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    Real Strategy Requires Cunning
Chapter 45

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Chapter 45: The Next Generation


Oblivion passes and before her is a familiar face.

“Your Highness,” Lyssa's old friend Calypso says, welcoming her into the light. Muddled noises ring in her ears, but the departed matriarch's words are clear.

Lyssa desperately wants to cry out her name, to speak with her again. All that escapes her throat is a dry croak. She tries to reach out but falls. Calypso's face grows distant as the darkness billows up to swallow her. Before Lyssa realizes it she is gone once more.​


* * *​


“Your Highness.”

The queen gasps as her eyes are shocked open once more. Like so many times before Calypso stands before her. Hovers over her. Lyssa does not know where exactly her old friend is. She does not know where she is.

“Wh-where...” Lyssa manages to stammer weakly. Her mind is a swirling miasma, unable to hold a thought. If her mind even is any longer.

“Your Highness!” There's a hint of surprise in Calypso's voice. Lyssa does not understand, it is she who comes to her. Unless...

Lost in her thoughts, Lyssa realizes she missed Calypso's reply. This makes her angry, though she's not sure if it's at herself or her old friend...

“We had to leave...”

No! Lyssa protests in silent fury. There was nothing inevitable – Calypso's death had been a terrible mistake. Except... she is not Calypso. Not that Calypso.

“What is your command, Your Highness?” Calypso the Younger asks intently, her very similar features surfacing from her mother's. “Do we return?”

“Yes...” Lyssa blurts out. The Janus image before her is already starting to fade. Yes, if only she could return...



18.12.2043
“You're talking as if the queen is dead.” Pragya, the freshly minted Mistress of Tabazco gradually lowers her voice as she speaks. She looks like she regrets coming to this meeting – certainly her displeasure over being assigned a worthless rock has been growing, but to speak so brazenly...

“She might as well be,” one of her companions scoffs, arrogant with the self-assuredness of youth. Although barely half their age, she immediately positions herself as a leader of the little group. Slender like a reed, but for her noticeably pregnant belly, Tisiphone II of Tetla radiates a confidence that few would dare challenge.

“I hear her blood doesn't flow right. I'm not surprised when she hasn't had a good fight to get her blood pumping in years. It's unseemly.” Although her mother died when she was eight, Tisiphone has clearly not only inherited her name but also her dislike of the Anakonda dynasty.

“But you're talking... succession...” Pragya has to steel herself to take the word into her mouth.

“I only came here 'cause Tisi said there'd be booze,” the third plotter says, her broad shoulders rising in a deliberately disarming shrug. Like Tisiphone, Melandra of Mamazo is also a daughter of one of the original conspirators against Queen Lyssa. That doesn't mean she can't make an attempt at plausible deniability.



You can believe she's the daughter of Belyse the Drunkard, alright!

Tisiphone clearly doesn't believe a word of it: “And the fact that the queen has repeatedly denied your requests to be granted Grand Domain has nothing to do with it?”

Melandra growls and slams her fist into the table with such force that it's small miracle it doesn't split in two. “My family is descended from Amazonia's greatest queens! A Panteros should never be second to a Toucana... or any of the queen's stupid children!”

“Why, you barely rank above the queen's failure of an elder daughter...” Tisiphone points out, egging her on. “Clearly Amazonia needs a queen who won't favour an Unworthy daughter over a brave Matriarch from a venerable line...”

Still sulking, beefy arms crossed indignantly over her chest, Melandra grumbles: “You think Inanna will do any better?”

“Inanna is old and childless...” Tisiphone pauses to let her words sink in. The queen's heir might just be 20 years older than the other conspirators, but compared to Tisiphone...

“Amazonia needs a queen who can reinvigorate its people...” Tisiphone puts a hand on her round belly and smirks: “...and ensure a stable line of succession.”


She's young, but she's got a lot going already!


11.01.2044
“I n-need to see the q-queen!” Unusually agitated it is not easy for Tanya to conduct herself with the dignity befitting the Chief Priestess of Rigg. Her natural stutter, usually under control, flares up in the face of such wilful obtuseness.

“The queen isn't seeing anyone,” Captain Valesca says firmly. Positioned outside the royal quarters, the head of the royal bodyguard remains unmoving – today just like all the previous days.

