Althaes - Elith, City of Flowers

54th day of Banem, year 146, Era of Ke'larri


Through a crack in the door, Amos saw the gathering of tense officials crowding the King’s war table. He spotted Commander Vanya Balador with her broad arms crossed tightly and a scowl on her face. She sat next to King Aldemarius himself.

“You would risk Althaes’ position and authority in order to negotiate with a handful of unstructured children,” Senator Dorophon sneered.

Around the room, several other senators shuffled in their glistening robes, murmuring in apparent agreement. Amos entered quietly and sat uncomfortably between a handful of grubby captains and Commander Balador, who looked unphased as she addressed the room.

“We don’t have the men, ships, or resources to launch an attack against Itza-” She began calmly.

“Itza is a village. We don’t have the resources to attack a village that is gloating their victory over us at this very moment?” Dorophon interrupted.

“Itza is no village, senator. Amos has made that much clear in his various reports, as have a great many merchant vessels, travelers, and representatives of the crown,” Balador started, “As for gloating, we have received consistent replies from Itza’s commanding officer stating that, to the best of her knowledge, no ships from Althaes have arrived in their port since the third day of Kasdard. It would be unwise for us to attack the greatest fortress in all of Eporo with our resources already spent on the Inferno and our stores depleted from-”

“Ah yes, we all know how flowery Stanesh likes to get in his reports. It is hardly a fortress-” Dorophon began mockingly.

Vanya slammed her hands on the table.

“With all due respect, Senator, that is not what-” she growled.

“Enough,” Aldermarius began sternly, raising his hand to the room.

“There is no need to wage war outright,” he stated simply, “We must consider the terms of a negotiation.”

Dorophon scowled darkly, sitting back in his chair.

“Stanesh, we have officers in Itza currently, correct?” Aldemarius asked.

“Yes, my king,” Amos replied.

“And how have the Eporans responded to... recent events?” Aldemarius continued carefully. Amos hesitated.

“The economy continues to decline. We have reports of more city guardsmen and mercenaries leaving the city in droves to control incoming raiders and attacks on farmlands,” Amos stated.

“Savages,” Dorophon interjected. Amos could hear Vanya grinding her teeth next to him as she glared straight ahead.

A gray-bearded senator in lavender robes cleared his throat and lifted his hand lightly. Aldemarius nodded to him.

“Let us offer to the Eporans, provided they cooperate, peace and aid in their current situation in exchange for unrestricted access to mine,” He said slowly. Commander Balador nodded.

“Senator Neri is right. The desert is reportedly rich with cadatite which would be an asset to the Inferno,” she began, “on the Titan, we use a barrel an hour. The Inferno could easily double that.”

The senators and captains muttered around the chamber before Dorophon spoke up again.

“Is this the retribution we seek for holding a senator hostage? For making a mockery of Althaes?" he asked angrily, "What happens when they laugh in our faces?”

“War,” Aldermarius stated simply. Amos shook his head despondently.

“I understand that you are worried for your brother. Ilophon is greatly missed, but this can not and should not come to war. Our envoy must be dedicated to peace above all else," he said.

“Then we should promptly see Balador and your crew sailing the Titan to Itza for negotiations, yes?” Dorophon jeered, "Let us see if you return from your voyage."

Vanya sat quietly for a moment before she stood suddenly and addressed the captains around the room.

“If no one else would prefer the responsibility, Amos and I will lead the Titan and our second warships to Eporo to negotiate,” she declared, turning to Aldemarius.

“With your permission, my king.”


***


The crew of the Titan filtered on board, each man carrying heavy crates and barrels of cadatite like a caravan of ants overtaking the deck. The oversized crates were stamped with ornate golden flowers that glistened in the midday suns as the crew trudged on, one after another. Amos looked on lazily. He was a gray-bearded old man with a broad torso and shoulders. Despite the glamour of his high station, he still had the unmistakable and wild look of the sea about him, his skin speckled with years’ worth of salty sea spray and sunburn. His hands bore thick calluses and were missing several fingertips.

A young sailor stumbled directly in front of him, suddenly shifting the corner of the barrel he was holding.

“Watch it!” Amos bellowed, stepping out of the way of the man as he fell over. Glittering, emerald-colored chunks of cadatite flew out over the deck around him.

Several crewmen scrambled to grab the scattered pieces, tossing them back into the barrel in an instant. A burly, long-bearded man, Sydur, hoisted the refilled barrel over his shoulder and carried it away quickly. The young sailor mumbled an apology and thanks and then shuffled along in embarrassment.

As movement on the deck settled once again, Amos found his mind wandering to the brilliant blue sky above, where the occasional flock of gulls flew overhead.

He had sailed the seas for many years. The last three decades of his adventures were of the highest honor -  service to the Althaen navy as both an explorer and officer. Of course, Amos also spent his very earliest years on the seas like so many others - he smuggled and took illegal jobs, trying to gain the sea skills necessary to land a respectable position. None but Commander Balador were aware of his particular background, as it would not be honorable for a man of his current station to be associated with such criminal activity.

His time serving under Vanya began ten years previously, though he had watched over her since childhood. She and her grandmother and sister were abandoned after the death of Vanya's father and Amos' most trusted companion, Kadan Balador.  Amos intended to stay in her crew until the moment they dragged him from the deck or he died. Many of her crew felt similarly, even if for different reasons. She commanded an air of authority and confidence that rivaled even that of her father, the greatest explorer for the Althaen navy during his time.

