Belsegallia-Ghratos trade negotiations

Duchess Ariana frowned as she stepped into the foyer of Larinata Keep. The first thing that she noticed as she walked in was that the room was being kept uncomfortably hot by the staff; probably for the benefit of the land-dwelling guests that she was assigned to host. She pondered the present situation as she walked in the direction of the meeting room. Ariana still had questions about why exactly the delegates had permission to travel to Belsegallia in the first place; it was highly unusual for non-Belsedori to be allowed onto Belsegallia at all barring special cases, and trade negotiations like this were supposed to be the purview of Yusugo Province’s government. But Queen Xana has ordered that an exception be made nonetheless, likely due to the promise of Ghratos’s magical artifacts being made available in the future. Ariana would thus have to tolerate her foreign guests and their need for warmth for the time being, much to her chagrin. She hoped that the negotiations would be short, if for no other reason than to be able to finally quench the fireplaces that are kept in Belsegallian diplomatic facilities like her keep for the safety of non-Belsedori. Duchess Ariana reaches the meeting room as she finishes her thoughts, and steps inside to prepare for negotiations with Ghratos.

Though meeting room in Larinata Keep is normally as frigid as the outside weather and totally reliant on its skylight for illumination, a fireplace on one of the walls has been lit for some time to ensure that the non-Belsedori expected to arrive soon will be able to see and avoid hypothermia. The soft orange light from this fireplace and what midday sunlight passed through the skylight reflected strongly off of Ariana’s snow white skin and feathers as well as the polished armor of the guards flanking the doorway as they illuminated the room to a fair degree. Belsedori were more than capable of seeing in the dark, but the added light of the fireplace is typically needed by foreigners. Ariana and her staff already had the necessary documentation and samples of various Belsegallian trade goods at the ready, which means that there wasn’t much for her to do at this point other than wait for the diplomats from Ghratos to arrive. Assuming that they haven’t been killed by the weather outside, that is.


Duke Caes of Iyanala- the largest Duchy south of the Stanumn- in fact, largest in all of Ghratos- in sheer size, at least, had one thought on his mind as his Maquida sat nice and warm in it’s feathers, along with that of his aides.

‘Gods above, what I would give to be to be Amisan right now.’

He had heard stories about Amisan winters. He had spent much time in Amisa as well, though he had never stayed for winter. Being of Xhaasan decent, and being the leader of a Xhaasan Duchy, meant he was all too unprepared for the harsh, unrelenting cold that greeted him when he reached Belsegallia’s mainland and was escorted to Larinata keep. It’s like the floating island was telling him, constantly, “You do not belong. You are an outsider. You must leave at once.” A notion he quickly swiped away- that was Dark Age thought. Still, he and his aides’ dark Xhaasan skin contrasted with these “Snow Harpies’” white feathers an extreme amount, and it was hard not to notice that he, in multiple layers of clothing was shivering violently while his escorts were walking like it were a normal day like any other. He looked to the Sun for comfort, and while It was watching over him, he could not feel its warmth. He managed a weak internal pray before his small group of 3 were escorted into the keep.

He was eventually led to the meeting room. He had to keep himself from audibly sighing at the warmer temperatures- still colder then the Xhaasan desert, but manageable. He greeted the Duchess with a bow- customary in Xhaasan culture- and then greeted her audibly. “Salvoni, Duchess. I am Duke Caes of Iyanala. Pleased to meet you. I hope our discussions turn out fruitful.”


Duchess Ariana paused for a moment in surprise when she saw the diplomatic party from Ghratos for the first time.

A man? What’s a man doing in a national delegation like this? Is the government of Ghratos truly so strapped for diplomats that it has to resort to sending this poor man of all people as a representative for it?

Ariana waited for Duke Caes to finish his greeting before performing hers. “Good afternoon, Duke, and cordial greetings from the people of Belsegallia; I am Duchess Ariana of Larinata, chosen representative of Queen Xana of Belsegallia, and welcome to my household. I apologize for your being sent to a hostile climate like ours for trade negotiations, and I hope that we can conclude our business here quickly so that you can return home and avoid unnecessarily stressing yourself over something as banal as foreign trade.” Ariana stopped to wonder for a moment how she should proceed with the meeting. Duke Caes is obviously uncomfortable in Belsegallia’s cold environment; the best course of action will be to achieve a favorable trade compact quickly and let him leave to warm up.

Ariana signaled to some staff that the sample materials should be prepared before speaking to Duke Caes again: “While I am sure that you are quite used to exchanging some lovely pleasantries when you meet someone new and that you would like nothing more than to get away from all of this dreadful statecraft business, Duke, I am afraid that we will have to come to some kind of trade agreement on behalf of our respective nations before we can disband. To begin, I have some samples of common Belsegallian trade goods if you would like to view them yourself: enchanted ice, jewelry, enchanted trinkets, and all manner of beautiful and magical artifices. I even have some ice-infused armaments on hand, though such instruments of violence are not something that should be intruding upon your visit here.”