Tanya pauses to formulate a counter-argument, but in the end she makes the same argument as she's done every day over the last week: “It's v-very important!”

“So you keep saying, but you still won't tell my why. You Sisters and your secrets...”

“And you won't t-tell me why I c-can't speak with Her Highness!” Tanya counters. She has heard rumours, of course – some so outlandish as to suggest the Council is covering up the queen's death.

Valesca looks around and lowers her voice: “Look, the queen is... not well. Even if you could see her I don't know if... she might be able to help.”

Tanya swallows: “How b-bad is it? Is she... might she...?” The last thing she needs is a succession crisis. There are things more important than petty politics at stake here.

“I don't know. Chancellor Azu is looking after her, though...”

That's the last thing Tanya needs. Who knows what nonsense the younger Azu might fill the queen's head with.

“F-fine...” Tanya surrenders, exhaling like the breath of life is vacating her body. “But you must swear by Rigg and all the Old Ones never to tell a living soul about what I am about to tell you...”




It is not without trepidation that Tanya steps into the queen's chambers. She had convinced herself all she had to do was to get access and everything would work out. Now that Valesca finally let her pass she dreads what she might find.

The queen lies in her stately bed, put ever so slightly upright on silk pillows but nevertheless motionless – and pale as a ghost. Tanya would not have thought that such a robust woman could look so grey and hollow-cheeked and yet...

At the bedside, Chancellor Azu motions for Tanya to keep quiet. Next to her is a young halfling girl. Right away Tanya can tell she carries herself with more dignity than others of her kind, yet calmly as if still very much aware of her inferior place in Amazon society.

“What's so important, Chief Priestess?” Azu whispers, not quite able to hide her surprise that she had been let inside in the first place.

“I need to speak with the queen,” Tanya insists.

“She has been given blue stump essence,” Azu explains matter-of-factly. Tanya's heart sinks: Properly administered the brew made from that mystical mushroom puts the imbiber into a slumber deeper than sleep.

“You f-fool...” Tanya shakes her head. “This is a matter of life and death. Why w-would you...”

“So is this,” Azu says. She is trying to be calm and firm, but her voice is shaking. “We don't know the queen's affliction, but... after she was brought back from Tlanxla, she has been drifting in and out of consciousness. I worry that each time she does, she loses part of her mind... so to try and keep her stable I... we...”



As a general rule, you don't want to be "sapless and infirm" when you're leading a realm of warrior women

It seems clear that putting the queen in a coma had been an act of desperation rather than a calculated move. And yet: “We have to risk it. The queen must...” Tanya looks at the halfling. “It is a matter only the Sisterhood may know of.”

“I may be a council member, but I was brought up with the Sisterhood, as you no doubt recall. And so is Coatopoxt here.”

For a moment, Tanya just stammers incoherently, this time out of sheer perplexity. “B-but she's not even an Amazon!”

Once again Azu motions for Tanya to keep her voice down. The small gesture is enough to shame her to silence. “Nor was I, yet you took me in after I failed my induction ritual, all those years ago.”

The Chief Priestess squirms a little. Of course there had been an element of royal coercion, with Queen Lyssa wanting to award Azu's mother for her loyalty by looking after her children. But even beyond that, Tanya had felt sympathy for the obviously intelligent little girl, who would otherwise be kept out of society merely for her lack of martial expertise.

“You're a noble...” comes Tanya's weak argument.

“And Coatopoxt is the daughter of a chieftess.” Rather, the girl's mother was married to one of the last Miyan chieftains of Amocan, deposed during Queen Lyssa's invasions, but Azu doesn't see a need to sweat the details. “She is under my tutelage and protection. Anything you say to me you can say to her.”

“I serve only Rigg,” the halfling says firmly. “And Mistress Azu, of course.”

Tanya bites her lip. She is reluctant, but time is running out so she eventually caves: “F-fine. We are losing the Old One's protection, Sister. To appease them, the queen must authorize the sacrifice of the prisoners captured from Tlanxla. If we don't act f-fast... Ganaina will fall!”​


Someone actually competent... of course she was raised by one of the Azus
 
Last edited:

stnylan

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All this plotting and how petty it indeed seems
 

dark_melancholy

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All this plotting and how petty it indeed seems
Dang teenagers thinking they can do a better job running the place!

