the pleasure of serving for longer than any of the rest of us have been alive, so I'm sure even he's very accustomed to the weather at this point."

The King replied simply with "That, Harold, happens to be the one thing I shall never get myself acclimatised to here." He thought to himself that at his age, you're not really accustomed to a great many climates either.
Tobias smiled as their guests settled, only turning to Kjell a moment.

"I'm just sorry your wife and daughter couldn't be here."

"I'm sure my daughter would be terribly frustrated if she'd been able to attend. Teenagers and all. You'll have that to look forward to," he said with a soft chuckle. Tobias smiled softly and nodded.

"Well not for a while, at least," he said before helping Baldr and Hael to their chairs before sitting again. His gaze went to them, then his daughter in Alycia's arms, and then to Jeremy Wilson.

Tobias had committed himself to being a pleasant host- hygge* was a time honoured tradition in Prydania after all- but part of him couldn't help but think about him.
His children... he saw them as his children, but he was keenly aware others saw them as symbols. And for the Syndicalists they would be symbols to be destroyed- like his family was. Like he was. When Jeremy Wilson looked at his two year old boys or his four month old daughter did he see children? Or did he see impersonal symbols?
It was, of course, rude and assumptive to project that resentment Tobias felt towards the people who had murdered his family onto someone else. Which is why he said nothing. But it was the oldest of the mental scars of the Civil War had left on his mind. And unlike the others it was not yet fully scabbed over. His own mind picking at it because he couldn't help himself.

But he breathed deep and managed to push those intrusive, defensive thoughts away. Ironically hearing from his therapist that due to how traumatizing that had been at such a young age he'd never be rid of such thoughts helped him control them. They weren't things to be driven from his mind. Merely parts of him that he could set aside if they asserted themselves when they weren't warranted.

Still, he turned to his sons and mouthed "be good" in Prydanian with a smirk, which got the twins giggling before settling.

Tobias nodded as Harold spoke and wondered what he would say. He probably should have written something down but he opted to just... say whatever popped into his head.

"I never had a proper education," he began.
"William, he tried his best, and Lord knows I didn't make that easy," he chuckled.
"But the one part of my studies as a kid that I always loved, was the history. I loved hearing about the sagas of our people, because unlike the war around me they sounded glamorous and they ignited my imagination. Esþthursia is part of that. Like Goyanes and Andrenne in Gothis, Kanada to our west, or Saintonge in Meterra, Esþthursians are our family. And I've learned that family is never something to take for granted. I know Kjell has something to say to you all before dinner is served but before he does, on behalf of my country, welcome. It's truly good to have you all here. I agree Herra Osborne, whatever differences we have, we are family. And that's the important thing."

Alycia pat his knee under the table and he
gave her a smile as Kjell began.

"We planned this meeting to ease recent tensions. But how we do that... well... my cabinet and I had a discussion on that. Herra Wilson... we could discuss the issues that brought us here, but I think that treading ground we know is well treaded isn't much use. Our politics, as individuals, as public servants for our respected peoples, perhaps don't see eye to eye. But there are many of my countrymen who I can say the same for!" he chuckled.

"But I know enough about you to know you're a good man. And I think I share the opinion with His Majesty that we don't need to drag previous disagreements though the mud."

Kjell gave Tobias a look, who just smiled and nodded. He was just relieved when people took the lead on things like this.

Kjell returned his attention to their guests.
"Your country has joined us in our cultural association. But... what I wish to put to you all today is another step in cooperation."

Kjell sipped some water before continuing.
"I admit I don't know how much you all know of the party I find myself leading but it's a young and idealistic lot. My cabinet and I often have to temper that with the reality of governance," he shrugged his shoulders and chuckled.
"But sometimes it rubs off. So rather than focusing on our differences why not focus on our shared values? Not as politicians or even and individuals, but as peoples? What better way to move past misunderstandings than to walk hand in hand in the name of democracy? In the name of freedom? Justice? And the rule of law? I'm asking you all, gentlemen, to consider a project. One my government feels strongly about. An international organization. Not financial or militaristic, but committed and dedicated to promoting democratic ideals the world over in the name of all mankind."

He paused. Kjell knew what he said would be a lot. Of course he was no amateur, despite still being in his 40s. This wasn't a blindside. The Esþthursians had been told something like this was coming. But to propose it in full... it was something else.