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Caes could sense something was strange already from the way the Duchess was talking to him, although he couldn’t place exactly why she was. Still, he did want to get back to his duchy sooner rather then later- not just because of the piercing cold, but because he was once again getting reports about several rebellious counts from central Xhaasan dukes. He hoped it wasn’t a mirroring of the Xarban-incited indecent from a few years ago, where he had to lead an army into the fray of battle…

Anyways, he spoke again after her comment about the weapons. “You need not worry about armaments, Duchess. They are a very natural thing for nations to trade, and trust me- I have led armies on rebels- I have seen and used my fair share of weaponry. I myself have brought many samples of Ghratean goods for you, including Sun Stone, artifacts from the Dark Age made out of said stone, several Amisan animal pelts, and sandstone. I also have been informed that your monarch takes an interest in these magical artifacts and such, and while i cannot guarantee that the Triarchs will affirm such a deal, I can at least draft up a proposal for them on the matter of trading those, or perhaps explorers’ rights in a Xhaasan duchy like my own.”

He held his hand out to one of his aides- A young man named Xenos who was going through training to become an elected Count- who handed him a large pouch of the samples.

“As i have come to your lands, i see it only fitting that you get to make the first statements.”


Duchess Ariana was taken aback by the Duke’s mention of military service: “Oh, my! That’s very unfortunate indeed. I simply cannot imagine how desperate things must have gotten in Ghratos to necessitate you serving as a military leader of all things; I sincerely hope that your homeland is in a better state now so that you can return to your normal station.” The Duchess also took special notice of Duke Caes’s mention of rebels in Ghratos, thinking that it could be a good opportunity to sell enchanted weaponry to it in exchange for some of those “Dark Age” artifacts. The frost-covered armaments offered by Ariana, which caused massive harm to most creatures but were no better than mundane weapons against the naturally gelid Belsedori, were an ideal and safe option for Belsegallia’s foreign arms sales. The offered “Sun Stones” from Ghratos also seemed like a preferable component for enchanted objects, making them a high priority item for Ariana to secure a trade compact for. The ambiguous possibility of buying Ghratos’s artifacts was certainly not something that Her Majesty would be happy to hear about, but explorer’s rights to recover the items directly could be even better if the search parties get lucky.

Duchess Ariana considered her options for a potential deal before answering Duke Caes’s prompt for a statement. “While I have some questions about how exactly your nation plans to transport usably-sized pieces of sandstone to Belsegallia, the rest of the goods offered by you as well as these “explorer’s rights” are of interest to us. We can transfer any or all of the items that I previously mentioned in exchange; is this favorable to you?”

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Caes could again sense the… disrespect? No, that was not it, necessarily. It was more like being worried about a young man going to war. But even that didn’t quite describe it. It was almost like worrying over a pet going to war? He couldn’t quite fathom it- as dukes usually are, he had been focused on the internal politics of Ghratos- and he had rarely seen cultures other than that of the Xhaasans and Amisans. He was not a prejudiced man, that was for sure, but he was also not a professional diplomat- Ghratos didn’t have those, although that was surely an institution which needed to change, at this point. He just couldn’t understand quite why she was treating him like he was fragile- all dukes led their armies when necessary, although it rarely was- He was not special for it. The Xarban Incident was a terrible time, and a terrible war while he was involved, but she probably didn’t know that, and was speaking in general terms anyways. What a strange cultural norm- he couldn’t even figure out what it was. It was also the comment about statecraft- Whom more than a Duke or Duchess knows more about statecraft? Only a king, queen, emperor or empress. Still, he had a job to do, and regardless of these half-disrespectful half-concerned statements, he was going to do it.

“I find this a favorable proposition indeed, Duchess. Of course, it would not make much sense if I did not let you examine our products before you made a deal, so allow me to present them.”

He took the items out of the bag and placed them on the table. From left to right, there were the pelts- It was clear that whoever killed and skinned these pelts was a professional. The three presented were that of 3 distinct animals- One was white with black spots, another brown with black swirls, and the last was green stripes in a lighter and darker shade. It was implied that these three were only samples, and that a greater variety was indeed possible.

Next was the Sun Stones- some looked like regular orange rocks, but a couple of them were glowing, one so brightly that it illuminated the table around it- and there was a clear sense that they emanated with power. When he took them out, he explained in basic terms their function.

“These are Sun Stones. As their name implies, they are powered by the sun- They can do all kinds of things. At home they power weaponry, are used as heat sources for the Amisan winter, as well as power for furnaces, and even for cooking- I do not see why a simple fire cannot do as well on that last point, however I suppose a chef would know better than I in that regard. They also have distinctive magical properties, some which we have not been able to exploit since the Dark Age.”

As for the last item he had to present with him, it was very clear that it was a magical artifact. It glimmered with every stray ray of sunlight that hit it. Despite the power that seemed to flow from it, it was very small, only about the size of a pin that would go on a shirt. It was shaped like a staff, with a giant snake- most likely a Magejo, the massive species of snake that roamed the Xhaasan sands- curling around it.

