Modern Crusaders: Adeptus Major

By PsiDraconis

For disclaimers see Chapter 1

"Prepare a mighty town for a mighty people; do not draw back from the long, wearisome chase. You must change your dwelling. Nor to these shores did the god at Delos counsel you, or Apollo bid you find rest in Crete. There is a region that the Greeks call Hesperia – an ancient land, mighty in arms… This is our true dwelling place…"

- Virgil, Aeneid

Chapter Six

"Well, I have to admit that I’m happy to be out of there," Evelynne said, leaning back in her seat. "It was wonderful to see za and Patrick, but right now I really need a rest."

Ally nodded in agreement. The last three days had been incredibly full. Ally didn’t know how the princess managed to remain sane if the past few days had been any indication of her typical schedule. Numerous interviews; meetings with what seemed like half the population of the island; press conferences; a speech in the Hall of Nobles; another in the Hall of Advisors; and more that Ally couldn’t even remember right now.

Somehow, though, Evelynne had managed to find the time to be nearby during the single short interview and photo session that Ally had been subjected to. The reporter, an intense but compassionate older man with a long history of covering the Royal Family, had been able to draw Ally out of her reticence and shyness with ease. He had left with a promise that the young woman would give a more in depth interview in the near future.

At last it was over, and now Ally and Evelynne were seated in the Royal Minivan (as Patrick had officially baptised the vehicle) along with Maîda and Sir Arthur on their way to the airport. Once there, they would board a helicopter for the journey to the Summer Palace at Kilim.

"I don’t know how you do it," Ally sympathised. "I though that I was the one who was supposed to be busy, what with physio and all. Personally, I think you’re nuts. You should think about changing careers. Though I must say," she continued, looking around the interior of the vehicle, "some of the perks are nice."

"True, but there isn’t much of a retirement plan. You work until you drop dead." Evelynne gave her uninjured arm a good stretch. "Right now, though, we have two whole weeks all to ourselves. Just you, me, Maîda, Uncle Arthur, Nancu, Emil, James, Kamim, Moses, Latifa…" She trailed off. "Okay, maybe not all to ourselves."

Ally looked at her incredulously. "Who are all those people?"

"They are the housekeepers and servants at the Summer Palace," Maîda answered. "Nancu is the Seneschal, Emil is the Master of Servants, Latifa is the Head Cook, James is the Groundkeeper…"

"I get the idea," Ally said hurriedly. "Gee, it’s a bit like Cleopatra saying to Julius Caesar, ‘It’ll be an intimate little dinner. Just you, me, and two hundred servants.’" She shook her head. "Do ever get any time alone?"

"Oh, I find some time here and there," Evelynne answered. "I like being around people, though."

"You’d have to," Ally said. "Just as long as that ‘personal assistant’ Ellen isn’t around. I really got the feeling that she didn’t like me. I don’t know why. I thought I treated her politely."

"It was nothing you did," Maîda said. "Ellen is accustomed to serving members of the Nobility, who often – but not always – tend to ignore their servants. So even though you obviously enjoy His Majesty’s favour, you are still a commoner. Ellen felt that serving you was a demotion of some kind. She is, however, a professional, so she would still perform her duties to the best of her ability."

"Oh, she was very efficient. She was just… I don’t know… cold. I guess I’m used to you, Maîda." Ally grinned at the older woman.

"You can’t have her," Evelynne said quickly. "She’s mine."

Sir Arthur had been silent throughout the exchange, though Evelynne was familiar enough with his moods to detect the humour beneath his impassive expression. "We have arrived, Your Highness," he announced.

Sure enough, the bulk of the Royal Terminal loomed outside. This time the van had driven directly onto the runway, avoiding any onlookers who might be nearby. Sitting on the pad was a large helicopter, with the seals of the Royal Family emblazoned on the side.

