[P] With a vision of a gentle coast
#1
Diplomat III Thread Prompt Wrote:Facilitate a meeting with the King or Regent to discuss your work.
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The memory of the ball, with all of its pomp and circumstance; poise and posturing; pride and decorum, had been unlike anything that Percival had taken part of in his entire adult life. Here, he had been someone of whom it was expected would show their guests proper etiquette and become the face of ambassadorship for the Realm. Here, he had been compelled to provide thoughtful conversation and words of appreciation. Here, he had been someone important.


There had been little of that last winter, at the Court's final Masquerade, where he didn't even have a pack that he could properly represent. Then, he had only a band; a family, of which he belonged and protected and provided for. But, small though it was, Percival remembered feeling proud of his role as his family's ambassador, standing respectful and straight (if a little wide-eyed with wonder and awe) while elite members of neighboring packs danced and drank and discussed matters of diplomacy.


That, anyway, was what he remembered. Had there been discussions of diplomacy at the Masquerade? Perhaps, but perhaps not. But there were such talks at this past autumn's Diplomacy Summit in Casa di Cavalieri. Regrettably (and only in hindsight, having endured what he had from the Realm's Lord-Regent during the Summit ball), only Athras could say just what kinds of diplomatic matters had been debated among pack leaders behind closed doors.


Feeling a twinge of annoyance at the gradually aging memory, Percy frowned out at the ocean beyond and drew his mind out of the depths of irritation to marvel at the way the sea almost appeared as though swallowed by the sky. Or perhaps the sea was swallowing the sky? He blinked and sighed, clouds of breath from his nostrils disappearing with ease in front of him.


There was no keeping the vexation from taking center stage, and so the bearded Parhelion confronted it head-on.


That the Lord-Regent would risk sullying the Realm's reputation – still fresh and fragile in youth as the area's newest pack – for a Goddess-forsaken knife remained (and forever would remain) beyond the comprehension of Percival's good and law-abiding mind. It was the Goddess herself who had blessed them by allowing them to go free with neither discovery or nor punishment for Athras' crime.


He hoped dearly that the Knights did not judge them all by a single individual's actions, however lofty that particularly Caledonian's rank happened to be. Percival hoped that he had offered an alternative impression for the Cavaliers to consider, one that did not involve theft, lies, or cheats. One that instead inspired a sense of respect, pride, and duty. That was how he had chosen to present himself, both in the name of his pack and of his family.


"Thank you for your conference today, High King Iomair," the young Parhelion said, dipping his bearded head in deference to the Realm's leader. Straight-backed and proud-shouldered, Percival returned to looking at Iomair respectfully. "I hope that you'll find my work to be satisfactory."


Unbidden, Clementine's autumn-kissed face materialized in his mind as he waited for the High King to address him.


[WC — 541]

  541/3000 for Diplomacy III

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#2
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In the wake of the event the Realm had been met with muffled silence. Iomair had spent morning acquainting himself with his new mount and had been surprised to find that visiting Byrony in the Rhovanion was one of the few reasons that Vodeva would agree to leave the confines of their room. It was taking more and more convincing – and he could see the same frigid sheen returning to her eyes as the warmth of the call to court began to dissipate.

Iomair had found his own warmth. Thoughts of Fennore had him spinning out – fragments of memory that he could not linger upon for too long lest he lose himself to it again. It had been reminiscent of his time spent in the den of Heartwards, but for the first time in months he had felt something other than the weight of responsibility or the strange guilt that so often lingered just out of reach when he spent time with Vodeva. She had tried to placate him, to act as a proper Queen during the festivities – but she had been forced to retire early as vestiges of her sickness reared their ugly head.

Iomair sat in what he thought of as the receiving area of the Bastion – a tiny alcove that butted up against a pair of narrow windows. Two overstuffed chairs had been pushed together – ripped at the corners where the ancient stuffing leaked out to scatter itself like snow along the creaking floor boards. It was not the receiving room of dreams, but Iomair found that the longer he stayed in the Bastion that the more he felt that time would see it changed – the state of it now did not speak for the power of the realm.

He crossed his legs and straightened his tunic, patiently awaiting the arrival of one of the Realms esteemed diplomats.

Percival had asked for a meeting, the pensive boy forging a path for himself that would soon see him joining the ranks of the elite. Since joining Iomair had seen a change in the boy, and as he dedicated himself to his work he grew more confident, eager to prove that he represented not only the pack but his family as well. The Shoal had done well for themselves, immediately taking up the helm of Piscators and Diplomats – even, Corsairs.

When the boy found him the King rose, beckoning for him to come and sit across from him.