“This is an artifact that was found about a week ago in a newly discovered ruin. I would demonstrate its usage for you, but i cannot- It is too new, and I was only given it today, which
I suspect is the point of why it was given to me to present. One man can spend a decade of his life tampering and figuring out how to use one of these. Over the years, I have heard of artifacts just like this one doing wondrous and terrible things- driving away Magejo, destroying buildings, powering a furnace for years without needing to be replaced, and many more. Since the decentralized and destabilized period we call the Dark Age, there was little demand for making powerful things like these, and the sunlords who learned how to make them quietly let this craft fade away. I am telling you all this for a specific reason- To emphasize that we cannot currently make more of these. These artifacts are a product of their history that we can only hope to replicate modernly, and as such the Triarchs are certainly reluctant to export them, although I assure you that it can be done. I was instructed to let you keep this specimen here with you, as a gift of sorts, but that is the exception rather than the rule. Unless you can reciprocate in kind with something as powerful, the Triarchy will most likely export a minimum. You have a better chance of receiving “Explorer’s rights” to a region, where you pay a fee to allow some people or a person to explore the Xhaasan desert in search of a ruin. You may keep any artifacts found. While I understand that this should perhaps be discussed more thoroughly a bit later, but I wanted to outline this fact for you now so that it doesn’t come up as a surprise then.”

After presenting his items, he waits for the Duchess to respond.


Duchess Ariana accepted the artifact offered by Duke Caes. It certainly didn’t look like the kind of thing that could hold too much magical energy, but perhaps the ancient peoples of Ghratos had found methods of placing more powerful enchantments on such a small object than the Belsedori had access to at present. Nonetheless, a careful examination or dismantling of the piece could illuminate its function as well as possible ways to apply these “Sun Stones” that Duke Caes is offering. Ariana places the artifact in a small warded box for storage and instructs an attendant to summon Duchess L’ucetta at her earliest convenience.

So Ghratos can neither manufacture more of these, nor efficiently redeploy the ones that it has. That’s not a good sign for L’ucetta, but Belsegallia probably has more expertise in artifice than Ghratos does.

The sun stones, too, struck Ariana as holding great promise. It seemed almost similar to Witch’s Tourmaline, but was tied to the sun and probably possessed different magical properties. Belsegallia will benefit greatly if it can effectively translate Ghratos’s artifacts and materials into improvements in its own enchanted objects. Both its experience in working with materials like Witch’s Tourmaline and its access to both reagents will hopefully give it an advantage in this endeavor, though Ariana would expect Ghratos to become concerned if it were to find out what the Belsedori were doing with its exported materials.

Duke Caes’s clarification that direct export of artifacts is unlikely will come as a disappointment to the Queen, but this offer of explorer’s rights held promise. Being able to bypass curation by Ghratos of which artifacts Belsegallia can obtain could prove to be very beneficial, especially if it can acquire them without Ghratos being aware of what is being found.

I should have some historical information on Ghratos’s “Dark Age” brought over so as to increase our chances of finding something useful.

Duchess Ariana addresses Duke Caes after considering the situation: “While the unlikelihood of exporting artifacts is unfortunate, your offer is acceptable to us. It would be rude of me to not reciprocate, so here is a selection of what Belsegallia would sell.”

An attendant takes a large slab of faintly luminescent icelike material and places it on the table. The smooth, radiant material was evidently magical, and emanated an incredibly intense cold. “This is a kind of enchanted ice that occurs naturally in Belsegallia. It can be used in its present form as a refrigerator or a low-capacity source of magical energy, or it can be melted into a highly versatile liquid that has applications in the brewing of potions or in the quenching of enchanted metals. We can offer it in exceptionally high volume, provided you can safely transport it to Ghratos.”

Next was a selection of fine Belsegallian jewelry and small accessories, some of which was imbued with enchantments to maintain a polish or provide minor magical benefits. “These are some examples of jewelry that we are capable of manufacturing. As you can see, the faceting work and polishing are performed to the highest standards.” Ariana then presents a paired set of decorated silver bells, one of which has a red ribbon around its handle and the other, a white one. Also visible is that Ariana is currently carrying a third bell with another red handle. “These are a pair of enchanted bells. When you ring the one with the red ribbon, the white-ribboned bell will ring itself and point in the direction of the red one. It unfortunately does not have a high effective range unless you spend an impractical amount of esoteric reagents on their manufacture, but they’re perfect for summoning servants or other people. I personally use a miniaturized one fixed to my husband’s wedding choker to call him from across the house when I want him to try something on or help the chefs cook something. If you’re married, I can give you a set for your wife to use as a gift."

Ariana finally places a single sword in its scabbard onto the table. “This is what’s called a longsword, and it’s a tool that soldiers that can afford them use in combat when they fight wars. And while they probably don’t let you see them, most noblewomen also keep one or more around for duels and personal defense. This particular example is special because it’s been enchanted with magic to freeze things that are struck with it, though I’m sure that you wouldn’t want to hear anything more about that. It would be highly irresponsible and impolite of me to unsheathe it in front of you, but I can personally assure you that it works exceptionally well. Belsegallia can produce and sell a significant amount of them, but we don’t have to do that now if you don’t want to. I understand if you feel uncomfortable about discussing scary things like weapons, especially after you had to go so far as to participate in something like a war.”

