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Queens and Pawns


Evangeline Anovilis
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Throughout the corridor, the flames had spread, blocking the way. The back, against a wall. Smoke growing ever thicker, soon blocking the view. Was this it? Was this the final fate? How? Coughing, trying to find a way through the inferno. Intense heat and pain. "I guess this is the first taste of things to come?" Despair sets in, the vision starts to flicker. Reaching the opposite end, the door is shut. Flames drawing ever closer. The door, silend and unmoving. How was such possible? How could such happen? The work was not yet complete. This was far too early... not planned for... betraying all expectations. But... it was there. The fire, the all-consuming flame, the stinging pain. Slowly, slumping down, leaning against the door unbudging. In the distance, the clock tells the full hour. The time has come... it seems... The room grows dark, all feels heavy. Lids close... then, suddenly, the door starts moving. Opening up. What is this?

 

Inmidst a lush green garden filled with yellow rose and lily white, a lone table inmidst blood-red azalea. A woman, drinking tea. "It is a nice day, is it not? Just right for a cup of tea." Serene, yet unsettling. So, the inevitable... and she pours a second cup of dark red tea...

 

[hr]

 

Confidential

 

"What in the name of..." Constante was totally petrified, as she heard the report. For a minute, she had to process the news. "Does Vlasceanu know already?" It seemed, he had been notified just prior to her. "I guess we'll have a cabinet meeting soon then. What does the local police say?" For a moment, the office was quiet, as Constante seemed to ponder about it. "Prepare a firing squad. We'll need to get them all, soon and publicly." As she put the telephone down again, the minister leaned back and sighed. What she just heard... how could this be?

 

[hr]

 

Public

 

417px-Kingdom_of_Romania_-_Big_CoA.svg.p

 

On this Monday, the 22nd of September, in an act of utterly violent and appaling terrorism, segments of the Romanian Front for the Liberation of Maoist Ardeal and Oltenia (RoFLMAO), an underground organisation of Transilvanian Maoist revolutionaries, have put on fire parts of Hunedoara castle, destroying parts of this historic building and killing M.S. Maria I de Romania, Queen of the Romanians, Protector of Constantinopol, our most beloved monarch. While this regicide has undoubtedly caused a great loss to our Realm, the Greater Romanian nation will not waver in her fight with revolutionary terrorist insurgents. Two men of the Maois front, which have been apprehended in the aftermath of the arson will be publicly executed to demonstrate our resolve as a nation to crush the enemies within, who have no respect for the proper order of things and no love for their fatherland or monarch.

 

For the moment, the nation is headed by a regency council, made up by Her Majesty's late government, however, Romanians need not worry, for the regency council is doing its best to enable a smooth succession for the new monarch, according to succession laws and the will of our deceased monarch.

 

Signed,

Alexandru Vlasceanu, Prime Minister and Regent of Greater Romania

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"We thank the East Asian Imperium for their words of condolence and we hope that no further terrorism ensues."

-Mihaela Constante, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Greater Romania

 

[hr]

 

Confidential

 

While the Siguranța was planning its campaign to utterly eradicate the Maoists, the Regency council convened, in order to discuss the future of the Romanian state. While the Queen had often been urged to look for a consort, sadly, she had died without issue, making succession quite a bit harder. But what was left behind by Maria was a will, a document, intented to exclude mostly people from the line of succession, whom the deceased Queen had deemed unsuitable, which was most of all, any of her family that lived in what was now Alvonia, as well as the good old William, whom she saw as a hateful old chauvinist, incompetent and moronic. While old Willy however was removed from succession, such was only the case for him as individual, not for the family as a whole, on the condition, that someone of the family live in Romania and take care of the royal pets and other posessions, which were specified in a metres long account of the royal inventory, and which were to not be sold outside the family name. Constante knew that Maria I posessed quite a few pets, including not just a black cat, but also at least half a dozen black ravens and a brown bear, Teddiescu... On posessions, she recounted the royal castles, the royal car, the treasury and royal crown jewellry, at least three private libraries, a royal yacht, some estates... a lot of small stuf she had collected over the years, and which she was keeping in her private chambers. To take care of this all, it wouldn't be easy. But it was stated that the family inherits "the whole or nothing". Reading through the document, Constante could not make out whether this person actually cared for her family or hated them all. Most likely, it was a bit of both... or massive amounts...

