No great events in this session, except that I recovered the Fylkirate by pressing my brother’s claim and then getting him elected Doge, so I thought I’d have a look at some characters instead.
Emperor of the West
He destroyed Rome in order to save it. He gave the Dreki the honour of bestowing the kiss of friendship on both his cheeks, and distracted them so they didn’t read the fine print. He has survived three wives, but nothing was ever proved to the judges he appointed, and besides, they knew the job was dangerous when they took it. He is The Most Interesting Emperor North of Paris. He doesn’t always drink wine, but when he does, he ensures that his courtiers have a glass too.
The most powerful vassal of the Emperor Pippin is sometimes referred to as “The Taxes”, as in the two immemorial scourges of mankind, death and taxes. The Emperor, a formidable warrior in his youth and the scion of a dynasty that has been known to hang the heraldry of exterminated bloodlines on their bedroom walls and gloat over them to ensure potency, is thus cast in the role of “The Death”. But most people are quick to recall, when making this half-in-jest identification, that death, at least, doesn’t come every year.
Yes, he does have a red beard, and he does execute anyone who calls him Barbarossa. Or mentions the inevitable betrayal of his alliance with Frisia. Or looks at him funny. But although his rule is perhaps a touch harsh, you can’t say he’s unfair or arbitrary; it’s easy to avoid being executed if you just follow the rules he has laid out, and are a subject of a completely different kingdom on the other side of Europe. India would be even better.
She isn’t conventionally beautiful, although her blue eyes are striking, but Aliken has that feminine allure, that je ne sais quoi, that undefinable charisma of some women that makes men unable to keep their hands off. She has been the concubine, and the power beneath the throne, of three successive Dreki Lawspeakers. Obviously, a woman in such a position attracts whispers even more easily than she attracts men. She is variously said to be the agent of the Emperor, for keeping the Dreki under control; of the Caliph, to subvert the Dreki for the inevitable day of betrayal; of the Pope, to convert the heathen; of the Zoroastrian witch-sisterhood with an agenda that varies with the speaker; or any of the eleven possible combinations of double- and triple-agentry. She is rumoured to be a man-eating and man-hating Valkyrie, her strength-sucking bed arts the cause of the early deaths and senility of the two previous Doges, and the premature greying of Ingemar. (“But,” the whisperers invariably continue, “what a way to go!”) She is the Emperor’s illegitimate daughter, exiled from his court after one too many escapades with the serving maids; or she was thrown for a bone to the throne of the Norse wolves to keep them busy; or she escaped from the sack of Rome and has worked her way to a position of power for revenge against the Caliph. But Aliken keeps her own counsel.