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Duke Caes now understood what was making the Duchess act in a certain way towards him, at least partly. From the little evidence he had collected, it seemed that, at least from her words, that Belsegallia had a matriarchal society, at least in the nobility’s camp. He wondered if the more patriarchal societies treated women this way- He certainly did not like it, as a nobleman, being treated like something that was to be shielded, protected, but not to make action. He recalled leading his Marax on the few Magejo that the Xarban upstarts had trained, the usage of powerful Omran’irr, the devastation at losing 531 good men to people who tried to form an illegitimate petty kingdom… would It have been better if women populated that army, or if men were the only ones tasked with crafting the intricate and delicate Omran’irr and leading the war effort? He didn’t think so. Cooperation was the basic principle of Ghratean society, and he couldn’t imagine that if men or women were ornaments Ghratos would be a stronger union.

Even with his analysis, he couldn’t help but wonder how it would be if his wife could contact him at any moment. While he did lead matters of state- at least in his duchy- His wife was always the one to organize meetings, discuss long term plans for the duchy that his young children would inherit, and a plethora of other things. Indeed, while he ruled, she was an instrumental ally in helping their duchy flourish despite its lackluster resources. Perhaps it would be useful when the two were working closer to each other.

Still, if he were to efficiently conduct negotiations, it was clear that he would need to destroy the notion that he was to be shielded from the matters of state. He, especially, had perhaps gone through more political conflicts in the short 10 years that he had been reigning, then the entirety of some kings or queen’s reigns.

“I can assure you, duchess, that I quite understand what a longsword is. As the Duke of Iyanala, I have learned this out of necessity during my training, as well as taught the basics of battlefield combat by my mother and father. During the war which I have mentioned before, I carried spears, Omran’irr, and yes, arming swords. I saw mighty Magejo charge into my men. I do not think that there is a single weapon on all of Terra Aurora that can scare me any longer. Do not shy away from showing me weaponry- chances are I have seen, heard of, and used worse.”

He paused for a brief moment before continuing.

“As for the bells, yes, I believe they would be a nice gift- although perhaps not in the way you assume.”

He then began to discuss the other items she presented.

“I believe that this enchanted ice would be of very high demand. Not only would it allow to refrigerate food, but using it for it’s magical properties would certainly be something the Triarchs would be interested in.”

“This jewelry is certainly to a high standard, I believe exchanging it for pelts would be a fine deal, if you also agree.”

“An enchanted sword, you said? Very interesting, and perhaps very useful. I believe that exchanging such weaponry would be of much interest to the Triarchy.”


Duchess Ariana was of divided opinion. As incensed as she was by Duke Caes’s continued requests that she break Belsedori customs by showing weaponry in the presence of a man, she noticed that he mentioned something new this time. This “Omran’iir” is a word that Ariana doesn’t recognize, but the context in which it was said makes it clear that it refers to some kind of handheld weapon. She briefly considers provoking Caes further in order to draw out more information about it before deciding to proceed with more finesse.

But that would come later; the tea that Rosalia was supposed to bring in for refreshments is probably getting cold now, and Duke Caes probably won’t appreciate a cup full of tea-flavored ice. Maybe he will also take the hint when he sees how Rosalia handles himself.

Ariana didn’t understand why Duke Caes was so bent on being shown weaponry and acting like he was tough; what could make him so unwilling to just be a domesticated homemaker for his wife like he should be? She hoped that being around a properly behaved husband like Rosalia, if only for a short time, would help him see reason. Men are very delicate and emotionally sensitive creatures; maybe this is just a temporary phase brought on by him being exposed to excessive violence during that conflict that he mentioned.

“Trading jewelry for appropriate amounts of fur pelts is an acceptable deal to us. As for the armaments; if you are so insistent on seeing them yourself, Duke, then we can proceed with it later. But it’s currently time for my husband to bring us tea as refreshments, and I absolutely will not allow any blades to be drawn in his presence. Since you’ve decided to accept the enchanted bells as a gift, I’ll demonstrate the basics of their usage now. As stated before, all that you have to do is ring the red-ribboned bell. The bell with the white ribbon will then simultaneously ring and point in the direction of the red one. Their effective range is only about 1/5 of a Toor, hence why they’re typically used in a domestic setting. Observe.”

Duchess Ariana then rings the bell that she had been carrying. Her husband is evidently is too far away for the second ring to be audible from the conference room, but Larinata Keep is small enough for the bells’ range to cover its entire floor plan. After about three minutes of waiting, somebody knocks on one of the doors to the room. Duchess Ariana opens it to reveal a petite Belsedori in a velvety dress standing behind it with a tea tray. The tea tray and the white choker and bell around his neck indicate that, despite appearances, this is Ariana’s husband.

“Hi, dear. What took you so long?”