 

Anyway, a letter would be sent to Danzig.

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Willy's Wilhelm's brow furrowed at the news of Maria's passing. To think that she had been offed like that was a bit confusing, seeing as he'd expected her to be a thorn in his side for many years to come. Still, as tempting as it was to break out the champagne, it was somewhat of a shame to have lost what could have been a rival, and a dynamo in what was becoming a boring world led by true fools and their sycophants. He sighed.

He heard a knock at his door, and a muffled "Father.", from the other side. Inviting them in, he watched as Schëre shuffled in, almost awkwardly, holding a letter in her hand. "I've received a letter from Romania.", she said, sitting down in the chair opposite him. He watched as she fidgeted in her chair and waited for the words to come. Reigning his almost immediate annoyance in, he sat silently and waited for her to continue. "It details the succession law of the Romanian Crown and also contains an invitation to Bucharest.", she said, tilting her head slightly and looking at the floor.

Goddammit. So that's what the old hag planned. He couldn't very well keep her from going, nor did he want to send such a helpless mewling to become Queen suo jure. Here she was, her voice almost quivering like a leaf, and about to become a ruling monarch? Reality was was certainly a cruel mistress, and now he was going to have to train a new heir to cover for her inevitable failure. Still, Romania would struggle to wield any kind of influence in the absence of Maria, and Leo was turning into a fine nobleman, and seemed almost qualified to run a nation himself. Actually, that wasn't such a bad idea - Leo would most likely be Schëre's next-in-line due to her lack of consort, and he could easily place the momentum back into Prussia's hand. Oh, how short-sighted she had been. Still, there would be manners to attend to.

"Then I would suggest you go there post-haste.", he said. "I will have much to work on to prepare, and I imagine that you will too.".

[hr]
Schëre nodded as her father's words resounded in her head, and stood up wordlessly. His influence had been a demeaning and suffocating one, and it seemed not to have changed given the news. And unless he'd misread his own succession laws, she was going to be inheriting his throne and his position; perhaps something he should have been more mindful of as she silently left the room and pulled the ribbon from her hair. T'was a memento of her late mother, and one of the few ones that actually resided in the palace after her passing. Not that anyone actually knew it was from her, of course; it was a simple light blue ribbon that ponytailed her hair up on occasion, but perhaps something that did not mix well with the regalia of Queendom.

Collecting the basics that she'd already packed, she left for the airport and for Bucharest. She'd be back, for for the rest of her belongings and perchance some courtiers. She couldn't take many, for fear of alienating the existing Romanians, but mayhap Sophia and Friedrich would be interested in the opportunity. She'd have to ask.
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Schere had already been awaited at the Bucharest-Băneasa International Airport. Mihaela Constante had been sent to pick up the prospective monarch, and would stand ready to greet Schere, once she stepped on the tarmac. Members of the royal guard and the Siguranța secured the area, in order to thwart any further acts of terrorism. To lose another monarch in such quick succession would do Romania hardly any good.

 

That it was Constante, not Vlasceanu, greeting the prospective monarch of course was hardly a coincidence. While Mihaela Constante had managed to get her office via patronage from Vlasceanu, over years, she had built up her own networks, and it was in the last years, that it was mostly Maria who blocked Constante's rise, rather keeping Vlasceanu in power, who was a better marionette than the ambitious minister of foreign affairs. Now, however, the Queen was dead. And Constante was quite interested in seeing the new monarch. Not that it was only Constante who was curious about Schere. There was a whole class of nobles and other elites, who saw their chance to shine. And it was not the greatest of times to become Queen... in fact, there never was in this country...

 

Once the royal aircraft had landed and taxied to its assigned position, the guard detachment would ready itself and stand still. And once the Prussian crown princess actually left the airport, she would set foot into the grey tristesse that was this airport. Constante's words would carry more than just one connotation, when she politely greeted Schere. "Welcome to Romania, your Highness. I'm Mihaela Constante, looking forward to working with you."