“What am I to do with a quartermaster who lazes about so publicly while there’s all this work to be done?” Balador called suddenly, her husky voice toned with a hint of amusement.

The sound abruptly pulled Amos from his thoughts and he turned to see her striding towards him. The knock of her sleek boots came heavy across the deck as she closed the space between them. Her thick curls sat in two long braids down her chest, wrapped in two lengths of golden wire, and short, coiled wisps of hair flew wildly around her face. Today, she sported a mild sunburn that hid the freckles across her nose and cheeks. At her hip hung a curved, jagged sword glittering silver in the sunlight. She came to a stop in front of him and crossed her arms over her broad chest, looking down at him in an attempt to feign sternness.

Amos sighed playfully.

“Throw me to the sea,” he stated simply before cracking a grin. Vanya laughed heartily and joined him as they both gazed across the deck at the crew steadily loading supplies. They stood like this for a moment before she shuffled uncomfortably.

She lowered her voice, taking a more serious tone.

“I’ve got to say goodbye to Monah and Ada and I am dreading telling them we are leaving so soon. Do you have a moment to sort something out for me?” she asked. Amos nodded and she gestured towards the door to her cabin.

Once inside, she continued to shift around nervously, but remained silent and avoided eye contact. Amos opened his mouth to speak, but she finally began quietly.

“Monah’s apothecary is just getting off the ground and you and I both know the officers only go to her out of respect for me. As soon as I am gone, they’ll go to Umbra’s Emporium just for the diamantha alone. Monah doesn’t have anything that can ease pain like that,” she began.

She looked around uncomfortably and took a moment to run her fingers over her hair. She gave a large sigh and shook her head.

“I can’t believe I am asking you to do this, but is there any way to find a diamantha cutting for her? No need to…” she glanced towards the door and brought her voice down to a whisper, “No need to steal anything. Just get a cutting to her and she will know what to do with it.”

Amos stood confused.

“I am just as likely to find a diamantha plant as you are-” he began.

“From the Emporium,” she said, barely audible.

Amos’s eyes widened with recognition and his mouth soon turned up into a smirk.

“The great Commander Balador, using her high station and contacts to undermine a respected Althaen business,” he teased.

Amos!” she began, irritated.

“I know, I know,” he said, “I have plenty who can handle this. I’ll get the word out and she’ll have something before the week is up.”

She looked up at him nervously and he gave her an assuring pat on the back.

“Nothing will put Umbra out of business and I’ll make sure Monah is looked after. Now you get going and I don’t expect to see you until tomorrow afternoon,” he said, ushering her up and towards the door.

“Thank you. You’re a true friend,” she said earnestly, giving Amos’ arm a squeeze before exiting.

He followed her out of the quarters and to the deck where he watched her exit to the docks before traveling out of sight. He turned his attention to the crew who had already begun to lose steam without Amos and Vanya to oversee them.

"Hoy! Commander's gone for the night. Let's get this ship stocked quickly and enjoy an evening off!" Amos bellowed across the deck, to which a number of crewmates scrambled to get back to work.


***


As the suns sank below the horizon, Amos grew wearier by the minute. He trudged along the deck to the docks, back and forth loading with the men and handing out task after task. The work seemed neverending: around sixty barrels of cadatite to load, freshwater, food, medicine, personal effects, weapons, and armor. He also received and sent countless communication to the second warships, ensuring they were on track for their morning departure. The Titan appeared to be the only ship left working to ready themselves at this hour. Admittedly, Amos was notoriously incapable of running the operation with any sort of organization, leaving groups of crewmen milling about aimlessly for long stretches of time. By late evening, he was bleary-eyed and leaned heavily against a spare barrel of cadatite, staring blankly out over the sea. 

A gruff-looking sailor named Jorin approached him cautiously and spoke quietly about something. Amos struggled to pay attention, unable to discern the man's words above the rest of the noise around him.  

"Sir? Crown guards have demanded to board the ship," Jorin repeated, "what should I tell them?"

The words finally sank in and Amos felt a jolt of electricity rouse him from his stupor.

"Board the ship? What for?" he asked incredulously.

"I am not sure," Jorin started, "they've also requested the Commander's presence."

Amos, still coated in a slick layer of sweat, all but stumbled to the walkway to see five crown guards waiting on the other side in their full golden armor. The guard nearest the front seemed to catch sight of him and yelled out.

"Quartermaster!"

The man waved impatiently and Amos reluctantly crossed the walkway to them.

"What can I do for you gentlemen?" Amos asked.

The guard seemed to size him up, taking in his sweaty, dirt-covered clothes.

"We are here under strict orders to ensure the Senator's belongings, along with his escort, are properly boarded on this ship," the guard said.

"Which senator might that be?" Amos asked, already knowing the answer, "We were not given notice of any passengers and may not be able to make accommodations before departure."

"Senator Dorophon. And this is your notice," the guard said.

Amos bristled at his curtness.

"Whose orders?"

"King Aldemarius."

Amos gritted his teeth and looked to Jorin who scowled at the group of guards.

"Please see to these men and ensure their needs are met. The Commander will handle the rest in the morning," he grunted.

He turned on his heel to leave. As he walked back on deck he saw the crew had gathered around the walkway and were eyeing him curiously.

"Back to work!" he barked before entering his quarters, slamming the door behind himself. 





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