Stumbling from one crisis to another, this time with no great Amazon Queen to swoop in and save them at the last moment as so many times before...
If you ask Tisiphone, she'd be that great queen... but so far it's all talk. The job doesn't seem to be an easy one... it's almost like Amazonia is still just a loose collection of clans ready to fall apart as soon as the queen takes a nap... :confused:



The next entry will be a short summary of the most important characters, as was requested earlier. Hopefully it will help keep on top of the story if when there's another long break in the upload schedule.
 

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Character Overview 2044

[This is a quick summary of the most important characters in Amazonia in 2044. If you came here before reading chapter 45, beware the spoilers! It's written in-character so you may sense a hint of bias here and there... Hope it helps refresh the cast in everyone's minds. Let me know if this sort of thing is something you'd like to see more of, whether it's a recap or a deeper dive into aspects of Queen Lyssa's Amazonia]


Mistress Tisiphone, these are indeed uncertain times and you are most wise to seek information about where the various people stand. As you requested I have written an overview of the noble families of Amazonia. I have also taken the liberty to include certain others who may also prove to be important players in the days and months to come.

Your Faithful Spymaster,
Lucretia


Clan Pantheros
One of the most illustrious families in Amazon history, this family has fallen on hard times following the Great Raid. The Pantheros clan has brought Amazonia more queens than any other, save perhaps the Anakonda and perhaps Pythona, but these days they merely rule over Mamazo.

Belyse “the Drunkard” (1990-2040)
An inveterate drunk, it is no wonder Belyse will be known to posterity as “the Drunkard”. She had ambitions worthy of her great forebears, but her greed and excess would eventually make her little more than a laughingstock and object of pity.

Melandra (2018- )
Like her mother Belyse, the current Matriarch of Mamazo is no lover of the Anakonda dynasty. However, she has also inherited her mother's passion for excess. As such, although she is strong and generally well-liked, if her taste for carousing grows it is unlikely she will accomplish much on her own.


Clan Toucana
A Great Clan by virtue of their military strength alone, the Toucana have little in the way of pedigree. They rule over what is known as Quetzlpan, a collection of scattered islands rather than one of the domains of old. It would be unwise to underestimate them, however, for their war canoes are second to none and like the barracuda strike quickly and without warning.

Calypso (1985-2033)
Known as the Jaguar of the Sea, Matriarch Calypso brought respect to her clan through her exploits. Through her association with Queen Lyssa, she brought Quetzlpan into Amazonia. Their friendship also brought more and more of the northern islands under Calypso's control, making her the strongest of all the Matriarchs.

However, the conquest of blighted Zarmuda might have been something of a curse in disguise. Some say the endless fighting against the undead horrors there broke her spirit and that she was never the same after that. Regardless, she was coaxed back to battle by her old friend and would meet her end fighting to conquer Teuinochacal. Yet another casualty to Anakonda ambition and greed.

Calypso II (2016- )
Rightly suspicious of Queen Lyssa after her mother's death, Calypso the Younger recently seems to have been seduced by the queen's honeyed words. A great warrior and general like her mother, under Anakonda influence she has grown quite hedonistic. During the Tlanxla campaign she was gravely wounded. Unlike her mother, Calypso survived but is currently indisposed as she recovers.


Clan Anakonda
Traditionally mistresses of Nalixo, the Anakonda clan has always been close to Ganaina – both figuratively and literally. Perhaps it is this position that has given them a reputation as politicians and negotiators. While the rest of Amazonia was reeling after the Great Raid, the Anakondas moved silently to take over the traditional domain of clan Harpyia when that family went extinct with the death of Queen Thalestris. Thus in control of all the coastline around Amazon Island it was perhaps a foregone conclusion that an Anakonda became queen...

Lyssa (1980- )
Most Amazons today only know Lyssa Anakonda as Queen of Amazonia. In fact, for most of them she is the only queen they have ever known. Certainly, in her ambition she has reunited many of our disparate sister tribes. However, her gluttony and excess is obvious to anyone. Now that it seems that her sins have finally caught up with her, perhaps our people are ready for a change.