”Well met Percival,” Iomair grinned, shifting his weight about to get comfortable in the creaking chair, ”Of course, of course.” Iomair chuckled, ”To what do I owe the pleasure of our meeting? How did you find your time down south?” His eyes sparkled, "And the Call to Court of course."




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#3
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Regal as the High King was when he rose, golden fur glinting in the dim winter sunlight that slipped in through the Bastion's gaping windows, Iomair was still visibly cordial. It was plain to Percival in the warm grin that shone through his wiry whiskers and the soft chuckle that warbled in his throat and, just like the very first day that king and peasant had met, the young Diplomat was reminded of his father. He had only enough time to register the ping that flicked his heart and recognize it as guilt before the High King gestured to the seat placed before him.


With a slight, deferential nod, Percival lowered himself slowly into the aged and weathered chair. It reminded him distantly of his mother's old, overstuffed chair. And that memory gave way to the fire and smoke that had surely consumed it. He furrowed his brows and refocused his attention on the now: the present day and the task at hand.


"The Diplomacy Summit was... informative, to be sure," he began, hesitating momentarily to find the right word. Though certainly a spectacle, the summit and the ball hadn't been the first important gathering that he had attended. And compared to the Call to Court, which Percival thought provided a superior show (however much he disapproved of Athras' trick), it was the lesser of the two notable occasions. "The interactions and the knowledge gained were invaluable, and the Cavaliers were dutiful hosts. I am grateful for the opportunity to join the Lord-Regent and my fellow Aear on the journey." Again, he dipped his head.


When he lifted his eyes to Iomair's face again, there was a visible cheer in their depths that did not often shine through. "But the Call to Court was truly impressive. I feel that our guests were adequately tended to." He remembered watching the Salsolans enter the Realm, loaded with their horses and gifts, to be received with welcome and warmth. And of the ball itself, with its duel and the festivities that followed, seemed to him a lively and entertaining enough show to offer their honored guests. "I hope that they were left with a positive impression of the Realm."


He cleared it throat softly. "But that was actually why I requested audience with you, High King Iomair. I'd like to help build ties with the Salsolans, and there was someone who I met at the Call to Court: a diplomat from their pack. Her name is Clementine Salcedo." His face had returned to its usual stiff, serious expression. "She is also a merchant. Perhaps by working with her, I could also help to transact inter-pack trades."


Falling silent, Percy took a long and quiet breath in and waited for the High King's thoughts.


[WC — 468]

  1009/3000 for Diplomacy III

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#4
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Sometimes there were more shadows than Iomair cared to count. They lay hidden in the everyday, in the mundane processes that he undertook at this lands King. Vodeva sometimes asked him about the long and errant silences that sometimes overtook him – her thin hands gently lain against his shoulder as he transposed himself to the makings of war. Old Caledonia had been rife with it, shadows and doubt creeping along the very battlefield as they had all fought together side by side.

Iomair could feel the weight of it against the back of his eyes, and every so often an image crept into focus unbidden.

He wondered if for Percival it was the same. So often the boy presented a strong face, one that was not dissimilar to the one that the King so often wore – his beard and moustache hiding a mouth that so often smiled in secret and pined for days that would bring with them peace.

Iomair listened as the Diplomat spoke, nodding his head. ”I wish to travel to visit some of the nearby packs come the Spring, when the weather has finally begun to change.” He smiled, ”It had been some time since I have gone out passed the borders, and now that Vodeva is mostly well I would like to remind them of my existence.” He allowed a gentle chuckle to leave his lips, ”Though I am lucky to have Diplomats who are able to traverse the murky waters of diplomacy so well, and so often.”

The mention of Clementines name had the mans ears pricking forward, ”Ah yes, The Salcedo woman.” He whet his lips, ”When I first met her she went by Antiope Scali, an errant merchants daughter. I’m sure you can only imagine my surprise when she came upon our borders as a member of the Salsolan delegation.” He chuckled again and ran a hand through his beard thoughtfully, ”It would seem that Merchants attract other merchants.”

He allowed one of his brows to rise, ”What sort of trade were you looking to procure for the realm?”

Salsola had already given them gifts – horses, chickens, and seed – and the King was curious as to the potential of this relationship that Percival had begun to forge with the fire-haired woman.





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#5
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Indeed, shadows were everywhere. They lay at the base of homes and of trees and of Luperci, silent and innocuous. And, indeed, those visible types of shadows were the innocuous ones. It was the shadows that lurked within, tucked away into the smallest crevices and pressed against tightest corners of a person's psyche, that were the real danger. There, imperceptible to the host's understanding, they crept and plotted and poisoned the mind with doubts and memories and anxiety.