“I’m sorry. I tried to carry the entire tea tray at once instead of making two trips like you said to, and it was too heavy for me to move easily.”

Ariana then takes the (relatively light) tray from her husband and walks into the room with him to set it on the table.

“Duke Caes, allow me to introduce you to my lovely husband Rosalia. He made this delicious tea for us on my request.”

Rosalia blushes as Duchess Ariana mentions him. He quickly pulls the veil on his headband down to partially hide his pale face, soft features, and faintly luminescent magenta eyes. Duchescina Rosalia L’arakarie is about 30cm shorter than his wife is, in addition to being significantly slimmer. His fine, honeydew-colored hair and feathers are arranged in an updo, which is bound together by a large white hair ribbon tied into a bow. The myriad bows and ribbons of his dress and stockings sway with the slight draft running through the room. His arms are covered with gloves reaching to the upper ends of his elbows, and his legs and feet are encased in opaque white stockings reaching into his frilly, pleated skirt and in comfortable but durable shoes with metal sheaths covering his talons. Higher on his body, a frilly white apron is tied around his waist to accentuate it and keep his dress clean when he’s helping the staff with cooking or cleaning. To complete his outfit, Rosalia is wearing earrings and a pendant both set with faceted, inert Witch’s Tourmaline. The difference in appearance between Duchess Ariana and Duchescina Rosalia is like night and day, and Ariana is very proud of the way that she dresses her doll of a husband.

Rosalia does a gentle curtsy after his wife finishes introducing him, the bell on his wedding choker jingling faintly as he did so. He addresses Duke Caes with a soft, quiet voice after finishing.

“Good afternoon, Duke, and welcome to our home. It’s an honor to prepare refreshments for you. Do you want me to cook you anything?”

Over on the meeting table, a pot full of Rosalia’s tea awaits consumption. It’s hot by Belsedori standards but lukewarm to anybody else, and accompanied by a jar of lemon preserves and a plate of sugar cubes.

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Caes could not help but stare at the man for a fraction of a second, comprehending what he saw. His entire demeanor was not that of a husband or a wife- it was of a decorated servant. That’s what he looked like: an ornament. He thought back to his own wife: yes, she was a bit thinner then him, and she wore dresses like all Xhaasan women typically did- albeit the dresses were not typically very heavy as the Sun did not allow such frivolities in its domain- but that was where the similarities ended. His wife was not frail, having learned the trade of crafting at a young age- only nobility in the direct line of succession was typically able to get away from learning a craft, on the pretext that they spend their time as a youth preparing for their eventual reign. In fact, the woman had plenty of muscle- although one could easily miss such a fact by looking at her. And, as he watched her sometimes work on small crafts in the meager spare time the two had being heads of state in Iyanala, he was always impressed at how her hands could methodically take such mundane objects and transform them into something meaningful or useful. He remembered the wedding gift she gave him, back when he was still only the heir to the duchy. She gave him a (small, and not practical for warfare, but still functional) Omran’irr. A weapon that still hung over their bed to this very day. Modernly, she made economic plans for Iyanla, other long term plans, while he oversaw the state in the present and made sure things continued to run smoothly. His wife was an important facet to Iyanla, and to him.

Neither he or his wife were ornaments. They were both free.

He couldn’t help but pity the man: he would never once know the joy of serving a greater cause: your kingdom. While certain aspects were less then ideal, this poor man would never, in the grand scheme of things, be important. He would never soldier up, or police, or mine, or produce a sword, armor, negotiate, or rule. His name would simply be a footnote next to his wife’s. And perhaps not being equal to the one who claimed to love you- with all of the politics in love stripped away- was the greatest pity of all. Even his wedding gift- or the equivalent of it in Belsegallian culture- was a bell for his wife to call him- like a servant, which she herself had admitted was a use for the bell.

And all in that fraction of a second, comprehending the sheer manner in which this man was being unknowingly oppressed, pity took over, and Caes humored him. In a voice ever so slightly softer then with which he spoke to Ariana, as if afraid of frightening the poor soul, he said:

“Kind sir, it is my honor to be let into your houshold. If it is to your liking, I would not abstain if you wished to cook. I would not know what Belsegallian or Belsedori cuisine to ask for, so I would have to ask you what you reccomend.”

Listening to this, Xenos- the young man who had handed the samples to Caes- could not help but whisper, barely audible, in his native tounge.

“Kos harrai…” *

Caes ignored it. Normally he would have scolded the young man for such things, but at the moment he felt it unnecessary.

*Kos harrai directly translates to “Gods above.” It is a less common and slightly more vulgar curse then most Ghratean curses as it indirectly implicates every god.