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The flight hadn't been particularly long, but Schëre had spent it reading up on Romanian history and politics. It seemed they'd done well for themselves, and were perhaps not the hovel many people made it out to be. Still, the air felt almost cold and the day was grey as she stepped out of the plane and into the arms of the awaiting entourage. Well, it would surely get brighter in the coming days. Admittedly, the prospect of entering this foreign court and having to entertain and lead them was indeed a towering one, but it would hopefully be well within her power to contain. Friends and alliances would need to be secured, and rabble rousers straightened out.

Clad in her simple black dress, she almost blinked as the leader of the Romanian group referred to her as "Your Highness". Well, not Romanian group for much longer; her group soon enough. She did wonder who it was greeting her, though; there surely had been bloodshed over being the first to meet the fledgling and mouldable Queen, and begin working on the influence and trust game early. Well, she'd be able to find out later; now was not the time for worrying and scheming, but for friendly and kind words.

"T'is an honour to be here, and I am eager to start working with you. Still, I feel it may be a bit presumptuous to call me 'Your Highness' already, but I'm sure we can work on that.", she said, with a smile and inclination of her head towards Mihaela.

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"We send our sympathies to the people and nation of Romania on this tragic day. King William has personally expressed his condolences to the family and and government of the late Queen Maria I. This is a profound loss for all of Europe, not just Romania, and we hope that Maria's commitment to peace and stability continues to be a guiding force.

 

The Northlands condemns the heinous actions of RoFLMAO and pledges its support to the Romanian state in bringing this criminal organization to justice. The Office of Security will provide assistance as requested and we reaffirm our commitment to the treaty between our states."

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"We thank the Northlands for their support in such dire times. The Romanian nation mourns for her monarch, but we shall not let go to waste that which Her Majesty had achieved and we shall not forget her most noble aims of stability and peace. Even if the monarch is dead, Romania shall continue its relation with the Northlands."

-Mihaela Constante, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Greater Romania

 

[hr]

 

"But, it is only appropriate for your Highness, a member of at least the Prussian royal family, to be adressed as such.", Constante replied politely. "But if your Highness prefers a different form of address, we can work on that of course. Please follow me. A car has been prepared to take us to the Royal Palace. I take it, you know the Palace already, given the meetings you have already partaken in?" As the minister of foreign affairs, Mihaela Constante had still often found herself redelegated to some background role by Maria. still, she had read every protocoll, every official document that came from the meeting and had even gone so far as to start paying royal servants to keep an eye on the meetings.

 

The weather was not the greatest, a light rain setting in. The sun was covered by clouds and mst likely, it'd soon be raining even worse. One servant, who had accompanied Constante carried umbrellas for this occassion. But still, Some of Bucharest's inhabitats had found their way to the airport and they seemed quite curious to observe the events from a bit of a distance, given that the security held them back.

 

But they were not the sole ones to watch, for a pair of amber eyes followed the spectacle as well...

Edited by Evangeline Anovilis
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Feeling almost jarred by the constant "Your Highness", Schëre merely gave a mental shrug and decided to just live with it. "Alas, I do not know what the palace is like - whilst I was in attendance of the meetings, as you say, I did not have the chance to explore and visit the rest of the palace. Might you be able to show me around, in that case?". She never had been given the chance to explore - Maria had always seemed like she had better things to do than to indulge the interest of Foreign Dignitaries in the home, which was understandable - she probably hadn't expected to have suddenly died like that either.

The time for childish play-acting was over, and now she'd be entering a foreign court to entertain and appease foreign nobles on their home turf and grounds... well, no one said it would be easy. Who knows perhaps they'd even be reasonable, and accept her with minimum fuss and skimp over the relatively unimportant details. It was almost a chance to show up her oaf of a father, and show him how wrong he'd been. Then she'd have two crowns to her name; truly an enviable position.

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"Naturally, your Highness. I have been entrusted with the task to advise your Highness in the workings of our country, as well as on our standing in the world, given my position as Minister of Foreign Affairs. If your Highness has any questions, feel free to ask.", Constante answered. a car would await them already outside, as the minister had mentioned before, and once inside, it would head for the Royal Palace in the interior of the city. The town, despite being overcast and notably different from the usual Prussian and Polish towns of the Baltic, had been reconstructed quite a bit and major areas had been cleared of communist-era concrete blocs and replaced with either rebuilt historical sites (such as the old Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the restored Mihai Vodă Monastery and the new palace) or new (neo-)historicist architecture.