Percival knew a little of that, but the shadows of his own past influenced his life in such small quantities that it was easy to mistake them for innocent quirks. But was anything truly innocent?


He wasn't, surely. Not any more. But rather than focus on the past, Percival chose – through his teachings from Keabetswe, before her departure – to live in the present and to look towards the future. This, of course, was easier said than done. It was easier to travel back into what already was, and to analyze what had gone wrong and what could have been done differently, than it was to live through what currently was and what could soon become.


After all hindsight, as they say, was 20/20.


"I would be happy to join you," Percival replied, dipping his nose gently. "If you would like the company, of course." He gave his wiry tail a careful wag. "I'm glad to hear of Vodeva's recovery." The appearance of her, gaunt and confused and bloodied against the mists, still entertained his thoughts every now and again – an example of a shadow that he had not yet overcome.


Blinking rapidly, Percy revealed his surprise. "Uh... yes. The Salcedo woman," he confirmed, watching as Iomair's pink tongue rolled against his dark lips. Looking for something to do, he smoothed his beard between the fingers of one hand and listened as the High King continued. "I—" Percival cleared his throat. "I certainly can," he confirmed, his thoughts turning while he worked through his own surprise at the revelation.


Antiope Scali. What was the point, he wondered, of going by a different name? Secrecy aside, there was no reason that Percival could deduce. Was she concerned for her life? Was interested in swindling others? Silently, Percival wondered.


He drew himself from the depths of his thoughts when Iomair spoke again. "Oh," he began, somewhat out of surprise and somewhat to bide time while he thought. Again, he cleared his throat and smoothed his beard. "Well... I admit that I'm not much of a trader myself, so my plan was to defer to our own Merchants. But at her visit during the Call to Court, she had spices and arrows and amber." The amber had become a gift, one that he sought to repay. But of the other times, they could be useful and there was no telling what more Clementine could procure for them.


"I intend to talk to her more about trade when – if – I can request a visit from her to New Caledonia again." He paused, watching the High King carefully. "What are your thoughts, High King Iomair?"


[WC — 525]

  2232/3000 for Diplomacy III

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#6
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”Of course!” Iomair smiled at the young Percival, ”There is much you can show me of the land that surrounds us I’m sure.” He nodded his head suddenly thoughtful, ”I wouldn’t mind paying a visit to the Salsolan borders,” He winked, smiling jovially, ”Perhaps prepare a gift to thank them for their troubles.” It was because of them that they would survive to see winter turn to spring.

He owed them something that was not quantifiable, and the old King sometimes saw the ruby sheen of the Queens expression in his deepest dreams.

Iomair couldn’t help but wonder if Athras did, too.

The man was caught up in his theatrics, in the slant and gentle sway of his robes – the way his toothy grin caught and held the nobility regardless of the times. Iomair was softer but no less flawed, a man who chased beauty regardless of the guilt that continued to gnaw at him endlessly. He glanced at Percival and made a sound in his throat, ”Of course she can return. We must solidify whatever it is that sprouts between us,”

He tapped his knee, ”I know that there are some who are suspicious of our benefactors. So far, they have given me no reason to mistrust them.”

He sighed, ”War can happen at any time. We all know this. So long as we protect what we can, when we can…” He smiled again, allowing it to creep gently into the lines of his face, ”I believe that it will be alright.”

He stood up suddenly and began pacing, his brows furrowed as he glanced at the Diplomat. "When would you like to invite her?"












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#7
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Sometimes, when Percival took only a cursory glance backwards in time and considered all the turmoil and the uncertainties and the changes that he had endured, his youth seemed to be a great number of seasons behind him. But when the bearded Diplomat took the time to really contemplate his past; when he closed his eyes and buckled himself in for that ride back through time — to those days when he had been nothing but a troublesome whelp yearning to become something bigger and bolder and better than he was — it never ceased to surprise him how little time he had actually spent against the soft, solid earth of the living.


Yet even in those days, when he was young and impulsive and uncouth, he recognized his desire to be in some sort of a position of leadership some day. He looked up to his father then, back before the former Captain had disappeared in Krokar's greatest time of need, and endeavored to be like him: strong and important and proud. He just needed to be old enough. That's what he thought, then.


But what was "old enough?"


He had encountered ample challenges in his young life already, but those often paled in comparison to what his elders had already endured. Sometimes, though, they were comparable. At what point was youth rendered null and void? At what point was age and experience rendered obsolete? Where did the balance lie? Was there a goal post where such a balance existed at all?