Duchescina Rosalia knew that something felt wrong from the moment that he walked into the meeting room with Ariana. Both women and their husbands alike usually delighted in seeing his cute outfits, flowing hair, and delicate countenance, and he loved it just as much when they were the center of everybody’s attention. But this “Duke” from outside Belsegallia just… stared. It was only for a brief moment, but Rosalia was highly sensitive to social cues and he was sure that it had definitely happened. But he didn’t know why it would happen; was something wrong with his clothes or hair? Was the Duke simply jealous of his gorgeous dress? It almost felt like Duke Caes pitied him or felt bad for him, but he couldn’t begin to understand why this would be the case. He was married to a powerful Duchess, lived in a beautiful castle in the sky, and was able to gushily dote on his loving wife for every minute of every day; what more could any Belsedori husband want? At least the Duke was willing to eat something; Rosalia hoped that some food would cheer him and the others up.

Rosalia was an exceptional home cook, and knew very well how to make a delicious meal that his guests would love. But he was also homebound for the vast majority of the time, and he desperately wanted to spend some time with these people that had been to so many places and seen so many sights that he hadn’t. Belsegallian ham dumplings were a mouthwatering dish and would take some prep time by the servants before he had to go back to the kitchen, so Rosalia decided to suggest it to Duke Caes with a gentle but cheerful voice.

“Hm… Oh! Belsegallian ham dumplings are just loooovely, and I’m sure that you’ll love them too! I’ll go tell the staff to start prepping for them so that you can have them quickly.”

Duchescina Rosalia then skipped over to the doorway where he had walked in just a moment ago and quickly ordered an attendant to relay his instructions to the kitchen. After doing so, he walked back to Duke Caes to address him.

“While I would love nothing more than to be in the kitchen and making your food for you right now, it will take the staff about thirty minutes to prep everything before I can start cooking. In the meantime, why don’t we have some conversation together to pass the time? I love to hear stories about the rest of the world outside of Belsegallia.”

Rosalia pours some tea into a teacup before adding some lemon preserves to it.

“Tell me, please; what’s it like to live in Ghratos? I heard some of the staff say that parts of it were very hot and sandy. We don’t have either sand or heat up here in Belsegallia; just the freshly fallen snow and the cold.”

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Caes thought for a moment about what to tell him. He had to be careful- he was still a diplomat, and so he needed to be careful not to explain how certain part of the state worked- which he was entwined in from a young age. He also didn’t want to frighten Rosalia with mentions of Magejo (even tame, as tamed ones were used for war) or anything like that. After thinking for a moment for something interesting, yet not provocative, he thought of what to say.

“Living in Ghratos is… a lot of things. Ghratos is certainly not the biggest nation on Terra Aurora, but the varried environments make it seem wondrous- even in the Xhaasan desert, where I hail from, which to some may seem like endless sands, there are countless patches of soil called savannas which yeild life not seen anywhere else. One time as a child, this was made apparent to me when we went traveling one day.”

He took a moment to remember the story in its entirety.

“When I was a youth, no older than 12, my mother- Duchess Kastaxa of Iyanala- had a diplomatic meeting with the heads of Shaalsa, one of the 3 Xhaasan costal duchies. I was used to her travelling out of the Duchy- she always had important business to attend to- but the strange thing was, she took me along with her, as well as a few other noble children, a peasant girl who she had taken in, and the expected detatchment of guards.”

“When we rode out- Ghratos is big enough that one has to ride on horses to get to where they want to go- I was surprised to be going anywhere at all- I rarely left the city walls. After around 2 days of traveling, which was uneventful, we reached the city of Shala. It was nothing like my city of Dhat, near a small river. It was on the coast, and i’d never seen so much water. My mother met the heads of Shaalsa at the coast, and they held their meeting in a rather large tent. Even then I thought that peculiar, because I knew that typically these things were held in the central castle of the capital. But, some locals also came to the coast, and after a little bit, we realized that they were picking sugarcane- a type of plant that shoots up out of the ground, which happens to be very sweet. We helped them pick it, and despite it being a rather menial task in hindsight, it was some of the most fun i’d ever had as a child. And it showed me that perhaps i was not condemned to the endless sands- for the sands themself are not endless.”

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Rosalia listened to Duke Caes’s story with keen interest. Simple things like riding horses or seeing the ocean, which would usually be routine occurrences for a nobleman in any other kingdom, sounded so foreign and strange to a Belsedori Duchescina. Rosalia and every other Belsedori could fly quickly and easily, and he wondered what it would be like to have to ride land animals like “horses” to travel anywhere. And the ocean was something that he could see every so often on the rare occasions when Ariana would let him leave the house with her, but it was always so, so far away from the sheltered and domesticated Duchescina in his high, cloudy, and frigid home of Belsegallia. He always wondered what it was like to live on the ground, where the ocean and the land were close underfoot and the native, cloudy sky of the Belsedori was in the unattainable distance instead. The unrelentingly pampered and subdued Rosalia had never even seen all of Belsegallia, much less anywhere outside of it, and what little he got to hear of the outside world seemed to him to be very strange indeed.

Duchescina thought about how he would continue the conversation now that Duke Caes had finished his story. Sharing some of his own childhood adventures would have been the most logical step, but it’s rare for a male Belsedori of any age to even leave his house. Rosalia thought that maybe the Duke would be interested in hearing about what life is like in Belsegallia; surely his guest just as curious about it as he is about Ghratos?

