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Author Topic: Other People (1951)  (Read 2354 times)

Offline Myroria

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Re: Other People (1951)
« Reply #15 on: August 16, 2014, 02:34:35 AM »
“Well, he’s… not from around here.”

“So, where’s he from? Traval? Indiotrovth?”

“No, further.”


“No, closer.” Fredrika paused to think for a moment.

“Does he live near the ocean?”

“Kind of!”

“Ivorheart, then.”


“Okay, Marith. I give up. Where is he from?”

“Well,” Marith looked away for a moment towards the bookshelf in the corner of the Empeuress’ office. She and the queen had been best friends since grade school but there were certain things that were never easy to say to anyone.

“Well, he’s from Eluvatar.”

“He’s…what?” Fredrika said indignantly, about to boil over. “Where in Ilium?”

“Oh, you wouldn’t know the place…” Marith said, her voice trailing off.

“I wouldn’t know the place?”

“It’s a small town.”

“What’s it called?”

“Oh, I wouldn’t be able to pronounce it. I’d slaughter it.”

“I’m not trying to pull teeth here, Marith! At least not yet!”

“It’s, uh,” Marith looked at her fingernails. “Tuith Cemven.”

What?! Who is it?”

“Ælar. Uh, Elendili.”

“You’re joking. This is a big joke, isn’t it?”

“I don’t see what’s so unbelievable, Freddie.” Marith said, beginning to be annoyed.

“Oh, I don’t know. Why don’t we start from the top. How about, one, you’ve turned down every advance that weirdo has made since you were fourteen. Two, you said you’d never, ever, ever marry an outlander as long as you lived, or three, he officiated my wedding!”

“So you don’t want to be my maid of honor?”

“What, do you think I’m going to say no?” Fredrika laughed. “But you’re a smart woman for asking me before telling me who you’re going to marry.” Marith smiled. “What the hell do you see in this man?”

“Well,” Marith began. “I never liked him, but then a couple years ago I bumped into him on a trip with Mehra and her husband in Eluvatar.”

“Bumped into him? It’s not a small country, Marith.”

“Well, I asked him if he wanted to meet somewhere. I heard on the news about him being some bigtime priest over there or something and I wanted to, well,” Marith cleared her throat. “Anyway, the next morning we went out to breakfast at this beautiful place by the water and - “

“You can spare me the details.” Marith scrunched her forehead.

“Well, Freddie, and this summer he asked if I wanted to get married and I said yes!” Fredrika looked unamused.

“Well, I’ll be your maid of honor but let me warn you now - those Eluvatarans are nothing but trouble, head to foot. Trust me. You should get out while you can.”

“Well, if you could do it all over again, if not a Myrorian, who would you marry?”

“An Ozian.”

“An Ozian?” Marith asked, disbelieving. “Why an Ozian?”

“Ozian men never get in the way. They do whatever you ask of them. And those purple eyes!” Fredrika smiled to herself. “Who are the other bridesmaids?”

“Well, Mehra said yes.”

“Mehra? She was in my wedding! What, are you just trying to recreate the whole thing?”

“No!” Marith exclaimed. “It’s not going to be in the summertime. I hate the summer.” Fredrika rolled her eyes.

“Mehra won’t be very fun at the reception. She has half a drink and is out for the rest of the night.”

“Oh, she doesn’t drink anymore. Her husband’s a recovering alcoholic.”

“She’s married now too? Why wasn’t I invited?” Fredrika asked, hurt.

“I think the dress incident left scars.” Marith laughed.

“Who’s her husband?” Fredrika asked.

“Oh, do you know Brathus Vrotrith?”

“No shit, he graduated with me! Engineering, I think.”

“Yeah, well he didn’t do anything with that. Joined the Air Force right out of college. He’s a test pilot now, I think.”

“A test pilot?” Fredrika asked, though her Resdaynian accent, which she normally only let come out when she was either excited or trying to look wholesome, made the phrase sound more like ”A test piloot?”. She crossed her legs and picked up her pack of cigarettes. “Where are they living nowadays?”