Percival wondered this often and, as he thought of Iomair's consideration and his thoughtful nod, he felt these questions chime more sharply within his skull.


Was there much of this land for him to show? He wondered. And then, with a subtle spark, he remembered that Iomair was not from these parts. Of course. "Sure," he began with a nod, thinking. Of course he had some knowledge of these lands that his High King did not. After all, Percival had been born and raised beneath the canopies and against the soil and within knowledge of these territories. "I would love to join you."


Except that Percival had never been to Salsola. In fact, even before Krokar's untimely demise, he had never even heard of Clementine's home. He had exactly zero idea where the pack was established.

But that did not mean that he had no idea what to do in order to make said pack feel recognized.


"I could make a fishing rod," he offered with a slow wag of his wiry tail. "Or two. To give to them as a gift." Percy was better with words and semantics than he was with show and brute strength, and that was all he could offer to the High King.


But was it? Silently, the young Diplomat thought. Was that really all he could offer? After a brief break, where there silence stretched between them, another idea chimed within the confines of his mind. "And fish, too," he added quickly, remembering Clementine again. "Maybe not fresh fish, but I could supply them dried or frozen." Fresh fish were always best, but at least this was the winter season. Frozen fish were okay, too.


A soft breath escaped his lips when Iomair agreed that Clementine could return, and he nodded subtly. After all, what reason could they possibly have to mistrust Salsola? They had done much for New Caledonia, and a hopeful atmosphere seemed to hover in the air whenever they were near. So far as Percival was concerned, they were nothing if not helpful and he was eager to nourish the relationships that they had begun to cultivate. "I agree, High King," he replied with a dip of his dark nose. "You never know what will grow."


He gave a soft, quick huff and allowed a smile to curve his dark lips. "But I would be most willing to cultivate whatever it is that does." Good or bad, Percy wanted to do his part in the diplomatic ties between New Caledonia and Salsola.


Iomair's words were sobering, and Percival accepted them willingly with a firm expression and a stiff posture. Though Krokar's fall could hardly be considered "war," he understood that such dramatic change could occur to anyone. Anywhere. Anytime. "For as long as we can," he continued unbidden, maple eyes meeting the golden depths of Iomair's. And when the High King concluded his thought, Percy nodded solemnly.


Because they had to believe that it would be all right. Whatever they encountered, they had to believe everything would work out in the end.


What was the alternative?


Iomair's abrupt rise shattered his thoughts and Percival lifted his eyes sharply, watching as the High King paced. A beat of silence passed before he replied. "As soon as possible," he said, watching the bearded King carefully. "If it please you, High King Iomair." I seemed best to explore this possible outsider tie sooner rather than later, but Percy was no leader and he was only too happy to defer to his High King.


[WC — 850]

  3000/3000 for Diplomacy III

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#8
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”It sounds like an excellent plan.” Iomair stroked his beard and felt his ears prick with interest, ”I know that there were other groups like your Krokar who’s history I would like to learn about. Some of the others come from a Court in the South that dissolved and brought some of their people to us.” He ruminated on this a moment before continuing, ”There is something beautiful that comes from us weaving our stories together.”

”When the season has officially changed perhaps you could take me to see some nearby landmarks, if it please you.”

Iomair grinned at the young Diplomat and couldn’t help but feel invested in the Parhelions future. There was something that tied them together that went beyond their shared history and the wars that had torn their families apart. ”Invite her as soon as you’re able. The stronger the tie, the stronger the knot.” He chuckled, ”I trust you Percival.”

"We should meet again after her visit and to plan our trip south to meet them."






We can archive here if that works for you! Shy We should do another!


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#9
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Back before the Fall of Krokar, in the house where he had been born, his father had kept a tool with which he used to weave yarn into fabric. A loom, his father had called it, crafted from wood and stone. Percival had never thought much of it then, and even to this day the memory of the loom held little significance. But when Iomair suggested the beauty of different peoples coming together to weave a collective narrative, the memory of that old device, rendered now into char and ash, found new meaning.


"I would be honored to, High King," Percival replied with a nod. "And... if it would interest you, I could show you where Krokar once stood as well." He hadn't been back for any significant length of time, not since the fire, but it struck him as something he should do. Not now, and maybe not until well into the warmer seasons, but soon.


Straightening proudly, Percival gave his High King a respectable bow. "I will make arrangements right away," he promised, careful to keep his growing sense of glee and excitement in check until he was out of Iomair's presence. "Thank you, High King Iomair. I will not let the Realm down."


And, with another respectful bow, Percival departed from the High King's company with a smile that lit up his eyes.


[WC — 229]

  3000/3000 for Diplomacy III

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