Tobias had little to do with the idea, actually. It was proposed by Kjell and his government. He just really liked it. So he gave it his blessing. Being King, though, meant he could interject and no one could stop him. It was one of the royal prerogatives he actively enjoyed.

"This would be something open to all nations with democratic governments. Republics, constitutional monarchies. But we'd like you all to be the first ones to join us in this," he said, smiling softly.

*hygge- a Prydanian term with no singular translation. It means coziness and comfort with one's family and friends, and in the context of visitors means being a warm and welcoming host.
Osborne's face warmed to the idea almost immediately. He knew his visit wasn't going to solely be about Wilson - otherwise he would've thrown Jeremy on a plane to Bykonsviði with a big cardboard sign saying "Sorry", waved him off and got back to work - but he hadn't quite calculated how significant the diplomacy would prove to be.

"The same goes for back home." Harold began. He noted how much his governing party had changed in the last decades - he'd joined it as a left-of-centre party that was essentially liberal, and now it was more or less fully socialist. Wilson's plans to rename the party, which he was both well aware of and one of the few high remaining pushers-back to, would seal that. Idealism had replaced realism, youth had replaced experience. "I think some of the many things we share in common are our fervour for democracy, rule of fair law, fundamental rights. I don't know exactly how much Western continents' news covers Aurorian continental affairs... but we're acutely aware both in how quickly those values can be set alight, and how easy it is for a misstep to result in failure to stop the fire spreading."

Sitting back slightly, he continued, steering himself back on course a little. "So, yes. Esthursia, as a nation, and us as representatives, would be more than happy to join in goodwill. Not only could this alliance be a positive force for democracy and rights, but it might prove essential should we see any further backsliding."

King Arthur's look was one of great pleasure. He'd spent who knows how long trying to impress upon each and every Forethane who served under him - some of whom had since died well before Osborne's birth - how easy it was for a seemingly democratic country to shun democracy. He was old enough to remember it'd happened. Now he was in Prydania, he understood very much that the entire country was impressing on them all that same fact too, with far more immediate warnings of what happens when democracy gets subverted. He didn't need reminding of the labour camps of the 1950s either. Maybe it was his age, his yearning that finally a government had taken the issue seriously... but maybe he'd finally got the message through to one of his governments.

Osborne by now had stopped talking, happy that his appreciative approval would be enough such that the King could add his own words. "We do come from two very different situations, I daresay, your Majesty, Prime Minister." The King began. "Perhaps that gives a reminder of just how vital alliances, such like these, are between our two nations - regardless of whether one's community reconstructs a nation, or whether it is running business as usual... being overly comfortable, apathetic, in its ability to hold the flood gates, universally leads to autocracy. I am perfectly sure our nations have our contrasts - yet, whose nations don't? Hence I very heartily agree with the sentiments and words of my Forethane, and would not only welcome Esthursia entering such a union, but personally give my thanks to you for forging out such a blueprint."

Ambassador Hall assented with a sincere yet formal "Aye, the Union would be very grateful to enter such an agreement." Wilson was sat on the sidelines - he knew he had virtually no power here. He was no longer Harold's second hand man, but frankly his economic role had no power on this matter. Perhaps if he'd chosen a more diplomatic career and role, he wouldn't be in the mire he was in.

Or perhaps it'd be a far deeper mire.

Osborne took a moment to just glance at his old deputy. The initial signs of some sort of intellectual breakthrough had dissipated. Maybe even a seed of resentment had been planted. Yet he was still entirely polite, and respectful, so that was enough. Jeremy's response was delayed by Osborne's focus on the details. "I'd very much like to discuss the intricacies of how this would work. The name, the machinations. We get a lot of the power it would exert is purely soft, purely influential, but it still needs some sort of weight behind it - and processes for entry, of course - so we can make sure both the membership is the right creed of ardent democrats with the rule of law, maintains those fundamental rights and principles in membership, and exerts a positive influence globally."

Wilson's eventual response, while Osborne reiterated himself a little, was an assenting nod of approval. After all, he was an ardent supporter of fair law and democracy - to the point that dogmatic statements fell out of his mouth on occasion - so the idea was very well received in his mind.
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It was, perhaps surprisingly, not Svane or the King who spoke. But the Queen. And not even in that role. No she spoke as Empress.