Marith stared incredulously at the queen for a few seconds, and was about to speak when she was interrupted by a buzzer on Fredrika’s desk. She leaned forward in her chair, pressed the button on the small speaker, and yelled, clearly angry at being interrupted:

What is it?!

“Your Majesty, Serjo Quarrovth is here to see you.” croaked an elderly-sounding woman from the other end.

“Which one?”

“M, I believe.”

“Mavos, Mevan, or Marcica?”

“The one that’s here the most often, Your Majesty.” Fredrika’s cheeks turned red for a moment before responding:

“Thank you. Send him in please.”

“Should I leave?” Marith asked.

“No, he’ll just be here a moment.” Fredrika responded, lighting her cigarette. “I want you to meet this guy. He can write a beautiful speech but doesn’t know which end of a horse to feed.” Marith nodded as a knock on the door could be heard.

“Enter,” Fredrika said and the door slowly opened.

“I have that speech prepared;” Marcica said, not noticing the other woman in the room.

“Thank you, serjo, Marcica, I’d like you to meet Marith, an old friend of mine.”

“Hello,” Marcica said quickly, barely looking.

“It’s a pleasure,” Marith replied, clearly unsure about the truth of her statement.

“The PNA claimed responsibility for Folvys’ murder,” Marcica blurted. “So I tried to work that information in.”

“Thank you, serjo.” Fredrika said, throwing the speech on her desk without looking at it. “Will you stay and have a drink?”

“Well,” Marcica said, looking over his shoulder. At this point Fredrika looked at Marith and shook her head, as if to assure her he would not be staying for a drink. He looked back at the queen.

“I’m already late for the council. It’s almost two.”

“Suit yourself, serjo. It’s been a pleasure. Truly.”

“Yeah,” Marcica said, turning and rushing out the door.

“I’ve never met anyone so neurotic in my life;” Fredrika said to Marith after Marcica shut the door. “So tell me about this test pilot,” she continued, watching her accent more closely this time.

“Well, they say he’s going to be the first Myrorian to fly faster than Mach 2. He was going to fly the plane that broke the sound barrier but he had some accident or something, I don’t know. Anyway, they say any day now he’ll go Mach 2. I guess we’ll see.”

“I guess we will,” she said, taking a drag so deep off her cigarette she started coughing.
"I assure you -- I will be quite content to be a mere mortal again, dedicated to my own amusements."

Offline Myroria

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Re: Other People (1951)
« Reply #16 on: August 18, 2014, 02:56:13 AM »
"There's still time to flee, Martin!" Anabele Georgique, a Pelagian woman of about 37 who had been with the PNA since she was 19, implored Martin give the order to retreat from their hideout. Scouts had informed the leadership of the PNA that the convoy of IOI vehicles were still about an hour from the old Indiotrovth manor.

"Louic," Martin murmered under his breath, almost silently. He ran his finger up and down the grip of his pistol before turning his attention to Anabele. "Fernand XI didn't flee from Pelagis when the myror and the Eluvatarans reached the gates. He went down with the city. I don't intend to dishonor his memory by retreating from this battle."

"Fernand knew the battle was lost, Martin! The myror were coming from the north, the Eluvatarans the south, and the Prydainians the west! The myror have left three directions open for us, three directions to fall back to!"

"Fall back? Anabele, where would we go? They'll just keep sending more and more men until they get what they want - our heads!"

"We could redoubt to Traval, hide in the forests. Or we could advance on Thanelen - overthrow the mayor and hold onto the peninsula."

"Overthrow the mayor? You're having delusions of grandeur, Anabele." Anabele threw her hands up in the air.

"Martin, you haven't been on the streets in months! You don't know the power we have out there - we could do anything! Cross the border into Letonna - the Neustrians would welcome us with open arms. A new Pelagian Empire, Martin; a new Pelagis on the River Tel! It's in our grasp, but if we stay here we're dead!"

"That's not happening, Anabele. They have Louic on their side. I think he knows our plans before we do."

