For the “Do up whatever story/stories suit your fancy or for whomever most wants/needs ’em.” commission and the poll here.
Edora stared out the train window. The countryside of Prince Rodegard’s mother’s nation rolled by at a stately, weedy pace: Iscandia. The place was at the far western edge of the Empire, pressed against the mountains on one side, the sea on the second side, the Empire on one long side, and on its far side – a unruly collection of states that the Empire did not dignify with a name. It was a weedy, poor place, not good for much, but the Imperial territory it touched was a rich, prosperous country with many natural resources. It behooved the Empire to keep Iscandia within its borders.
“Do you know who built these tracks, Rodegard?”
The prince was not looking out the window, she knew. He was staring at her, trying not to bounce in his seat like a toddler. Her question made him make a noise, somewhere between a groan and a whine, that he quickly suppressed.
“What’s that have to do with anything? I mean. I mean, the Empire built them, didn’t it?”
Edora shook her head. “These tracks in particular were built by a company called Cortenar Railways. The Empire owns the land under them, and it leases the land – and travel rights, and the right to make money off of the trains travelling the tracks – to various railway companies. Nearer the Capital, it’s Helarna-Jakobs Railway and Shipping, and so on.”
“But what does that have to do with–” Rodegard cut himself off. “I’m sorry, Da- Your Highness.”
“All of these railways have to join. There are at least seventeen of these companies – I’m not a railways expert, so please don’t quote me on the number – and they have to link together just so to make the Imperial railway system work. Do you follow?”
“Yes, ma’am.” He was slouching in his seat. He wasn’t listening as well as he should be. Well, he would learn.
“The whole Empire is like that. Millions of tiny pieces that all have to link up just so. Nations with their own royalties, their own laws… and they all have to link up properly with the Empire’s rules and laws. And what’s more than that, millions of people that have to link up.”
“It’s politics.” He nodded slowly. “Takaranne and Caredorn are better at politics than I am. I was always better with crops.”
“Well, that’s part of what I’m here to teach you. It may have been a while ago that I was put on a train like this – but I remember everything I had to learn.”
He narrowed his eyes thoughtfully. “Twenty years ago, the Empressina’s cousin – the Crown Emperito – he, ah. He was killed.”
“You know your history.” Edora kept all emotion out of her voice. Emperito Mateusz had been a bit older than her, but he had been kind. After all this time, that was most of what she could remember.
“Empressina Nadia is not married yet.” He was speaking very slowly, carefully, picking his way through the rocks and gopher-holes.
“She is… not exactly married yet.”
There was a moment where Rodegard’s shoulders relaxed, and then his eyes narrowed again and he tensed. “This is more complicated than lining up railroad tracks, isn’t it?”
“People always are.” Edora allowed herself a smile. He might not be entirely useless. “People are always more complicated.”
If you want more – and I’m pretty sure this wants to be a full-length romance novel – drop a tip in the tip… handcuffs 😉
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