As soon as the van stopped, the waiting Guardsmen proceeded to carry out the now familiar ritual of lifting Ally's wheelchair onto the ground. Even though she was more used to it now, Ally still found the procedure extremely embarrassing, even though the people involved were very professional. She had been sorely tempted on more than one occasion to simply lift herself and her wheelchair out. Each time she had avoided giving in to the temptation, and had settled for spending a short time every night in the privacy of her own room free of the constraints of her wheelchair and bed.

Thankfully, the time it took to extricate the young woman from the vehicle was short, and the small party was soon making their way to the waiting helicopter. Evelynne took up her customary position pushing the wheelchair, so Ally was able to spend a few moments simply enjoying the warm sun on her face. It wasn't long before she was being pushed up the short ramp and secured in place within the aircraft.

"I'm so glad I won't be lying down this time," she said fervently, as the helicopter's engines started revving.

The doctors who had examined her during her stay in the capital had been pleased by the way her muscles were healing, and had given Ally permission to remain upright during the flight to Kilim.

"It's a good thing that you are," Evelynne said from her seat directly next to Ally. "We're going to be flying over the excavations at Aztlan. I think you'll find it really fascinating. You wouldn't be able to see it if you were strapped in."

The engines reached their highest pitch, and the aircraft began to rise with a slight jerk. Ally started at the sudden movement and her left hand involuntarily tightened on the arms of her wheelchair. She was startled again when she felt warm hands gently pry her fingers loose. She looked down to see Evelynne's small hands carefully holding her own larger one.

"Are you all right?" the princess asked.

Ally relaxed slightly as her body got used to the movement of the aircraft. "Yeah, I'm okay," she replied. "I've just never been on a helicopter before. It feels different from a plane." She tensed again as the helicopter dipped suddenly in a small downdraft. "I'll get used to it."

"Oh, good," Evelynne said, though she didn't release Ally's hand. "You know, it's a good thing you don't get airsick."

"You have no idea. My mother gets airsick. And seasick. And carsick, unless she's driving. Thank God my Dad has a stomach like a rock. Whenever we used to travel, we'd play 'Rock, Paper, Scissors'. Whoever lost had to sit next to Mom and keep getting her airsickness bags. She has a technique now, though."

"Really? My cousin uses those wrist pressure point things. Does she use those?"

Ally grinned. "Not exactly. She takes a couple of Gravol, about four shots of gin, and sleeps the whole way."

"I guess that would do it," Evelynne laughed. "I'll have to suggest it to my cousin Je'anna."

"Of course, she's pretty much stoned for two days after she arrives."

The two remained in light conversation for half an hour before they were interrupted by the pilot. "Good morning, Your Highness," the throaty female voice announced over the intercom. "And good morning to the rest of our passengers. This is Captain Juarez. I just wanted to inform you that we are about to fly over the Aztlan excavations in about one minute. You should be able to see them most clearly from the right side of the aircraft."

There was a general shuffling toward the right as a number of passengers, including Maîda, the doctor, the nurse, and a couple of Guards moved to peer out the windows on that side. Ally was perfectly positioned next to a window, and hardly had to move at all to get a good view. She was momentarily distracted, however, when Evelynne leaned partially across her in order to see for herself. Soon enough, though, the ancient city of Aztlan came into view, and any distractions were forgotten.

The first thing that any observer noted about the city was its size. Even though it was largely buried under millennia's worth of silt and earth, enough had been excavated to give a sense of its immensity. Over twenty four kilometres in diameter, the City of Rings - as it had been dubbed - radiated a sense of majesty. Arranged like a gigantic bulls-eye, the central "island" was two kilometres across. A wide canal almost a thousand metres wide surrounded the core, though the water that had once filled it had been replaced with silt. Another ring of land, this one a kilometre in width, encircled the canal, followed by yet another canal and ring. All in all, five giant rings of water had once separated four rings of land before the city gave way to the surrounding countryside. At its peak, Aztlan had dwarfed any other city of the ancient world, and even today many modern cities could not match its size.