"Martin, use your head! You told Louic where we'd be. He doesn't know merd - at least nothing more than we tell him!" Martin stood up and walked to the window. It was calm now, with men taking positions at the doorway of the old manor, but he knew time was limited.

"This is where we make our last stand. We had a good run but it's over - we can only take out as many myror as we can before the end."

"Martin, I know you've always wanted to be a martyr but this is stupidity."

"Don't call me stupid, bitch! These are your orders!" Martin took a step towards Anabele. "You swore an oath that you would give your life for this movement and it's time to cash that check!"

"Don't talk to me about cashing checks, Martin! This isn't about your incessant need to die for something; this is about Louic! You can't stand the thought he went soft in prison and turned us in!" Anabele spit on the floor. "Raçe traitre! Good riddance!"

"What did you just call him?" Martin said, stepping forward again. Anabele held her ground.

"Raçe traitre! He's no better than the myror - selling us out for his own benefit. It's sick! But now we can move on knowing he's a spineless traitor and you're holding us back, keeping us here to die with you! Other people betray you, Martin, you need to understand that! If you spent your time living with the myror instead of theorizing you would know that!"

"I will tell you one more time, Anabele - you will stay here and fight with us or I'll lock you in the basement and let the myror find you. I'm sure they won't be kind to a Pelag - a Pelag woman." Anabele stepped forward and swung at Martin's cheek, the sound of the impact - almost like a tenderizing hammer hitting a steak - reverberating through the office. Martin fell and landed on his backside, legs sprawled out before him.

"I have no intention of seeing you run this revolution in the ground, Martin! At least half these men are loyal to me - I'm taking them away from here. You can come with us, or you can die here. As much as it sickens me to know you'll let half these men die so you can wallow in your depression, I'd rather be rid of the lot. Anyone who listens to you is weak - this army can do without them." Anabele walked towards the door as Martin scrambled to his feet.

"Wait, Anabele!" he said.

"What is it?" she replied angrily, turning around to see Martin holding the handgun previously resting on his desk. He fired three times, hitting her in the chest and knocking her back, her body hitting the wall next to the doorjamb with a thump. She slumped to a seating position and Martin stepped forward and shot her in the head.

"Your Majesty, the Imperial Chamberlain is here for your five o'clock." buzzed the elderly woman through the speaker on Fredrika's desk.

"Send him in, please." she replied, leaning back in her chair and throwing an annotated copy of her speech on the desk. She removed her reading glasses and tossed them on top. Gothren entered her office soon after, squeezing by a small cherub on a pedestal that was placed just too closely to the entrance.

"Your Majesty," he said with a rare smirk on his face. Seeing his expression, Fredrika smiled in turn.

"It looks like you have good news for me," she said, trying to hide her eagerness.

"Well, the Pelag was right. It was a tough fight but the IOI took the manor. 26 deaths - 25 on their side. One poor agent caught a bullet through the scrotum - went into his leg and hit the femoral artery. Poor guy," he said, shaking his head.

"But we won? We captured the manor - and everyone in it?"

"That's correct," he replied. Fredrika shrieked for joy. "One of the Pelags lead us to this upstairs office that he said had their leader in it - he killed himself during the battle. I guess he murdered his second-in-command and couldn't take it."

"Bastard," Fredrika said. "I wanted to see him hang."

"I suppose some people just escape justice," he replied. "Pity though it is." Fredrika, smiling ear to ear, hopped several times.

"Oh, this is incredible! So this is it! I had no idea it'd be this... easy." she said excitedly.

"Well I wouldn't say it's all over, ma'am. There are still other sects hiding out - and if we don't resolve the problems plaguing the Pelagians another group like the PNA will surely take its place."

"Oh, that's a problem for another day! Besides, I'm sure the men you captured will talk."

"Well, that's what we hope, ma'am."

"I think Peté has a humidor in his office downstairs. I'll have someone get us two cigars. Oh, and champagne! This day is simply glorious!" Slipping for the second time this day, she couldn't help but say glorioos.