Maya (2000- )
The queen's oldest child and – if she had any shame – her greatest disappointment. A princess of royal blood failing her initiation rites should have been banished, but the Anakondas have no sense of propriety. Fat and lazy and fraternizing freely with foreigners, Maya is the very symbol of Anakonda decadence. Do not let anyone argue that her heretical trading operations in Xocibiki bring “prosperity” or “technology” to our realm.

Inanna (2002- )
One might be forgiven for thinking Inanna is not an Anakonda at all. Her skills as a warrior and battle leader are indisputable. However, she can hardly be considered very skilled in any matter outside of a battlefield. Of course, you know all of this, Mistress. By virtue of ancient treaties and her being assigned to rule the Anakonda ancestral land of Nalixo, Inanna is considered your Mistress after all.

Mighty warrior though she might be, Inanna is getting old and is still childless. It is rumoured that she has a relationship with one of her bodyguards – if this is true it is even more likely she will remain childless. Certainly it would be ironic for the Anakonda clan to meet the same end as the Harpiya and Pythona – far nobler clans that they have gorged themselves on, like carrion eaters.

Phaedra “the Bold” (2006- )
Some call her the first Amazon to brave the gates of Ulthuan. She briefly served as Chancellor, so one can assume she once possessed the diplomatic acumen of her mother as well. However, all of these exploits and talents are a moot point, since her mind has been addled by vision leaves and swamp concoctions. She technically rules Amocan, but in name only. She is also childless, potentially leaving a Grand Domain open for a suitable successor one day.

Fak (2047- )
The queen's only known son. Normally I would not waste my breath on males, but the fact that the queen seems to keep track of him at all marks him as a person of some interest. I don't know much about him, but apparently he is something of a leader in the stocks. Surely exaggerated rumours, but perhaps worthy of a closer look.


Clan Xenara
Matriarchs of Tetla since time immemorial. The clan of your mother and her mother before her needs no introduction of course. Others might consider your domain but a minor one, but thanks to our prudence, our shieldmaidens can easily match larger domains in number.

Tisiphone (1983-2035)
Your mother was a brave and respected warrior and it was an honour to have served her. She worked tirelessly to oppose tyranny and would have succeeded if it wasn't for the weakness of her allies. Let this be a lesson to you, Mistress. There is no denying your mother met an ignoble end after being blinded by ignorant elves. Now it is up to you to carry on her legacy.

Tisiphone II (2028- )


Clan Pythona

Renowned as some of the most devout and dedicated servants of Rigg, the Pythona was once a clan of Queens and High Priestesses. Never very numerous due to some peculiarly strict ideas on intercourse with males, they were particularly badly hit during the Great Raid as many of them perished in defending Queen Thalestris to the last. Let this be both an inspiration and a lesson to you, Mistress.

Concordia (1985-2019)
Although she submitted to Queen Lyssa's rule, Concordia quickly recognized her hedonism and grew to become a staunchly opposed to her misrule. Perhaps our history would have been very different if she had not died childless of swamp fever before the queen could be brought to trial. She was Matriarch of Cuauhlotl, our neighbour to the east, but following her death Queen Lyssa conspired with one of Concordia's servants to take the domain for herself.


The Azus
That servant was none other than the queen's Steward, Azu. You might not think it these days, but Azu is but a commoner. She owed everything to her Mistress Concordia, but opportunistically threw in her lot with Queen Lyssa when Concordia got sick. I doubt she is as loyal to the queen as she seems, but she certainly knows her fortunes are directly tied to Lyssa. This is certainly something to keep in mind.

Her daughter, Azu the Younger might have been made a noble by royal decree, but Amazon spirit is something that cannot be instilled by mere proclamation. Although Lyssa seems content to let her serve on her council, she is no true Amazon for she has not succeeded in her initiation rites. Instead she has studied with the Sisterhood, but do not believe for one moment that she holds Rigg in higher esteem than she does the hand that feeds her: the Queen.


Other Notables
Marshal Kriemhild has held that post for many years and is singularly obsessed with it. Although she is a great warrior in her own right, Queen Lyssa has wasted this talent by making her raise troops and crack down on insurrections caused by that same queen's excesses.

Tanya is of course the Chief Priestess of Rigg. As tradition dictates she is also spiritual adviser to the queen and it is clear that she serves the queen before the Sisterhood. For one, she is less confrontational than her predecessor, the indomitable Harmothoe. Should the time come to elect another Chief Priestess, undoubtedly the Sisterhood will be amenable to choosing a candidate more suitable to the job.