Alycia and Tobias had met during the Civil War. Empress Ellie was a stern woman and saw a fact finding mission to a country embroiled in war as means to test her daughter by fire.
There Alycia had met Tobias and they'd fallen in love.

Now she was Empress of Norsia. Tobias was King of Prydania. One could perhaps be excused for assuming it was some sort of arrangement, but no. They found each other and found love.
And that had led to an unbreakable understanding. They'd not meddle in each other's affairs. To be sure Alycia had been inspired by the Prydanian government's attempt to rebuild democracy there as a blueprint for tearing down her mother's autocracy. But Tobias stayed out of Norsian affairs and Alycia stayed out of Prydanian affairs. Each happy to be the loving consort to each other in their own spheres.

It was why Alycia had stayed mostly quiet during most of this. It was funny. Tobias seemed mostly perplexed about this Jeremy Wilson business. The Prime Minister, his wife, a good chunk of the citizenry, they were upset. But he just took it in stride. He wanted to meet him more than anything.
Alycia found that endearing about her husband if a bit naive, but she stayed out of his affairs. Yet here, she spoke as Empress of Norsia. Was it because Wilson had spoken? Not necessarily. She would have had to say this eventually.

"This proposal," she said, "is something Prime Minister Svane and his cabinet have passed along to the Norsian government. We find ourselves agreeing with our northern neighbours. If you agree," she said with a slight smile as he held Hanna, "you would count two Craviter nations as your friends. Not just one."

Tobias smiled and stood, but it was just to take their infant daughter and place her in a high chair and comfort her a bit. It was Svane who spoke up next.

"Já our Norsian friends have agree to it in principal. The name we've been kicking around is simply Allied Nations. It's very on the nose but a lack of frills is a Prydanian virtue," he said with a smile. Tobias had settled Hanna and had taken his seat again, letting Kjell continue to explain the project.

"It also normalizes our shared values. Well could make a big show of democracy, rule of law, and the like with the name but this invites contrasts. But this is simple. An alliance of nations bound by ideals that transcend politics. Labels. Ideals that are inherent, inalienable. So much so they don't need to be proclaimed with a name because they just 'are.'"

Tobias' eyes kept going from Wilson to his sons, mostly to keep an eye on them. Two year olds were not the most well behaved... but Baldr and Hael seemed to have taken their parents' declarations of good behaviour to heart.

"As for weight, we have considered that," Kjell continued.
"Our preference, if my party's name wasn't evidence enough, is non-military. Of course a people can and have fought for their own liberty. My country is recent evidence of that. But if we were to form this alliance, and if others were to join, we cannot be a cabal of international gangsters imposing our values on others. A people fight for their own freedom. Outsiders imposing it on others isn't truly freedom, in the estimation of my caucus."

Tobias smiled a bit wider as he held back a smirk. He was privy to the goings on of Cabinet and he noticed how Kjell mentioned his "party," and his "caucus." Peace not Blood governed in a coalition with the Conservative Party and he knew the Conservative caucus was more willing to put the military option on the table. Still, Svane had thrown some weight around to get his way.

"We believe," Kjell continued, "this alliance could foster economic partnerships between member states. And in turn this would allow us to collectively leverage economics against those who would threaten us."

"Like Rayvostoka."
Tobias had said it almost instinctively. He didn't really plan on it... it just came out. But here it was...

"I... I know that's something in your backyard," the young King continued.
"They've made themselves a big deal here too. Collectivized farming caused a lot of personal tragedy and economic ruin here, during the Syndicalist years," Tobias continued.
"But..." he paused for a moment. "Well when the farmers here who suffered under that decided that they didn't think Rayvostokan goods made under collectivization over there should be sold here they protested and a member of the Prime Minister's party pushed for a boycott. And that's what we did. But, like...we could, all of us do more. I hear Rayvostoka wants to open up to Auroria. And beyond. A united front of democratic nations could convince them to reform further, right?"

"That's the hope, Your Majesty," Kjell said with a smile. He'd hoped the King wouldn't have jumped the gun like that. But it was as good a time as any...

"Regimes like that, they're tricky. We are drawn to the idea of cooperation in the hopes of inspiring change but our consciousness bug us. Remind us that we are in bed with authoritarians. But the Allied Nations make the option of engagement with a hope for change more palatable. And viable."

Kjell waited a moment before continuing.