From their vantage point overhead, the observers could see that small sections of the city had already been excavated, the partially restored buildings swarming with the tiny dots of workers.

"Oh, wow," Ally breathed. "I read the few articles National Geographic did on the archaeological work, but this is… I mean… Wow."

"I know," Evelynne replied. "I've seen it many times, but I've never become used to it. It's probably genetic by now. The Restoration has been every Atlantlan monarch's passion since the city was rediscovered in 1872. As you can see, we've still got a way to go."

"I remember reading about that. This entire region was underwater for a while, wasn't it?"

Evelynne nodded. "We still don't know exactly how old Atlantlan civilisation is," she explained. "We do know that it was an ocean-faring civilisation and that it was apparently at its peak when the Deluge came, somewhere around 10,000 BC. That's when the single island broke up into the three we have today. This region sank completely, and remained underwater for about 7,000 years. During that time it was covered in debris and silt, which actually helped preserve the city almost intact."

"Kind of like those towns around Mount Vesuvius."

"Exactly. Then around 3,000 BC the plates shifted and this area was pushed back above sea level. The city was still buried, and wasn't discovered again until 1872, when, like many archaeological discoveries, a farmer ran into the top of one of the buildings with his plough. In fact…" Evelynne peered closely out the window. "… you can see the building over there." She pointed to a spot near the centre of the largest excavation area. "It's the big pyramid sticking up above everything else. It's called the Pintaru Pyramid after the farmer."

"I see it," Ally confirmed. Ally found her eyes drawn to a set of huge markings on the ground. "What is that?"

Evelynne followed Ally's pointing finger to a series of odd geometric patterns that were in the process of being excavated. "Actually, nobody's exactly sure. Similar ones have been found in South America. The theories range from religious markings, to racetracks, to aircraft runways. In reality, nobody has a clue."

The area slowly moved out of sight as the helicopter flew over the centre of the ancient metropolis. It the region ahead, Ally could see earth-moving equipment surrounded by a small army of workers. They seemed to be removing soil from the innermost of the city's circular waterways. "You're actually dredging the canals?" Ally asked, surprised.

"Of course," Evelynne answered. "The ultimate goal is to restore Aztlan to its antediluvian state. When the canals are cleared, a channel will be cut from here to the ocean. Ships used to sail right through to the inner city. It's estimated that a supertanker would be able to get as far as the second canal."

Ally shook her head in awe. "It sound like Atlantl has quite a task ahead of it."

"It's a source of national pride. One of the greatest discoveries scientists made was a mosaic in one of the first buildings to be excavated. It turned out that the building was an administration centre of some kind, and the mosaic was a detailed map of the city. It's been invaluable in helping the researchers decide where to investigate next, and has also shown us exactly how Aztlan was laid out."

"All of this must cost a fortune. How the heck do you pay for it all?"

"Responsible spending," the princess responded. "As you know, Atlantl has always made a lot of money through trade, customs fees, and tariffs. Well, during the Cold War, when everyone else was spending trillions on nuclear weapons, a product with no real practical applications, we decided to invest in such trivial things as education, research, cultural development, and infrastructure. The result is that today Atlantl has free schooling through university, one of the highest tech bases in the world, a thriving artistic community, and affordable housing for anyone who wants it. One of the offshoots is that we're able to pay for projects like that." She indicated the antediluvian city which was receding slowly behind the helicopter. "These days we're making even more capital off the interest on the money we loaned to other countries so that they could build their nuclear missiles."

Ally and Evelynne grinned at each other. "I love the irony," Ally admitted. "So where do you get the people to work on projects like that?"

"The government actually has enough money to hire anyone who wants a job in the Restoration. The pay isn't fantastic, but accommodation is paid for. Most of the rest of the workers are convict labourers working out their sentences. It keeps them useful, out of the prisons, and teaches them a trade - albeit a basic one - all at the same time. I think Atlantl is one of the only countries shutting down prisons because of lack of use."