"Well, work is hardly from over, ma'am." Gothren began, trying to calm her mania. "How's your speech coming?"

"Oh, my speech!" she said, returning to her desk. Picking up the paper and her reading glasses, she leaned back in her chair and put her feet up. "It's coming along. I think 'cica rushed a little bit, but I worked out the worst parts. Oh, I'll have to add a part about this momentous news! Does the press know?"

"Not yet, but they will soon. A few local newspapers saw the convoy."

"Well, keep them away as long as possible. I want to be the first to tell my - the - nation. 'Fellow Myrorians, I have news of a great victory for our people and nation.'" she said, giving the last sentence a particularly royal inflection.

"Perhaps it'd be best not to gloat, ma'am. The Pelagian population probably needs consoling."

"Oh yes," she said sarcastically. "I feel so bad for those Pelagians - losing the terrorist insurgents they knew and loved."

"Well it's not about them losing their terrorist insurgents, ma'am, it's about them losing the only outlet for communication they had with the government." Gothren said, slightly uneasily. Pelagians and outlanders were two subjects it was risky to breach with the queen.

"Communication? You call bombs communication?"

"Well, it is a method of communication. They could have chosen better ones, but regardless it's probably best not to gloat over making them silent. Perhaps you could make ways for the Pelagians to air grievances - they don't have Houses to represent them, of course. Or perhaps you could encourage His Majesty to do it once he returns."

"Don't remind me, Gothren! I don't know how much longer I have - he could be back tomorrow, for all I know."

"Forgive me, ma'am." he said, deadpan. "What do you plan to do with the Pelag who tipped us off?"

"I told you, Gothren - let him go. The Pelagians can do whatever they want with him. I don't owe him anything. His help was useful, but he's not useful anymore and it doesn't make up for the... terrible things he's done."

"I understand, ma'am, but you promised him protection."

"Promises don't mean anything. Marith promised me a year ago that when she got married Mehra - " the queen shuddered momentarily - "wouldn't be there. But now she's a bridesmaid! Oh, or my teacher at the Lycée - he promised the Board that he wasn't holding parties at his house off-hours - but the entire junior and senior classes must have been there. Or my husband, he promised..." Fredrika trailed off for a moment.

"But anyway," she continued, "Promises don't mean anything. I won't waste tax dollars on that skeezeball." She took her feet off the desk and leaned into her buzzer. "Please have someone get the Chamberlain and I a cigar each,"

"What kind, ma'am?" creaked the elderly woman on the other end.

"I don't care. A kind for celebrating."

"I'll have them surprise you, Your Majesty." she said.

"Great secretary," Fredrika said to Gothren. "No nonsense."

"Yes, she is a good secretary," Gothren said, trying to steer the queen back to the topic at hand. "But it's dangerous, politically I mean, to start breaking promises."

"Oh, will you lay off it, Gothren? What political clout am I going to hold once my husband comes back anyway? It'll be just like it was before he left - all the newspapers talking. 'The Empeuress was at this party', 'The Empeuress wore this gown', 'Is the Empeuress pregnant again'? Such nonsense. Just allow me this one luxury, Gothren."

"I'm just saying," he said, taking a deep breath. "Look at it from Louic's shoes. His Majesty took the throne from you after promising not to - you promised this man his life." Fredrika was silent for a moment.

"People die all the time," she said, slightly unsure.
« Last Edit: August 18, 2014, 02:58:13 AM by Myroria »
"I assure you -- I will be quite content to be a mere mortal again, dedicated to my own amusements."

Offline Myroria

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Re: Other People (1951)
« Reply #17 on: August 20, 2014, 03:25:24 PM »
Fredrika smacked her lips several times and straightened the annotated speech on the desk in front of her. She had moved down to the press room in the basement of the Residence to prepare for her televised speech, but found it hard to concentrate. The aftertaste from the cigar she had seemed to linger in her mouth, filling it with a heavy and pungent odor. Reassuring herself that the audience would not be able to smell it through their television sets, she reached down on the floor and picked up her clutch purse, checking the watch inside. 6:50 PM.