"Nothing here is set in stone, nothing here is finalized. I hope that this meeting can be used to arrive at a set of mutually agreed to mechanics that we all believe can make this project viable."

Tobias leaned forward in his chair just a bit. This whole project was Kjell's and his cabinet's. He'd already spoken earlier than he'd planned. But there was something engaging about this.

Something, frankly, hopeful.
"Nothing's final, but everything's a start. And I thank you both for your warm hospitality, and by proxy, your nations for their outstretched arms. Esthursia is happy to shake them." Osborne's face let out a slight, but definitely warm, smile. Looking at the aging King sat beside him, and the youthful one opposite, he felt a strange relation to both of them - as a leader, as a politician, he'd always been stuck dead inbetween youth and experience, new and old, tradition and modernisation. How useful that was proving, that's another question, but it stuck in his mind.

"Allied Nations. Well, I am sure Esthursians would back the agreement, and from the conviction these plans have been presented to us - and frankly just the nature of the party your delegation represents, Lord Svane - means I can infer quite strongly that Prydanians and Norsians both would fight behind this. The biggest issues to a democracy, in my opinion, are from within; and I think that applies here too. Shared values, I wholly back - a feeling of voluntary participation." The Forethane took a sip of water, giving himself a moment to put the sentence together. "However it cannot-no, must not, will not, be a union where governments can simply remain within while dragging the basic, fundamental, irrevocable values of democracy and natural social rights through all burden."

Ambassador Hall spoke more softly to fill in the gaps. "Should an Allied Nation persistently divert from democracy, that pokes a hole right in our armour. United economic leverage - a prospect I am sure Esthursia will openly support - united condemnation, a solidarity between nations on certain issues and the AN as a common force supporting democratic forces, organisations and fights wherever they occur and wherever it be necessary; all of that is set on fire if we've got even one nation consistently acting as the internal opposition to our own action, or vetoing, or just outright not participating. That nation would be an entry point - since AN nations blocking AN nations would be... hilariously weakening diplomatically - for trade. If our united action is a wall, they'd be the open door."

"Thank you, Ambassador Hall." Osborne continued. "And what matters, therefore, is the AN has.... tangible influence very quickly. It's all well and good even the existing governments backing it wholeheartedly, that doesn't matter if it doesn't work. If people lack confidence in it, it'll crumble under the weight of its own sinking reputation. They'll elect governments who don't, they'll push for factions who want to undermine or leave - to put it bluntly, the AN's first months are vital, if it wants to be permanent. I think we all know a very relevant example over back home where that seems to have been a failure, and putting the pieces back together - it's a job and a half."

Osborne thought back to the last few months in Esthursia. The government had entered the Union of Aurorian States full of hope. Yet, a year on, there were government ministers openly calling for leaving, the opposition leader too - and, in his opinion worst of all, was that people were registering that disappointment in the polling they cast. The fall in popularity had caused the rise of the EPP publicly, latching on, while factions in his own party - including one led by the man sat next to him - were equally jumping on the speeding bandwagon. Mutterings of a referendum were in the air the last time he left. The impact of rising right-populism... he dreaded to think what that would do to distract people from defence of civil rights, and looked to nations where that was already the case mentally. The AN had to work, or it wouldn't just be a harmless misstep, but an unmitigateable disaster.

"So, in my opinion, we've got to start quickly. We've got to have procedures, votes, in the first days and weeks - a raft of economic measures aimed squarely at the nations who deserve them most. The nations that openly disregard democratic participation, that openly infect and poison their political culture, whose civil rights record is tarnished so much that institutional failings are encouraged and covered up, whose attitude to human rights is that they are either a burden or a fiction. It's got to happen as soon as the gun fires, in my opinion. That's the only way this works. And the fact we're here talking about this now, in my opinion, proves that we're on the same page here - I hope."

Osborne let himself breathe for a moment. "That was quite lengthy a point. But a necessary one. And it ties in with everything - we've got to be going on day one, and have the internal mechanisms ready for if a nation is derelict in their duty."