 

As the car drove through Bucharest, escorted by a few police cars that cleared the way and were to keep the prospective monarch safe, Constante used the time to explain a few details to Schëre. "There are three royal residences in the capital. The Royal Palace, which is the most notable is the main palace and is used for most official ceremonies and meetings. Her Majesty the Queen was not too fond of it and preferred the Cotroceni Palace, which historically was the residence of our monarchs and their heirs, but as her Majesty had no relatives in the country... The third was newly constructed on Spirii Hill, about where the historic residence of the Wallachian princes. It has been solely used by her Majesty and for no official purposes. In fact, I never even saw the inside."

 

After some time, the car would arrive at the main palace, where the guards already awaited them and a room had been reserved.

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"I see.", said Schëre shortly. She didn't want to give away too much at this point, but insight into Romanian Foreign Policy would help create a more unified front, especially if she was in the position to be a catalyst to do so. "It sounds like both the Royal and Cotroceni palace would fit our needs well, for both receiving Foreign Dignitaries, and domestic matters."

Upon their arrival at the palace, she would be happily escorted to the reserved room.
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As they arrived at the room reserved for them, Constante checked whether anyone was in the room, before closing it off once she made sure there would be noone interrupting or listening in on them. The minister would heave a pile of documents on the table. "If your Highness would take a seat." Looking through them, Constante soon produced a few particular files. "Alright. as said, our dear deceased monarch her Majesty Maria I, whom you already know, has decreed that in the case of her death, which sadly has occurred, your Highness inherits the throne. However, there are certain requirements, which I already laid out, such as that your Highness ought to make sure the royal pets are cared for and that nothing out of the royal inventory leaves the ownership of the Hohenzollern name. Is your Highness willing to accept this regulation?"

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Schëre gave a small, and moved her head back slightly. The requirements were to... look after the Royal Inventory, and pets? Were they perhaps bundles of terror and chaos that had proved impossible for anyone else to look after? Well, hopefully not, but one always had to ask about these things. Mihaela seemed sincere enough, but...

"I see. I'd say that I could do that, but I'd appreciate a list of the things in the inventory, and the umm, Royal Pets and their needs. I don't want to end up losing something on my first day!", she said, with a nervous laugh.

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Mihaela would hand Schere a list of nearly two metres in length. Containing castles, estates, manors, cars, ships, ravens, a brown bear, a black cat, some forests, a number of pot plants, several clocks, a school, a cavalry regiment, a few hunting rifles, a few military rifles, several handguns, an aircraft, several crucifixes, numerous paintings, etc. etc. etc. "This is the main list. We also were handed an index of the royal library, if your Highness desires to look over it."

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"Wow. Uhh, alright.", said Schëre, briefly slipping out of the Royal demeanour. A bear? A Cavalry Regiment?! How do you even own one of those? Did she own the horses and equipment? The people themselves? What if one of them died of old age or something? Would she be forced to abdicate?!

"Well, we don't want to go trampling on Maria's good faith - I'll work on keeping these items safe, and the pets happy. Then we'll be managing the country from then on - I'd like a concise and relevant report on Romanian Foreign Affais, and anything domestic that seems like it would be worthy of my attention, especially if it relates to any service or the like provided by our Government."

"I look forward to working with you, Miss Constante. What would you have us do in the meantime? I'll need to return to Prussia briefly to pick up some other goods and belongings, and perhaps a few aides who will provide invaluable to managing the realm's affairs.", she said with a smile.
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Constante nodded. "It is good to see this settled then, your Majesty. While some of the nobility were concerned about a protestant monarch, no conversion will be necessary, as long as your Majesty accepts to respect the orthodoxy of Romania. Naturally, it might be advantagous to learn Romanian at some point, so as to become closer to your subjects.", the minister replied.