Valesca is captain of the Royal Guard and Queen Lyssa's foremost bodyguard. She is loyal and dedicated, but also has a strong sense of justice. Perhaps one day, one of the queen's crimes will be the straw that breaks the tapier's back.

Quihuatzin was a Miyan who served as a military commander to Queen Lyssa. This might seem like a fanciful myth to you Mistress, for she died a mere year after you were born, but is indeed true. The halfling was captured as a slave during the Amocan war, but in her usual disregard for the laws of our people, Lyssa made her one of her foremost commanders. Quihuatzin was even awarded an Amazon's burial when she was killed in battle. The only good thing one can say about the queen in this matter is that at least she never entertained Quihuatzin's desire to become marshal of Amazonia.

Tiziana is but a filthy pirate. I would not waste words on her if it wasn't for the fact that she works closely with Maya Anakonda in whatever nefarious schemes she might be hatching. She started out as a pirate under the Pirate Queen Elena Marlé of the Triad Islands and became a translator for Queen Lyssa after the island's conquest. She commands three pirate war canoes with several of their crude rock thrower tubes. However, like all foreigners she is self-indulgent and greedy and can no doubt be easily manipulated.
 

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Always good to take a moment to refresh everyone's memory as to who's who. It also certainly sheds a little more light onto some of the power dynamics within the Amazon court and nobility as well.

While you're at it, if it's not too much trouble, could we get a glimpse at the state of the wider world? Even if the Old World across the sea is just mentioned through rumors and hearsay, it would be interesting to hear what the scuttlebutt among the pirates and foreign traders who hang around the fringes is...
 

dark_melancholy

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While you're at it, if it's not too much trouble, could we get a glimpse at the state of the wider world? Even if the Old World across the sea is just mentioned through rumors and hearsay, it would be interesting to hear what the scuttlebutt among the pirates and foreign traders who hang around the fringes is...
Sorry for the late reply, but I suspect the forum ate my previous one. I'll definitely be doing another update on the world at large and in the meantime there might be some hints dropped here and there :)

Next chapter should be up soon-ish
 
Chapter 46

dark_melancholy

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Chapter 46: Due Consideration


13.01.2044
“I say you take what is rightly yours,” Tisiphone of Tetla says matter-of-factly. “It's not as if you can try begging the queen again, the way things stand.”

Her companion tightens her grip on her wine cup, threatening to bend the metal with her great strength: “I did... not... beg.”

Tisiphone shrugs and goes back to stroking her stomach, haughty in her apparent indifference to Melandra's rage. “Well, the fact of the matter is that you chose to accept no for an answer. But that was before the queen dragged her flabby carcass to Tlanxla and nearly died. Well, I say 'nearly'... the jury's still out on that. Either way, it means she is in no position to deny your claim to a Grand Domain.”

“That sounds a lot like treason,” Melandra points out. The fact that her tone has mellowed slightly suggests she is not overly concerned with the implications of that word.

Suddenly full of intent, Tisiphone shifts in her seat with a grunt and leans forward. Supporting herself on the table between them, she stares into Melandra's eyes. A smirk forms on her lips: “If you were concerned about propriety you'd be more careful with who you invite to your court.”

Melandra's eyes narrow and she follows Tisiphone's lead, moving forward to loom over her willowy companion: “I have no idea what you're talking about.”

“You know... I've heard some people say you are oblivious, but I think you're smart enough to notice that the woman who killed Lyssa's old friend is not only secretly living at your court – but working directly for you!”

“She... she's a brilliant steward...” Melandra grumbles by way of an explanation. Her predilection for expensive parties is well-known, so it's no wonder she values a woman's management skills over her past deeds. Uncertainty ripples across her face as she backs off: “How did you know...?”

“Oh I know a lot of things,” Tisiphone says smugly. “I trust you see how that could be useful to us both?”

“Why do you care if I hold Grand Domain or not, anyway?” Melandra empties her cup in one big gulp.

“I just want to see justice be done,” Tisiphone lies unconvincingly. “And besides, a little... realignment would be quite beneficial, I think.”

“If the Anakondas fall, Nalixo will be yours...” The way Melandra says it makes it sound like she is a genius for having unravelled this mystery.