The King, who'd observed Osborne speak - by the end, with some composure swapped for internal anger and displeasure at the global situation - decided to interject; although, of course, after a polite wait and glance at Osborne. "It is no secretive knowledge that I am an old man - my wrinkles, my voice, my hair, it gives that fact away really rather quite openly. That gives me a lifetime of being able to remember, reflect. And I... I want to use it to apologise." Osborne suddenly, quite surprised, turned to face the King - as did Wilson. "Seventy to eighty years ago, the Fascist War was raging across the world, as you well know. I was merely young, however I was always wholly, unequivocally, aware of the implications it had very keenly - it was not long before I was born that Esthursia suffered its own close call with the menace of fascism. And... I do recall discussing with George Asmont - Lord Asmont just happens to be the Forethane's old mentor, if my age is not betraying my memory on that - that we should reach across to the West, that we should come together and make a union to stand against fascism. Asmont and I, however, were alienated from the world - the damage of the War had not only made nations shellshocked, but it left them alienated with each other."

A long pause came inbetween. King Arthur thought back seventy years ago - he'd been consumed by his own hubris, in reflection. Within five years, Esthursia had sustained a relatively bloodless but intensely disruptive coup after a definitely not bloodless regime, and yet during and after it had seemed alone. There was no international democratic order, merely a web of interchanging democracies trying to keep their heads above the water, those who were struggling with their heads pushed below, and those who had more or less given up. Seventy years of wars, riots, rebellions, prejudice, disorder, imprisonments, protests... all of which were made worse, and the resistance to which was made to feel and act alone, in part because the world had limped out of the Fascist War and, collectively, not quite grasped the severity of the alternate path. And, as ever, he felt at least partially at fault for all that. He also considered himself lucky - he was younger than every single member of that 1950s post-war government, and only one to his recollection was probably still alive. Only he had the chance to make up for that lesson the nation had collectively not heeded.

"The result of that is that, as absolutely no result of the discourse I should have finished eighty years ago with a leader who has long since died, I sit here an old man seventy years too late to stop seventy years of rights abuses, democratic backsliding and all the horrors - all of which we can point to and ask that if this had existed, maybe we could have done something. It took me seventy years to learn the lessons of the Fascist War, and frankly that's only a virtue given by my long life. For that, I must apologise. For that, I must also make it clear that I support these proposals, and always have supported these, and will support these until I'm two metres down. We must press ahead, and I must agree with the sentiments and principles put forward by Lord Osborne, and I must thank your nations -" he continued, looking across the table now directly at the royal couple, "for their patience, whether it be for the last year or the last hundred. Maybe, if we get this right now, today's politicians will not have to come back in seventy years apologising for the damage their indecision caused in the way I am doing now. Potentially... we have learnt our lesson, whatever it may be."
Kjell Svane listened, nodding. He agreed with both Osborne and Hall, on the need to make the AN something with teeth if it was to live up to what he envisioned for it.

As PGU Chancellor he'd leveraged the collective might of that alliance's military might to force Goyanes and Andrenne- two close allies and supporters of Prydania- to negotiate a longstanding territorial dispute.
It proved to him that international bodies- if founded on the right principals- could be a force for good. He was very receptive to Osborne and Hall's ideas on the matter. Where he was wondering was... specifics.

He was no fool and Prydania was not blind. Like the ravens of the old gods, the ÖSU fed information back to Prydania's government. He knew that Rayvostoka had approached Esþthursia. Specifics were unknown but the cold brained analysts at the ÖSU had their theories. Most fell on the side of a degree of cooperation. The aid sent their way seemed to confirm it.

Of course Prydania's government had very strong opinions on Rayvostoka. And, so far as Kjell was concerned, they were the type that should be targeted by an org like this. Yet... this was not a plan to snare Rayvostoka.
He would not hinge this project on forcing a confrontation on the issue. Osborne mentioned a need to target nations quickly. And he wouldn't put Rayvostoka's name forward. He'd concede on that point and see what the future held for it. Who knows? Maybe certain ÖSU reports were correct and the Esþthursians hoped to push them in a more democratic direction? Maybe they'd even succeed.

He said nothing, waiting to state his agreement with Osborne and Hall when King Arthur spoke. The old King's words caught Kjell off guard. He was rarely left speechless- his spars during question period was proof of that- but he fumbled for what to say. But it was in that moment that Tobias spoke up. He looked back at his King. He wasn't angry at him for speaking. More shocked. He supported the AN proposal but it was Kjell's baby. Tobias had been content to let the Prime Minister run the show. But here? Tobias felt to speak.