 

"In regards to the foreign affairs..." She shoved the rest of the documents in front of Schere. "These are extensive records and reports of diplomatic meetings, made by her Majesty, our diplomats and also myself. Romania's position in Europe the past few years has been formidable and one of power. However, already before your predecessor died, there has been a few issues, and with a new Queen, who has yet to prove herself, it might be that some may try to take advantage of the situation. As Minister of Foreign Affairs, it is my duty to advise you and to keep an eye on matters. Sadly, it seems that things are looking quite bad at the moment." Constante looked worried for a moment, pointing at a few particular reports. "As you might see in these reports, there have been recent challenges to the status quo, especially by the French over Savoy, which threatens our ally in the Cisalpine Republic. But also, there has been an increasing tendency of states to demonise the Bloc and to side with Alvonia. The report on the meeting with Kralj Dragojev of Yugoslavia is most worrying and has prompted us to rethink our position."

 

Constante took out a notebook and calendar. "If your Majesty want to leave already, I will have to ask your Majesty to please entrust her government with taking care of matters, as well as, we need to discuss possible diplomatic meetings with foreign dignitaries. As our monarch, there are quite a few matters that ought to be tented to. Most notably, I would advise communications with London, Carthage, possibly Sparta... oh, there also was an invitation to a ball in Hesse. As Queen and also as a Hohenzollern, this might be of interest to you. These matters will either need your personal attention, or the attention of a plenipotentiary of Her Majesty."

 

The minister lastly noted. "Of course, once all this is adressed, if you want to bring aides and personal confidents, such is fine and understandable. Just do not forget that these people need to be accommodated, that your Majesty not interact with unsightly individuals that may tarnish her reutation and that Her Majesty can trust her government to take care of matters if need be."

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  • 2 weeks later...
"I appreciate religious freedom - the people may worship and revere whatever they choose. And yes;", began Schëre. "My Romanian is poor, but it's something I plan to work on. Talking to the people in German or English would be... wrong."

Briefly reading over the first of the documents, she began to understand the awkward position that Romania was in. The Magyars creating trust and dependency issues, Romanian allies in potential danger, and some hostile nations right on their borders... At least they had the Bosphorus, benefiting the country in a respectable amount of ways. "I see. This will indeed be a tricky mix to unravel, and with tensions as they are... Well, we'll see what's under those masks."

Standing up, she nodded vaguely. "Thank you for your help, Miss Constante. I will briefly return to Prussia to finalise my move to the Cotroceni Palace. Before returning, I'll see to the Hessian meeting; we can see about improving our position whilst there. I will trust you to make decisions you feel of import that I cannot, in my absence."

[hr]
On the plane back to Prussia, Schëre looked to contact some of her kinsmen to act as courtiers. Friedrich would be easy enough to come by, given that he lived in the Main House's palace, but Sophia could prove to be more difficult. After her departure from Royal life, she'd left herself to pursue decently honourable work. Still, she would be an amazing asset and had been a good friend in the past - someone she could rely on in what was still a largely unknown Romanian court. A German speaking Romanian tutor would also be needed... Eurgh, learning languages was always an uphill struggle and for all the praise she'd received for being a talented linguist when she was younger... It didn't really stick.
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Sophie Marie Louise von Hohenzollern was, as the name would imply, a Princess of the House of Hohenzollern. Yet, the title of Princess most people only jokingly used to refer to her, when they knew of her background. Friends and neighbours would call her that. Most people she encountered would not know, the name tag on her work clothes simply read "Sophie". And more the customers did not need to know, for it was her work, she wanted to promote, not her family name. Similarly, Sophie had only sporadic contact with other members of her family, rather living a calm and fulfilling life nd not be in every tabloid in Prussia. That was not that she hated her family, but being somewhere around the twelth position in the line of succession and without much appreciation for the high-society life, Sophie had chosen to seek refuge in a simple life. However, someone had other plans for her...

 

As Sophie was about to leave for work, her mailbox contained a letter... as well as a black card.

 

"Die Kräh' ist tot,

Die Wölf' sind's nicht,

Das Haus ist in Not,

Hilf eh' es zerbricht."

 

On the reverse, there would solely be...

 

"Erwartungsvoll, A, H & L"

 

Shaking her head about this obvious prank, Sophie put the card in her pocket and rather opened the letter.

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