“Your Majesty,” said the lead of a veritable cavalcade of various radio and television technicians that arrived, almost on cue, to set up the speech. “Are you ready, ma’am?” the man asked. Fredrika put a gloved hand to her mouth and breathed into it. She squinted and pursed her lips.

“Ma’am?” the man asked again.

“Uh, yes. Yes I am ready.” The man signalled to another attendant who brought a golden necklace representing the Empeurer’s position as war leader of the Great Houses. Fredrika looked at it almost longingly for a second before putting her hand up.

“No,” she said. She wanted to sound firm but it came off as more of a whine. “I don’t want to look like my husband’s usurper.” The necklace bearer stood confused for a moment before the queen’s attendant shooed him away. Fredrika brushed off the front of her gown - the television technicians had suggested a white one so it would almost glow on camera but she felt like a washed-out bride.

She cracked her hands and stretched her neck before adjusting her reading glasses.

“We’re due to start in two minutes, Your Majesty,” said a man making some final adjustments to a camera on a tripod.

Louic fiddled with the key to his apartment, trying to fit it in the door in the dark. The lights in the hallway had gone out three months ago and no one had come up yet to replace them. The bigger issue at hand for the apartment building’s tenants, though, was the wasp’s nest growing just outside the lobby door. The fall’s chill was killing them off, but their health seemed rejuvenated after the past days’ heat.

Finally fitting it into the lock and turning the handle, he opened the door and turned on the light. He was told protection would be coming to his apartment to watch him for a few days until they found him a new place, but they had yet to arrive - just like the electrician. Sighing and throwing his keys on the table, he walked to the refrigerator looking for a beer.

Fredrika kept both her eyes intently on the camera’s green blinking light, praying to God that her lazy eye wouldn’t wander away from her. Pausing to reach the next page, she continued her speech.

“Despite any failings he might have had, Folvys Quarrovth was at heart a good man.

Willing to give his life for his country and his faith in his country’s system of government, Serjo Quarroth served with a dignity and good humor that my father recognized, His Majesty recognized, and every member of the Council recognized. Though dogged by controversy, he was always an honest man.” Fredrika reminded herself to grimace once the eulogy was over. “I remember when I served as an advisor to the Council before my father’s death, he once promised me to devote as much energy as possible to building a new road to Nelvil’s Landing from New Fellowmoor, and within two years the road was done. He never broke his promises,”

Louic gazed inside the refrigerator, forgetting what he had come for. Squinting as if to help jog his memory, he had a sudden epiphany and reached for the beer. Closing and latching the door, he picked up a bottle opener off the counter and popped the top off onto the floor. Sighing at his mistake, he put the bottle of beer on the counter before bending down to get the pop-top, straining his back. Staying bent over a moment to ready himself to straighten out again, he heard the doorknob being fiddled with.

They can’t knock?” Louic thought to himself, picking up his bottle and walking to the door.

“Though the Pelagian nationalists could take Serjo Quarrovth’s life, they could never take his spirit. He will always be remembered by his colleagues on the Council and off as a man of integrity and intense personal loyalty. I think the best way that I can repay him for his service is by fulfilling a promise I made to him - and every other member of the illustrious Council.”

Halfway through the living room, Louic picked up a newspaper off the couch and put it on the end table. Only a few feet from the door, he saw it swing open with an incredible fury and a short, thin Pelagian man step forward. Louic put his hands up, dropping his beer.

“Take whatever you want,” he said in Pelagian before repeating it in Inglish. “I don’t want any trouble.”

“You would speak Inglish, traitor!” the man yelled in Pelagian before stepping towards Louic. He reached behind him and produced a gun from his belt.

“You killed so many men! Pelagian men!”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Louic said, stepping back. “I think you have the wrong guy.”