"I know you knew my grandpabbi," Tobias said looking at Arthur.
"If for only that, I am extremely jealous," he said with a smile.
"He died before my father and mother even met. I never knew him, except through his journals. He wrote highly of you, Your Majesty."

Tobias smiled meekly. He'd gotten very good at hiding when he felt emotionally overwhelmed. It helped give him the space to work it all out in his head.

"I guess..." he paused for a moment and sighed.
"...I mean to say you don't need to apologize. Not to me or my countrymen. Maybe things would have been different if you had done something different. But maybe it was my grandpabbi's fault that, for all of his good intentions and successes fighting back the fascists he never... codified the democracy he rebuilt into law. Or maybe it's not your fault or his fault, maybe it's my uncle's fault," he said in reference to King Anders III of Prydania.
"Or my mother's," Alycia added referring to Empress Ellie of Norsia.

"Or maybe," Tobias continued, "it was the good people of our countries who collectively let it all happen again. Maybe everyone played a part in the last... the last little bit..." Tobias said softly as he briefly retreated to being that scared boy amidst a warzone before coming back with a soft smile.

"But you don't need to apologize, Your Majesty. I'm honoured to have you in my home, and I'm thankful that you support our government's initiatives. It's something I'm very supportive of," he smiled at Svane, and shot him a look that was supposed to convey "sorry for speaking."

Kjell nodded and smiled softly before returning his attention to the Esþthursians.

"I find myself in agreement with you all. This must have teeth, and it must act. As I see it we have three goals. To establish membership criteria, to establish a list of nations who we feel pose a threat to democratic principals the world over, and to agree to a list of actions to take against them. We can get this right, I believe, and it starts with a plan of action."
Osborne nodded, but slower than usual. "... yes. Yet it's easier said than done, and highly subjective."

"You see, we all want democracies that uphold the rule of law. Yet the literal meaning of democracy is that literally every country can claim to be run "by its people"... or can be claimed not to equally enough to justify democratic reputation. We have to find the arbitrary point satisfactory enough to draw the line, beyond which a state is not a legitimate democratic lawful state."

"What I'm suggesting... it's that the AN upholds a globally recognised human rights treaty and against war crimes. Now, there are treaties out there on international war, but not so much on human rights - so the AN needs something independent to itself whereby members in some form must assent to a human rights convention. However..."

Ambassador Hall looked over at Osborne to continue, whose raised eyebrow signalled an okay. "And yes, we understand how... controversial this can be. Yet, I feel if we have some form of membership-centred power to reject new problematic members and eject old problematic ones, we wouldn't need anything more than glorified word-service really, a sentence or two in front of the rest of us, whatever is necessary. What's a better, more objective judge of democracy than democracy?"

King Arthur awaited his representatives' words, before turning directly to his Prydanian opposite. "Your Majesty, blame not your grandfather or his contemporaries - well, not those uncomplicit - for actions out of his control and movements he tried at the utmost to roll back and hold there. I remember him fondly, and reaffirm that he was able, principled and... I can compare my experiences quite directly with him, though perhaps the fact I am still here - unlike so many I lose in time - and my country did not suffer to any extent close to yours from the creeping up of autocrats is down to good and bad luck upon both of our parts."

Arthur then leant forward slightly. "Perhaps it's my age talking, but I see a lot of him in you, your Majesty. He would have been immensely proud of the Prydania you and those motivated by and around you that you have built and continue to build out of the fire and chaos of backsliding tyranny. May none of us live long enough to see such a situation become necessity again - and that is why us convening... it's of utmost need, because countless other nations have the ability to sway out of - or into, as is the case worryingly common - tyranny, and they drag entire populations with them."

A slight moment of pause happened, before Osborne dared to speak again.

"As for its teeth, we require unity, haste and effect. If an AN action is partial, slow and weak - as is so easy if people disagree or nations have different relationships - then it's weaker than nothing. And an AN action need not always be negative - there's a stick, yes, but also a carrot. Why do you think this government was so hasty to show some warmth to progress in Rayvostoka? It might be controversial - I know what much of the world thinks of Rayvostoka, and they surely have a right and reason to it - but in my opinion, it's just one of many options on the table to promote democracy."

"What we ideally need is one of two things. A rotating figurehead to act as a mediator between different nations to broker a coherent, fluid approach to each nation. Or a voting system robust enough to allow for the absence of either division and resentment into forced action, and the equal absence of division and resentment into failure to act. Even just meeting over the nations and trying to bring approaches closer together, and understanding one another's reason, it might be enough to break deadlock."