“Oh, it’s just lovely that you got to travel as a child! I’m so jealous; my mother never let me so much as lose sight of the house when I was a boy. My childhood was nothing like yours; it was as full of household chores and dresses and cooking as my life is now. I always loved getting to try on the soft gossamer dresses and aprons that my mother would get me, and I could make dinner for my sisters without my father’s help when I was nine. Any time that I wasn’t spending on domestic tasks would always be spent learning healers’ magic. The only excitement that I ever got, if you could call it that, was when girls would fight each other over who would eventually take my hand in marriage. I remember always sobbing my eyes out in a corner until one of them would get seriously injured and need me to heal them.” Duchescina Rosalia looks like he’s about to start crying until he slowly regains his composure. “But that’s all in the past now, and it would be selfish of me to sob about something that you’ve surely had to deal with much of yourself. Have you been enjoying your visit to Belsegallia? I would never want you to feel unwelcome in my house as a guest, so please tell me if you need anything.”

Duchescina Rosalia briefly considered something before asking Duke Caes another question. “You said earlier that Ghratos has a variety of different environments. Are there any that would be very cold at this time of year?”

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Caes could empathise with Rosalia on the matter of women fighting over him- though he suspected, not for the same reasons. He was only 14 years old when his mother died and he was thrust into the jealousies and politics of the noble world. His father was ill and unable to offer much but advice- though it was still very helpful. Still, many noble families saw his mother’s passing as an easy way to marry into one of the most powerful duchies in all of Ghratos, and disrupt the balance of power in their favor. He spent about 5 years of his life avoiding predatory marriages to young women of other powerful duchies, counties, and more that would have compromised his duchy, and the entirely of central Xhaasa. He even briefly considered not marrying at all, but he understood that he had to produce an heir, or he was essentially asking for a war after he died. Eventually, he was able to arrange a meeting with and subsequent marriage of his current wife, Lucia of Xaantas, within Iyanala. She was in no way a figure capable of being used against Iyanala, and the marriage shut down all of the attempts to steal power from his family and people.

He also pittied Rosalia for not being able to travel much while he was young. Even he, the heir to a powerful duchy, was able to travel his city when he was young, and had indeed went on a few ventures outside as he got older.

He responded to Rosalia asking how how he was faring. “I have certainly been enjoying my visit. It is very interesting for me to interact with other cultures after living in Ghratos all my life. Currently, I don’t need anything.”

At the question about other environments, he knew immediately that he was next to speak about Amisa.

“Ah, Amisa. I do not live there normally, but i did pass through on my way to visit. It is a place of lush green forests and varried animals. The north is rather cold right about now, but I typically stay away from those regions during the Amisan Winter- Xhaasans are not built for the cold. Still, I have seen much of the area right above the Stannumn, and I have to say, it is perhaps more beautiful then even Xhaasa’s golden sands.”


”Amisa sounds like a nice place to visit this time of year. I wonder if I can convince Ariana to take me there sometime.”

Duchescina Rosalia knew that Ariana didn’t like to let him travel anywhere, especially without her, but he thought that maybe he could convince her to take him along if she ever had to visit Ghratos for diplomatic business. But that would come later; he still had Duke Caes to attend to right now, and getting to visit Amisa would be a long shot anyway. Rosalia was used to being treated like a fragile doll by Ariana and all the other women in his life, but the way that Caes stared at him when he introduced himself still bothered him. He didn’t want to ask Duke Caes about it directly because doing so would be impolite, but it still felt strange to him; he had never had anybody else react to him like that before, and he wanted to know why it had happened. Duke Caes also wasn’t drinking any of Rosalia’s tea, which only bothered him further. He decided to ask whether the duke wanted anything again; it was customary in some areas of Belsegallia to refuse offered food and drink once before accepting it, so maybe the duke was just following that. Food and hospitality was Rosalia’s default way of trying to win people over, and he wanted to make sure that Duke Caes wasn’t feeling unwelcome.

”Are you sure that you don’t need anything right now? I can get you some food from the kitchen before I cook your dumplings if you want. Also, did you want some tea? It’s going to get cold soon, even if this room is much warmer than usual.”

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Caes realized that he did not drink any of his tea and felt a bit rude. In Ghratean culture at large, one did not simply leave food or drink provided to them alone.

“Ah, thank you for the tea. I’m sorry, I got caught up in telling that story.” He took a sip of his tea- it was lukewarm, but considering the temperature of this island, and the fact that this room was “Warm,” he frankly would have been more surprised if the tea was hot.

“I don’t think that I need anything right now, I can wait until the dumplings are prepared, I am not hugely hungry.”

He felt the need to watch his own reactions more carefully, as he had the strangest feeling that Rosalia somehow noticed the brief fraction of a second he had had to take to process his appearance. He was not diplomatically inept, and he himself had extrapolated details from the mere expressions of other dukes and duchesses, counts and countesses, and others. He hoped that his small blunder wouldn’t cause too big of a disruption in their conversation or the following proceedings.


”Oh, ok. Well, if you do want anything, please don’t hesitate to ask me.”