“No I don’t! Did you think that was the last of the PNA? That you could kill us all in one swoop?” Louic bumped into the endtable and the newspaper fell on the floor. The intruder carefully stepped over the beer bottle rolling on the ground and continued to advance towards Louic.

“This afternoon, a combined force consisting of members of the Novrith prefecture, the County Novrith Magistrate’s office, and agents of the Imperial Office of Investigation moved against the leadership of the PNA, who were residing in a compound outside Novrith. Despite the death of one IOI agent, the group was apprehended. Though this certainly isn’t the last of the PNA, after this decapitation strike the rest of the group will surely wither away, though Myrorian law enforcement will never stop pursuing them as long as they evade justice.” Fredrika again paused to turn the page of her speech.

“My only regret is that the PNA was not dismantled before they were able to kill Folvys Quarrovth.”

“I really don’t know what you’re talking about,” Louic said, perspiring heavily and continuing to step back.

“You make me sick, Louic. You make us all sick. I’m just here to put an old, sick, traitorous man out of his misery.” the man said, holding his gun higher. Louic backed into the kitchen sink, not having noticed he had traversed the entire length of the apartment.

“Please,” he said. The man shook his head.

“Just admit it! Are you a traitor and a coward?”

“Yes!” Louic screamed. “Yes! I betrayed the PNA! You were killing children!”

“This was our best chance at salvation, Louic. And you ruined it.” The man spit on the floor. “Myror.”

“His Majesty will surely be returning to the country soon, and it pleases me to know that this national trauma could come to a just end so quickly. Serjo Quarrovth’s service will not be forgotten - he was one of many Myrorian victims of this sick assault on this country and we will mourn his loss, as well as the loss of every other Myrorian killed in these attacks.” Fredrika looked at the printed speech for a moment before raising her head again.

“I hope that somewhere out there Folvys is pleased with the hard work of the IOI and other law enforcement agencies, and that much as his promises were always fulfilled, we were able to fulfil our promise to him. Thank you.”

“Just shoot me! Why do you have to torment me like this? If you’re going to shoot, shoot,” Louic said. “You’re only killing a man.” The intruder grimaced.

“I don’t enjoy this, traitor. But it has to be done to avenge the Pelagian people.” The intruder put his finger on the trigger but paused when he heard footsteps behind him and the rustling of clothes.

“IOI! Drop your weapon!”
"I assure you -- I will be quite content to be a mere mortal again, dedicated to my own amusements."

Offline Myroria

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Re: Other People (1951)
« Reply #18 on: August 24, 2014, 10:51:17 PM »
“I’m sorry to hear about your father, Your Majesty,” said Taren Quarrith, a member of Fredrika’s graduating class at the Lycée and some sort of distant cousin. “Even if I am two years late,” he continued dryly, with a mordant chuckle. It had actually been one year, eleven months, and three days, but who’s counting?

“Thank you, sera.” Fredrika said with a polite smile that appeared more like a grimace. “It had been a long time coming, so it wasn’t a surprise when he finally went.” She smiled, again, her lips appearing more natural this time. It’s never not a surprise when your father dies, but Taren didn’t know yet, and probably wouldn’t for another ten or fifteen years.

“I quite enjoyed your speech, though.”

“Did you? I was worried I was too easy on old Folvys.”

“I’m sorry?” Taren looked puzzled. “Who’s Folvys?” Fredrika, slightly surprised but not as much as you would be hearing that your father just died, thought for a moment.

“Oh!” she exclaimed after a short, depressing eureka moment. “You meant my maid of honor speech;”

Matron of honor,” Taren corrected, the tone of the sentence confused. It sounded simultaneously like he was asking her ”Freudian slip?” and ”Are you propositioning me?”. Fredrika’s gaffe was the former but it probably wouldn’t convince Taren, who would be following her around the reception the rest of the night despite their blood relation.

“Of course, excuse me. I was thinking of another speech I made a few months ago,” Fredrika said, returning the conversation’s mood to “just a tinge of depression”.