Osborne turned to Wilson, who seemed to be on the same page at this point and exchanged a nod. "As for the ways... we've got economic action against a government or an entire nation, or targeted industries. This can be positive, it can be conditional, or it can be restrictive, protectionist and sanction-based, or a mixture of the two. One nation might land a punch, but an entire body sanctioning a nation might sweep away its reputation. Military action? It's always there, but the role of the AN would be merely to arbitrate on that idea, not to act as some almighty sledgehammer of peace."

"What is above all of utmost importance is that the AN gains a reputation - swift, decisive and objective. Anything less and we get paralysis, then ignored altogether." The Forethane thought to the Union of Aurorian States back home - the paralysis, the ignored action, the divisions within his own government on membership. He was still in favour of it, but undeniably pressure was there. He certainly knew Jeremy's opinion on it, and heard it... on a daily basis at this point. "And I trust we can do all of this."
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Alycia had, admittedly, grown fonder of the Esþthursians as this meeting grew. She was principled, and that had driven her dislike at first. She didn't much care for outsiders interfering in Prydania's affairs. It wasn't just the country her husband was King of. It was an ally and a friend to Norsia. And above all else a friend stands with a friend.
But as time went on, as these talks continued, she gained perhaps a better understanding of this Wilson fellow. Not the moralizing blowhard she had assumed but perhaps a man who had his principals but who just needed to learn the finer points of diplomacy.

It was was Arthur mentioned her husband's grandfather that her attention shifted back to Tobias.
It was... a sensitive issue for him. He never met the man, but equal parts idolized him and lamented his failures. The truth was when she first met Tobias he was a wreck. Carrying too much sorrow. She couldn't help but be there for him and help him.

Maybe in some way she'd let that impression define her husband? Was she worried over nothing?
As Arthur finished speaking she quietly turned to settle her twin boys before watching Tobias.

He shifted in his own seat a bit but smiled softly.

"It's very kind of you to say Your Majesty," he replied softly to Arthur's comparisons of himself to the late King Robert VII.

"I've thought about him a lot...." he paused. His grandfather. Had he really smiled on him when Prydania saw its first aurora in thirty-three years? Was that book, that book he'd yet to read that sat on a shelf, unopened, that claimed that Robert's attempts to roll back dictatorship were a flawed interlude right? Maybe it was.

But at the same time hearing that this wasn't everything that defined him was welcome.

"I've thought about him a lot," he repeated.
"And maybe it was just cruel fate or bad luck that let the tyrants gain a foothold in this country but that's why Prime Minister Svane's AN initiative was so exciting. An international community that can fight the drift towards dictatorship."

Kjell nodded.
"These proposals for treaties relating to human rights, and collective action, are all things my government is in full agreement with," he said as he addressed the Esþthursians.
"My time in the PGU taught me the power of international cooperation. We'd be eager and willing to work on this infrastructure as soon as we're able."

"And if I may be frank," he added...
That caught Tobias' attention. Kjell was hard to read. That was, Tobias expected, due to his status as a diplomat. He'd go from frustrated over Jeremy Wilson's incursions into domestic politics to putting this together.
Tobias was eager to see how this played out.

"To be frank," Kjell said, "us two show us why this organization can be great. We cannot talk to Rayvostoka. They poisioned
that well in part, but also, you must understand. My party- including our legislative caucus- is young, and many of them lived through Syndicalism. To them, Rayvostoka cannot be talked to. Cannot be compromised with. They are a rare red line on the international stage to my party. But Esþthursia can talk to Rayvostoka."

Svane took a break to sip his drink.

"I think it's clear that our nations share blood, language, culture, but we have differences in our political and economic outlooks. Who, what, why? Important questions but not what I'm concerned with. What I see though, is that despite these political, economic, and even social differences the unifying factor is that commitment to democracy. And the strength in an organization built around this truth can be flexible, decisive, and quick because of that diversity. I am unable to speak to Rayvostoka. Esþthursia can, and I sincerely hope your efforts bring about success. Rather than the carrot and the stick I envision the AN as a stick and a series of carrots, all different and best suited to negotiate with autocracies that are seeking to open up to the world."

"And," he continued, "we fully support the calls for binding treaties and guidelines."