"So the prisoners are paid?"

"Oh, Isis, no! It's an automatic ten year term for any convict to handle money for any reason. That applies to anyone giving a convict money as well. No, the wages that they would normally be paid go directly to compensate the victim of the crime, and to the criminal's family. Employers can also hire convicts for short-term jobs as needed by paying a fee. The whole idea is to keep as many people usefully employed as possible. Only uncontrollably violent offenders are locked up while they're undergoing therapy."

"That doesn't sound like a very bad system. I know that in Canada it costs over half a million dollars a year to keep someone in maximum security."

"Precisely my point. Most law-abiding people don't make that much. Why should the government essentially pay a criminal a million tali a year to do nothing? In the Atlantlan system, the government is still paying, but at least they're getting something in return."

"So how do the criminals feel about it?"

"Oh, most of them really don't like the work. It tends to be hard, nasty jobs - the kind nobody else wants to do. Still, if an employer hires them as a convict, a surprising number get hired by the same company full-time once their sentence ends. Of the ones working on the Aztlan Project, I think about a quarter start work there as paid labourers once they're free."

"Well, it's very different from Canada, I can tell you that."

The two women were silent for a moment, then Evelynne shook herself. "Okay, enough serious talk! So would you be interested in visiting the Aztlan site again? On the ground this time?"

"Really?" Ally said, excited. "That would be so cool."




Some two hours later the helicopter touched down once more on the landing pad at the Summer Palace.

Still recovering from her injuries, Ally had fallen asleep for about an hour. Evelynne had used the time to read. When her companion had awoken some time later, a joking remark by the princess had led the pair to spend the remaining time until landing discussing dreams and the universal subconscious. They were so deep in conversation that they didn't even notice the aircraft's descent until it came to rest on the ground with a slight bump.

Evelynne looked out the window, startled. "Isis, I didn't realise we were here yet."

While the helicopter's ramp was being lowered, Ally took the opportunity to peer out the small window at the small amount of landscape she could see. The landing pad was situated in the middle of a large expanse of lawn. The grassy expanse was edged with a number of large trees, effectively blocking the area from prying eyes. Still, through the trees Ally could see the gleam of sunlight off buildings several kilometres away, and just beyond the town lay the glistening expanse of the Atlantic Ocean.

That must be Kilim, Ally thought. But where the heck is the Summer Palace? No matter how hard she searched the area outside her window, the young woman could not spot anything that might be a shack, much less a mansion. Turning to Evelynne, she asked, "I can't see the Palace. Where is it, exactly?"

The princess gave Ally a curious look, then pointed towards the opposite side of the aircraft, where the lamp was being lowered. "Right over there," she said.

Ally could feel herself reddening. "Right. Of course. Well, don't I feel like the moron. Is there any chance we could just forget I asked that?" She turned pleading eyes to Evelynne's amused face.

"Of course," Evelynne granted magnanimously. Ally's exaggerated sigh of relief was cut short by her next words. "At least until Chorus gets here."

"Oh, God. Please no. You can't. You wouldn't."

Evelynne nodded firmly. "It's only fair. I heard my evil brother telling you all those embarrassing stories about me. I need to have my own conspirator."

"But the story of you holding court with all your stuffed animals in the throne room is just so…"

Evelynne's eyes narrowed. "Finish that sentence. I dare you."

Ally sighed resignedly. "You realise this means war."

The princess' smile was predatory. "Bring it on."

Any further banter was put on hold as the two friends left the helicopter. The princess disembarked first, and waited just outside for Ally to be helped out. The friendly sparring had relaxed Ally so much that she didn't even feel any urge to lift herself out of the vehicle, choosing instead to simply relax as she was carefully carried to the ground.