A greedy grin spreads on Tisiphone's face: “It'd be a start...”

“Fine... but what if the queen wakes up?”


* * *​


Consciousness feels alien to her, for she does not remember falling asleep. Nor sleeping. Nor dreaming. But what of waking? What is dream and what is reality she cannot say.

In fact... who is she? She grasps at flitting memories but they slip through her fingers. Her self is a series of half-glimpsed images. Broken reams of emotion.

She does not know it, but before she was nothing. After all, she is only now coming into being. Certainly she tries. Tries but fails.

Wait... hasn't this happened before?


* * *​


16.01.2044
“We are w-working on it...” Chief Priestess Tanya almost pleads. Despite her exalted position, she faces the combined ire of the top Sisters of Ganaina. Some truly ancient priestesses are among them, but they refrain from getting involved in the spectacle.

Instead the accusations come mostly from a young Sister by the name of Andromeda. In fact she is so young one might suspect her presence is merely for the protection of the elders' dignity, absolving them of disturbing the harmony of the council with inflammatory remarks.

“The sacrifices from the Tlanxla campaign are needed now, not when it is convenient for the queen!” the firebrand huffs. Small and scrawny though she might be, Andromeda's righteous fury is anything but feeble.


Far from shrinking from the continued onslaught, Tanya's resolve hardens. She might agree on the urgency of the matter, but finds the tone unbecoming of a Sister given the queen's critical state.

Rather than let herself be riled up, the Chief Priestess responds calmly: “The queen has authority over prisoners caught on the queen's expedition.”

Displaying less appreciation for the law than her opponent, Andromeda dismisses the argument with an exasperated wave. The sentiment is definitely not universal, however, and Tanya immediately feels the room grow a bit less hostile.

“Be that as it may,” one of the Sisters interjects. “The fact remains that we have found traces of Chaos corruption. In Ganaina.” Her voice is firm and matter-of-fact, but even if everyone in the room have already been informed of this the mere mention of those words evokes worried murmurs.

“Very, very faint traces...” one of the more hopeful priestesses reminds everyone. In fact, anywhere else in this dark world it would hardly be noteworthy, but to a people who have lost so much to the Ruinous Powers even the smallest hint is cause for concern.

Andromeda has no time for minimizing the matter. She stands up and points to the fiery visage of Rigg painted upon the council room ceiling: “Ever since the Great Cataclysm, our covenant with our great goddess has been that she protects us from the Winds of Chaos in return for our faith. Given recent events, we fear the queen has lost the blessing of the Old Ones.”

Tanya finds it hard to argue with that assertion. As Chief Priestess she knows their defences are indeed failing.

“The Chief Priestess is right.” An unexpected source of support, Ekwealor, court priestess to Melandra of Mamazo, cuts an imposing figure as she raises her hand for attention. Stout and heavy with child, the warrior-priestess affects an affable façade – quite the opposite to the inflammatory Andromeda in every way.

“As keepers of Rigg's law it is important that we don't exceed our jurisdiction. Rather than make demands, perhaps we should ascertain who has the authority over these captives in the queen's... absence.”


Seeing Andromeda's fury turn away from herself, Tanya happily hangs back to watch these two tear into each other.

“Jurisdiction? Rigg's will has no 'jurisdiction'!” Andromeda scoffs, not at all intimidated by something as inconsequential as “logic”.

“No mortal can fully comprehend Rigg's will. We merely interpret and convey and act within earthly constraints. But we can advise... advise the Matriarchs to consider this matter.”

“You would let the nobility bicker over such an important matter??” Andromeda gasps, blissfully free of any sense of self-awareness.

Seeing an unproductive argument brewing, some of the other sisters look to Tanya to weigh in. She still refuses to get involved and just lets Andromeda and Ekwealor have at it. Back and forth, scholarly reasoning is met with vitriol bordering on invective.

Fed up with the uncomfortable aggression coming from their mouthpiece, some of the elders make their disapproval known, nodding in agreement with Ekwealor's assertions. However, the barrage of wilful ignorance from Andromeda is likewise getting the better of her opponent's temper.

Her patience sorely tested, Ekwealor barks: “If you would only face reality, you would see that such childish tantrums would only hurt the Sisterhood's influence. By assigning the matter to a grand council we are taking charge of the situation!”

