NINE NATIONS

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IMPERIAL OEPACIA
Cavalieri Prince Crispin Prosum, The Heir

           Magister Senectus fixed his pupil with a withering stare.  Despite his best efforts, he could not fix the young man’s attention on early Oepacian history.  Bloodlines and marriages bored the young Cavalieri; he much preferred violent tales of conquest to the more pedestrian but no less vital trade treaties and peace accords.  Oepac had been a Kingdom for five centuries and an Empire for three, since the annexations of Rha and Wortheim, when his student’s tenth-great grandfather declared himself Emperor Orsa the First.  Today Senectus was endeavoring to lecture young Crispin Prosum on the efforts of a longer-dead ancestor, King Talar, who first brought the vast territories between the Range and the Profundium Oriens under one crown.  It had been an accomplishment of diplomacy and strategic marriage, and thus held little romance for The Heir. 

            “King Talar was of the East Village, and claimed the bloodline of the indigenous Oepacian settlers of the Patesco Bay tidewater.  He took to wife and Queen Contessa Brigitta of Erbegent, who enjoyed the fealty of the fair-skinned Erbs,” intoned the Magister, indicating the regions on a large, wall-mounted map.  The Heir yawned, and blinked twice.  Clearly, this lesson was keeping Prince Crispin awake.  The old man sighed, his long, gray beard dropping to his chest as a sign of surrender.

            “I yield for today, your imperial highness,” capitulated Senectus.  “I can see that your thoughts are not with my lessons, but with those of Cavalieri Usus in the garrison yards.  Go then, but tomorrow we will discuss the erection of this castle, and the bloody power struggles of King Eustacius’s era…” the Magister’s words trailed off as he realized that the Heir had made good his escape from the library.

            Crispin walked as fast as he could while maintaining his imperial dignity, shaking his head to free it of the lingering effects of Senectus’ droning lecture, slowing only when he had put a safe distance between himself and the library.  His aimless steps had led him to the Arcade Argentum, one of the two long galleries that overlooked the massive central hall of Castle Talar.  The ancient stonework had been covered with mosaics of white marble, inlaid with the silver that gave the causeway its name.  Across the vaulted hall and parallel ran the Arcade Aureus, similarly ornamented with gold.  Braiisem’s eyes lingered briefly on the murals; he was long since familiar with the heroic scenes depicted there.  When he was younger, this had been one of his favorite places, where the dry tales of the magisters came to life before his eyes.  He would spend hours here and in the Hall of Heralds, where the banners of the Cavalieri who were members of the Council of One Hundred hung, twenty on each of the five walls, a sea of greens and blues, reds, golds, silvers and blacks. 

            The Cavalieri Heir was nearly seventeen, and had spent most of those years in the tender care of scholars and historians like the Magister, who were supposedly preparing him for his eventual Ascension.  Crispin couldn’t see the point.  His brain was full to bursting with hosts of meaningless names and dates, while the hours he spent honing his skills with blade, lance, and falcon were pitifully meager.  It was poor training for a future Emperor, he thought, but all of his arguments with his father to that effect had fallen upon deaf ears.