Once on the concrete outside, Ally could see the Summer Palace clearly. Set uphill from the landing pad, the building was a synthesis of Classical Greek and Arabian architecture. Constructed out of marble, the Palace sported both ornately carved Corinthian columns along its front face, and golden Arabian-style domes set at each end of the building. It wasn't a huge structure, as palaces went, but the front section was at least two stories tall, while the rear was at least four stories. The entire grounds were set on the hillside leading up from the town of Kilim, and behind the Palace to the southwest the land continued to rise, eventually becoming the looming bulk of Mount Sekemat. It was just after noon, so the brilliant sun had not yet begun to sink behind the mountain's mass.

Pushed forward once again by Evelynne, Ally could see that a small group of people had gathered to greet the princess just beyond the edge of the helipad. There were five that Ally could see. As soon as Evelynne and Ally were clear of the helicopter, two of them - a man and woman in simple grey uniforms - moved forward at the signal of an older man in a more ornate blue uniform bearing the royal seal. Pausing briefly to bow to the princess, the two servants quickly went to collect the royal party's luggage. Besides the two servants and their master, also present were a tall bearded man with the same mien and bearing of Sir Arthur, though wearing a slightly different uniform; and a very elderly man in an ornate robe leaning heavily on a cane.

At the sight of the elderly man Evelynne's face broke into a broad smile, which was echoed in the deeply lined face before her. "Domdom!" the princess cried in Lantlan. "What are you doing here?" Making sure that Ally wheelchair was secure, she hurried around to hug the old man, who squeezed back with surprising strength.

"Evy," the man acknowledged in the same language. "I'm so glad you're okay." Pulling back, he glared at her with mock severity. "What am I doing here? There's no way I'll let you come to my island without me being there to meet you! You're not queen yet, young lady, and I'm still not dead."

Evelynne looked suitably chastised. "I just meant to say that I would have come and visited you. I know you have trouble getting around."

"Hmph. I'll have you know that when I'm dead I'm going to have my body preserved and brought out whenever you're around just to greet you."

"Wonderful image, Domdom."

"Of course, the real reason I always come out to meet you is that I'm always hoping you'll bring some handsome young man that you intend to marry so that I can make him my Heir. You really must hurry up and find one. I'm not getting any younger, you know."

Evelynne grinned again. "Well, I didn't bring you a young man this time, Domdom. However, I did bring you the next best thing." Switching to English, she continued, "Domdom, may I present Alleandre Tretiak of Parksville, British Columbia, Canada. Ally, this is Lord Thomas Baker, Duke of Avalon."

Ally hesitantly extended a hand towards the Duke. "Your Grace," she murmured.

"Ishta Tretiak," the Duke replied, taking her smooth hand in his wrinkled one. "Such politeness. You seem to have learned the proper way to address the nobility, as well. So few foreigners know how to these days."

"I tend to read a lot of fantasy," Ally admitted.

"Indeed." The Duke's brows rose in speculation. "We will have to have a discussion on your favourite authors one of these days. You don't happen to be an Atlantlan citizen do you?"

"Er… no."

"Pity. If you were I could make you my heir," the Duke joked.

"For now, though," interrupted Evelynne, "as we've established your good breeding, you may as well call him Domdom, like I do."

A little surprised, Ally looked to the Duke for confirmation.

'Domdom' gave a melodramatic sigh. "I suppose if you must. When Evy was very young, she couldn't pronounce 'Thomas', so naturally I became 'Domdom'," he explained. "Young people have no respect nowadays." Turning serious, the Duke continued, "You have most likely heard this many times in the last few days, but I feel that I must say it again on my own behalf. Thank you for bringing Evelynne back to us in one piece. She is very dear to me on a personal level." Slowly and carefully he bent down and brushed his lips against Ally's cheek.

Ally was somewhat stunned, by managed to say, "Um… you're very welcome."

Standing upright again, the Duke said, "Well, I've monopolised your attention for long enough. I believe there are a few other introductions that must be made."

Evelynne smiled gratefully at the Duke, then turned to the other two men who had been waiting patiently. Indicating the tall man with the military bearing, she said, "Ally, this is Lieutenant-Colonel James Allan, Master of Security at the Palace. Generally speaking, if he's doing a good job, you'll never see him."

