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Sarah Tintagyl

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Maria sat in her study at Hofburg Palace, well after midnight, looking at the large map painted along the far wall through the dim candlelight. Over the months and years that had passed since the birth of her Austrian Duchy, which had successfully grown into small empire, the colors of the map had been changed ever so slightly. Austria's borders in Europe had expanded a smidgen, the vast stretches of the American Northwest had been colored a dim shade of white to show their eventual loyalty to the Hapsburg Crown through the Austrian Commonwealth that the Empress had created herself. Still other parts of the world were undergoing friendly color changes. After hearing of Theresia's engagement with the August Imperator of the United Federation of the East, all of China was redone with a soft blue color and she hoped that Athens would be under that same color in time. Angelika would still be gallivanting somewhere in the world and perhaps with children in the future, the continued success of the Hapsburg family was guaranteed. But with so many things going right for Austria, where did that place Maria? She had allies, to be sure, but though Austria was in league with the great powers of the world, did that constitute their own Great Power status?

The Empress disagreed, Austria was not China, she was not Athens, or the United Kingdom. She was simply part of the greater sphere of influence across the world and yet she was beginning to feel suffocated by the sheer power of her company. Looking through the dim light of the candle, she saw the maps of ancient Austria sprawled across Europe, when the Hapsburg family was the most powerful in the world and where a great majority of nations owed their success and power to Vienna. It was that world that she wanted to return to and now that Austria's domestic growth had been relatively secured it was time to actually begin to look beyond the coast of the Adriatic. Idaho-Montana had been a fluke, a fluke that nearly had put Austria under, but it secured an influence in the Americas for years to come.

The knock on the door brought Maria out of her trance and she stood up from behind her desk. "Come." She said and the door opened as Frederich Kant, the Foreign Minister walked in, still wearing his suit and red and white sash that run over his chest.

"You called Your Majesty?" Kant said, yawning as he approached the desk.

"I apologize for keeping you up so late Kant, but I need your advice on a few things." The Empress crossed the room over to the map and glanced up at the continents in front of her face. "Well, not so much your advice because I have every intention of going through with these plans, but I wanted to get your opinion on the actual execution."

"You have my attention Your Majesty." He said taking a seat on the desk's top.

Maria pointed up at North America and smiled. "In hopefully little more than a week, the Third Cascadian Republic will declare their official existence after the rebels, whom Angelika is fighting are completely crushed. They will be the first stable country to enter into the Austrian Commonwealth and I will be named Head of State of the republic. After that, I will appoint a Viceroy to rule in my stead and Austria's influence in the Pacific Northwest will be secured for years to come."

"All information I already understood Your Majesty."

"Then why Kant," she opened her arms in a wide gesture at the map, "should Austria stop there? North America is in a state of disarray. Pravus Inguro is in civil war and the rest of the continent is fairly weak. There is little that will stop us from launching assaults across the continent."

Kant's face paled as he stood up from the desk and patted his forehead with a handkerchief. "Your Highness, I am never one to question your motives, but this is rather bold. Invasion? The world will only sit by for so long before they act. Our allies will only remain friendly for so long before they act as well. Princess Theresia may be engaged to the August Imperator, but that doesn't make him any less dangerous. China has allies across the world, you could place Austria in direct conflict with our allies. It is never proper manners to bite the hand that feeds you."

"I know that. I wouldn't dare go against Athens or China. Not only would it be a death sentence, but I value their friendship too much. No, Kant, what I am proposing is the expansion of the Commonwealth through any means possible and expansion that will not interfere within the spheres of influence of our allies. We are lucky that we have the position that we do. Thank heavens for Theresia, Ehestadt will prove to be one of the important parts of the Commonwealth in the future and in Asia, it's amazing that we could even accomplish such a thing. But think, Missouri, Baron, Blue Heaven, Canada, and others are all squabbling states. With some applied pressure, subtle movements behind their lines, and the promise of stability. Austrian viceroyalties could extend from the Pacific to the Atlantic and with that kind of alliance, led by Cascadia. We would be the owners of North America."

Kant crossed his arms and nodded. "Its rather hasty, a lot relying on chance and could perhaps result in open warfare."

"And with the mercenary forces, our own expanding forces, plus those inside the Commonwealth, it would be a force to reckon with." Maria smiled back with a confident and approving look on her face.

"Then if this has already been approved, why ask me for my advice?" Kant said with a light chuckle.

"To let you know what your work will be consisting of for the next few months."

The Foreign Minister sighed and got down off the desk, walking slowly towards the door. "I'm going to sleep now then. I have a feeling I'm not going to get much sleep in the next few weeks."

The door shut behind him and Maria turned back towards the map and traced the letters "A.E.I.O.U." over the North American continent and grinned.

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