“Oh, no, I was talking about the one you made just a few minutes ago. The part about breaking into the biology lab with Marith at the Imperial College was hilarious!” Fredrika reached across the table for her pack of cigarettes as Taren sat down ingratiatingly. “You know,” he said, adjusting in his seat, “they say those things will give you cancer.”

“‘They say’,” Fredrika replied sarcastically, tucking a cigarette between her lips, “I don’t know if I believe that.” Taren leaned forward with a lighter but Fredrika reached into her clutch for a matchbook. “Thank you, but I have my own light.” Taren sat back in his chair, hurt. The pair sat in silence for a few minutes while Fredrika smoked.

“So who’s Folvys?” Taren said finally, trying to restart the flatlining conversation.

“He’s this man I used to know,” Fredrika said, keen on removing its life support. Taren leaned in, intrigued.

“What kind of a man was he?” he said flirtatiously, or at least the closest he could manage. Fredrika blew smoke out of the side of her mouth.

“We didn’t get along.” she said curtly.

And why’s that?” Taren said eagerly, as one might talk to a child or a dog.

“Money problems.” Fredrika replied, monotone.

What kind of money problems?” Taren said, leaning in even closer.

“Do you watch the news, Taren?” Fredrika said, leaning away.

“Not really,” he replied. “What were you two on the news for?” It would be impossible for him to sound more condescending.

“It’s a long story,” Fredrika replied, ripping the IV out of the conversation’s arm. “Now if you’ll excuse me,” she continued as if she was picking up its pillow, “I have to speak to the glowing bride.” Taren frowned at the conversation’s somewhat messy death, but Fredrika seemed to take relish in it - her only regret was that there wasn’t nearly enough flailing and muffled screaming.

“Now there she is!” she exclaimed with a half-real and half-forced grin. Marith and Ælar had just finished a dance and were about to start another when the queen approached. “Can I have another hug?” Fredrika asked, a little facetiously.

“Of course, Freddie!” Marith said, extending her arms.

“I can’t congratulate you two enough,” she said in the midst of the embrace.

“Thank you, Freddie!" Marith said, releasing her. "When are you going back to Myroria?” she asked pleasantly.

“Probably first thing tomorrow morning,” Fredrika replied. “You trying to get rid of me?”

“Now you know that’s not true!” Marith exclaimed. “I never asked how the hubby was,” she continued, though it sounded a little bit like a compulsory nicety.

“Oh, you know, he’s the same. Hasn’t left his office in a month, I don’t think. He’s paranoid something else will happen as soon as he leaves his desk.”

“Well don’t let us keep you tomorrow morning,” Marith said, as Mehra drunkenly climbed up on the stage behind her and grabbed a microphone. “Going to Eire!” Marith said excitedly. “I’ve always wanted to see it.” Mehra started to sing and Marith looked over her shoulder. “Oh, no. Ælar?” she said, nudging him to go stop her.

“This is too entertaining!” he said, provoking a dirty look from Marith. “Ah, fine.”

“I know you have a lot to do back home, Freddie. Really, don’t feel like you have to see us off.” Marith said, turning her attention back to the queen.

“We’ll see,” she said. “I do have to - “ Fredrika paused. She thought of her husband at his desk as he had been for so many weeks already, and knew there would be nothing for her to do at the Residence; every possible errand for her to complete was already sitting in his inbox. “I do have to finish a few things,” she said, unsure.

“Okay, well if I don’t see you tomorrow morning I’ll assume you took the first flight home.” Fredrika smiled.

“I’m so happy for you, Marith.” she said, probably the first honest thing to come out of her mouth all day. Marith, apparently noticing, grinned from ear to ear.

“Thank you, Freddie.”

“But remember,” she said. “Those Eluvatarans are nothing but trouble.” Marith laughed and the pair stood off the dance floor for a moment in silence, the kind of natural silence only two friends can have.

“Well,” Fredrika said. “I see Mehra over there on the stage, but I never saw her husband. Where is he? A test pilot! I have so many questions for him.”

"I assure you -- I will be quite content to be a mere mortal again, dedicated to my own amusements."