Colonel Allan touched his fingers to his heart briefly in salute and gave a brief smile. "Ishta Tretiak."

"Colonel." Ally nodded back.

"And finally, this is Nancu Ylan, the Palace Seneschal. He's in charge of day-to-day operations. If you ever have any complex requests or problems with the servants, he's the one to talk to. Unlike the Colonel, if Nancu is doing a good job you will see him."

Seneschal Ylan nodded his head in greeting, though his face remained completely expressionless. "Ishta Tretiak."

"Seneschal," Ally greeted.

"Okay then," Evelynne stated, "now that everyone here knows each other, let's get up to the house and meet everybody up there. Besides, I haven't eaten in five hours and I'm starving."

The party got underway again. As they walked slowly, out of deference to Duke Thomas' age, Ally asked, "So, Domdom. You've known Evy for years, right? You must know plenty of stories." Ally grinned triumphantly as Evelynne made an inarticulate sound of outrage.

Unperturbed, the Duke replied, "Oh, my, yes. I remember one time when she was learning to speak English…"

A short while later, after introducing Ally to Emil Leroc, the Master of Servants, and Latifa Ammam, the Head Cook, and a host of others, Evelynne and Ally were joined by Duke Thomas for a simple but filling lunch of soup and pasta. Sir Arthur had left to consult with his Palace counterpart and Maîda had been dispatched to make the final arrangements to the princess' rooms. Latifa had once again displayed her culinary mastery, and for a time there was silence around the table as everyone present concentrated fully on the meal.

Ally took the opportunity to examine her surroundings more thoroughly. She had been too busy trying to commit names and faces to memory to adequately take in the appearance of the Palace. She was now seated with the others in one of the lesser dining rooms, which was still larger than half her parents' house. The stone walls were dyed a muted yellow colour, and decorated with the portraits of a number of noble-looking individuals. A large window in one wall faced east, affording a spectacular view of the lightly wooded hillside leading down to the ocean, while sparing the room from the heat of the afternoon sun. The coolness of the dining room was a welcome relief after the heat outside.

Finally, once the edge had been taken off everyone's hunger, Evelynne spoke up. "So, what sort of things are you dealing with in the Hall of Nobles, Domdom? I've been too busy the last few days to really find out what's on the agenda."

"Well, you know of course about the Sir Richard running aground in Florida." Evelynne nodded, but Ally looked blank, so the Duke explained, "The Sir Richard is a destroyer equipped with the latest in sub-hunting technology. Four days ago it was blown off course by a hurricane and beached itself on the Florida coast. The US would love to get their hands on it, so they've been trying to get their people on board. Fortunately for us, the crew has stayed put, except for four crewmen with more serious injuries. We've been attempting to negotiate the release of the ship and crew." He shook his head. "It's been slow going. There have been a number of solutions put forward in the Hall. Count Jerrone actually had the nerve to suggest handing the ship over."

Ally thought for a moment. "Isn't there going to be a neap tide in a few days? Would that put the ship back out to sea?"

"It's a good idea, and it's been brought up," admitted the Duke. "The problem is that as soon as the Sir Richard is afloat again, she is no longer a ship in distress, but the warship of a foreign power within US territorial waters, at which point they have the legal right to board her. They can afford to wait us out. It's a mess. I'm just glad your aunt is leading the negotiations, Evy. She could talk a sa-kim out of its horn."

The princess nodded. "So what else has been happening?"

Now the Duke grew grim. "The Hy Braseal Liberation Army has attacked twice more in the last two weeks. This time two gunmen opened fire in a shopping mall in Po-Matin, and a bomb went off in a Req'sal bus station. Both times the scum got away cleanly."

"God," said Ally. A glance at Evelynne showed that she was equally shaken. "Who are they? Rebels?"