Duchescina Rosalia was somewhat relieved that Duke Caes simply forgot about the tea; it was better that he simply became preoccupied with their conversation than if he had a complaint about Rosalia’s tea. It had also probably been about 30 minutes since the start of their conversation, which meant that it was time to return to the kitchen.

”I have to go back to the kitchen so that I can cook your food for you now, but I’ll try to bring it to you as soon as I can. Goodbye.”

As he says goodbye, Duchescina Rosalia does a curtsy. He then leaves the room through the same door that he entered from with the tea, which means that it probably leads in the direction of the kitchen. Duchess Ariana then quickly finishes giving instructions to one of the Belsedori negotiating staff before approaching Duke Caes.

”I believe that we have both had enough of a break for now. Are you ready to negotiate the exact terms of the trade deal that you are signing? It should be relatively simple: all you have to do is negotiate acceptable terms, and then sign your name here and your wife’s name here.”

Duchess Ariana has a generic blank treaty in her hand. At the bottom of it is a series of fields that reads:

Duchess | _________________ ||| Duke | ________________, signing on behalf of Duchess | __________________

As she describes how to sign it, she points at the two field on the right; the one on the left is presumably for her.

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Caes looked at the paper. Very few times in life had he been able to escape situations without loss- And leading a Marax against Xarban insurgents had showed him that losses were inevitable in great conflicts- yet even in smaller-scale conflicts, loss was unavoidable. But this was the first time, in the great game of life, that he had been checkmated by a seemingly standard issue sheet of paper.

Caes, for a moment, contemplated signing on behalf of the Duchess of Stanumnia- the costal parts of the Stanumn, the Duchess of that area being the Great Governor of Ghratos, the 3rd member of the Triarchy, While this would have made sense if he took the words on the contract at face value, what the Duchess said meant that in Belsegallian records, they would assume he was the husband of the Great Governor, which was not true, and probably would cause some problems in the future. He could also actually sign for his wife, but as she was not the reigning duchess, and was only of the title through marriage, the document would have no legitimacy in Ghratos. He would most likely have to inform them of the thing he had intentionally strayed away from telling them- He was not just Duke of Iyanala, he was the leader of Iyanala.

“Duchess, I am afraid I cannot sign such a document- it would hold no legitamacy in Ghratos. My title is not through marriage, but from birth. I am the ruler of Iyanala, and my wife, Duchess Lucia, was only Countess Lucia of Xantas before she married me- the territory she had resides within my own. She cannot be the one who this document is signed for- because I am the one who needs to officiate it.”


Duchess Ariana was perplexed at why Duke Caes would ever be the leader of anything, but only for a second. Clearly there was a bureaucratic mix-up with respect to his transfer of rulership over his duchy to Duchess Lucia after she married him; it’s probably also why she had to send Duke Caes to this meeting, although Ariana still doesn’t understand why she isn’t here to supervise her husband.

”Oh, I see; typical legal problems. Well, in that case, I need to have an attendant find me a new paper to use…”

Duchess Ariana asks a nearby staff member to find one of “Duchescina L’eridia’s templates” before turning to face Duke Caes again.

”…You really should sort out your transfer of rulership soon; I can’t imagine that your wife is at all happy with you traveling out of the house this much for diplomatic and administrative business, and all of this serious talk must be so scary and hard on a boy like you as well. But there is no need for worry yourself; I will release you from this meeting and let you get away from this dreadful statecraft as quickly as I am able. I must say, however, that I look forward to meeting your wife at some point. It is no easy task in Belsegallia to marry a duchescina as a countess, and I am sure that she had to impress your parents a great deal for them to let her marry you.”

A diplomatic staff member enters the room with a document, most of which is blank, and hands it to Duchess Ariana before leaving. Ariana opens it and looks at it for a short time before addressing Duke Caes again.

Do you mind signing under the title ‘Duchescina’ instead of Duke? My records keeper says that the two titles are equivalent aside from the originating language, and my secretary does not possess any generic treaties that would let you sign for yourself under any other title. I could always have the necessary document hand-drawn, of course; but scribing it would take some time, and a delicate husband like you would surely love to be back at home and making dumplings for your wife as soon as possible.”

The Belsedori noble title “Duchescina” is the combination of the “primary” title of Duchess with the Belsedori diminutive suffix -scina, which functions to denote something as small or unimportant and/or to act as a title of affection or closeness.

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Caes sighed. Somehow, riding out with a Marax was easier than this one diplomatic meeting.

“If the titles are equivalent, then I see no problem with signing this. I think we have sufficiently discussed the agreements.”

Caes thought for a moment. As stressful as this mission had been, it had taught him valuable cultural information about Belsegallia that Ghratos would be able to use in the future. He would have to inform the Triarchy about this when he got to Pontentium. He was certainly not sad that it was over, though- The cold was still an annoyance, and he would rather get back to his Duchy sooner rather than later. There was some lingering part of his brain that told him perhaps the title “Duchescina” may have- and probably wasn’t- equivalent to the title of Duke, but the way out was too promising.