"Apparently. The odd thing is that until three years ago we had never had any major problems with terrorists. Oh, there was the occasional psycho, or separatist movement, but nothing this organised. Now we have the so-called Hy Braseal Liberation Army, which is very organised, very well equipped, and very vocal, especially to foreign media. They claim to be fighting a war against their 'elitist, dictatorial oppressors'. It doesn't matter that Hy Braseal has the highest standard of living in Atlantl." Duke Thomas shook his head in confusion. "It just doesn't make sense."

Evelynne was white by the time the Duke was finished. "Isis," she breathed. "I didn't realise they had escalated things so much." The room was silent as its occupants contemplated the sombre news. After a few moments, the princess sighed. "I'll have to talk to za to see what I can do to help." Purposely injecting a lighter tone into her voice, she asked, "So what else has been going on?"

Duke Thomas gave an equally forced smile, which became more natural as he talked. "Duke Hassan and his cronies are trying to repeal the Marriage Equality Decision. Again." Now the Duke's smile was feral. "Needless to say, Jason is providing me with wonderful ammunition to fight them."

Evelynne laughed, glad to put the darker subjects behind her for the time being. "I'd imagine he is."

"Pardon my ignorance - again - but what is the Marriage Equality Decision?" Ally asked. She had decided over the course of the conversation that her first task would be to read as much as possible on Atlantlan history and politics. She hated feeling totally lost in a discussion.

"It was a Decision handed down by the High Court about three years ago recognising homosexual, polygamous, and polyandrous marriages as fully legal and equal under the law."

"Okay, and who is Jason?"

The Duke answered, "Jason McKendrick is the young man who argued the case. He was actually arguing solely for homosexual marriages initially. His argument was that banning gay marriages was discrimination based on gender, which is prohibited by the Constitution. I was there when he was before the Justicars. He pointed to a very handsome young man in the courtroom and asked one of the female Justicars if marrying him would be considered a desirable possibility. When the Justicar admitted that it would, he claimed that prohibiting another man from marrying him was therefore discrimination based on gender, rather than sexual preference."

"I like it," Ally said.

"From that decision came the one allowing polygamy, since its prohibition was argued to be religious discrimination. Then came polyandry, since only allowing men to marry multiple wives -"

"- was biased against women. I get it," Ally completed the thought.

"So now Atlantlan citizens are legally allowed to marry whomever they please," said Evelynne.

God, thought Ally. I think I might move here permanently.

"Naturally," continued Duke Thomas, "the more conservative members of both the nobility and commoners make regular attempts to overturn the Decision. I happen to be at the forefront of those who just as regularly oppose them. Young Jason McKendrick has since been elected my Advisor in Law, and helps provide me with the necessary legal arguments. Not too long ago he also married Pedro, the young man whom he pointed out during his case."

"I'd like to meet him sometime."

The Duke smiled. "I'm sure I can arrange that."

"What's happened to the Proposal that Count Ryers was submitting?" Evelynne asked, changing the subject.

Duke Thomas continued to fill in the princess on the current political wranglings of the nobility. Ally followed along as best she could, but the long days and multiple trips were taking their toll on her still recovering energy levels. Evelynne finally noticed when Ally found her eyes closing uncontrollably for the third time.

Breaking off her conversation with the Duke, the princess apologised, "I'm sorry, Domdom. I think we'll have to continue this later. Right now I have to get Ally into bed."

The woman in question woke up just in time to hear Evelynne's last comment, and reddened as her libido made a predictable suggestion.

"Of course, Evy, you need your rest." Standing with the aid of his cane and making his way to Ally's side, the Duke said, "Ally, my dear, I will take my leave of you now. You should get some sleep. You're looking a little flushed."

To be continued in Chapter 7

Author's Note: For an artist's rendering of the city of Aztlan in its prime, feel free to drop me note.

Author's Note 2: Yes, this is a shameless attempt to solicit feedback. So sue me.

Author's Note 3: Please don't sue me.

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