Reluctantly, Tanya raises her hand to get everyone's attention. Before Ekwealor can lose her temper and likewise risk losing the argument to the Chief Priestess's most ardent critic.

“The arguments laid forth by our Sister from Mamazo are sensible indeed,” Tanya says calmly, providing the deciding voice. “Now... why don't we t-take the t-time to carefully craft our missive to the Matriarchs...”


* * *



18.01.2044
Walking alone, Spymaster Olariche makes her way from the fort she ostensibly oversees to the old governor's mansion of Xocibiki island. It is not a long trek by any means, but not one she enjoys making. However, with so many males taken off the island in the wake of their failed rebellion there are not enough hands to tend the gardens. As distasteful as it is, Princess Maya's little trade enterprise is now integral to bringing in necessary supplies. As such, paying her the odd visit is likewise a necessity.

Of course, Olariche would rather not be on Xocibiki at all, but in light of the recent rebellion she must be seen to keep a closer look on things. Being away from Ganaina makes it harder to do her job, which is more important now than ever. Which brings her to the second reason she must deign to visit Princess Dumpling.

Outside the mansion, Olariche is met by an unusually heavy guard of at least a dozen pirates. Sure, they might dress like Amazons and make half-hearted attempts to understand Amazon customs, but their unhealthy pallor and coarse features clearly mark them as foreigners and Olariche refuses to see them as anything but.

After the usual security theatre, no doubt solely to annoy her, Olariche is allowed to enter. Led into the mansion's ballroom, she finds the mistress of the house along with that insufferable pirate convert Tiziana.

Each woman is draped across a divan, their vision of each other obscured by the extravagant feast arranged on the table between them. So much for food shortages.






“...not to mention... a little bird be tellin' me, 'Queen' Elena's dead.” Tiziana says, waving a piece of Westerlander cheese for emphasis. “No scallywag be dumb enough to question who's boss on these islands now.”

“That's some comfort at least...” Maya sighs, then sets her languid gaze on the newcomer: “Ah, long time no see, mistress Olariche! Come to taste the flavours of the East?”

Olariche is not about to admit that the decadent foreign cuisine the two women are digging into looks delicious. Instead she keeps her distance. And a jab at Maya's expense never fails to cheer her up: “This is hardly the time for debauchery. Shouldn't you be with your mother, given her condition?”

“On the contrary, that's why exactly why I should not. I know how much you all would love to get rid of me, if not for the threat of the queen's wrath.”

“Of course not!” Olariche assures the princess. Not that she is exactly wrong, but at the moment there are more important things at stake. “But you are right, there are those who are taking advantage of the queen's illness as we speak, plotting and scheming.”

Rolling forward, Maya leans forward to refill Tiziana's cup. “I know. Why do you think I'm out here trying to hire some extra muscle? Should anything happen to the queen I want to be ready.” Resuming her languid repose, the princess smiles innocently at Olariche: “I assume you already knew, being the mistress of spies and all.”

“Of course...” Olariche grumbles, doing her best to hide her surprise. She had been aware that Maya was making numerous inquires in the foreigner enclave, but until now she had assumed the princess was merely sourcing more exotic food with which to stuff her face. “Be that as it may... if you are worried about your future, you should know that Tisiphone the Younger is calling a grand council of the nobility. With the support of the Sisterhood.”

Idly sampling the dishes before her, Maya does not seem overly concerned: “And why should I care about that? As you keep reminding me, I'm no Amazon.”

“Yes, but your sister is. And we have reason to suspect that Tisiphone will use the meeting to usurp the queen's authority. She is no friend of your family after all.”

Maya scoops up some of the meat stew with a piece of bread and chews deliberately before replying: “And more importantly, no friend of the women holding your leash.”

Olariche manages to let that slide without comment.

“So you're worried that, as the queen's heir apparent, my dear sister is going to mess up and let Tisiphone walk all over her.” Maya takes a long sip from her cup, giving the spymaster ample time to consider her words.

“I must admit, you are somewhat more adept than Inanna in... these matters.” Olariche tries to flatter the princess, but it comes off rather hesitant. “And Tisiphone is pregnant. It goes without saying that should your sister try resorting to challenging her to a duel it would be disastrous for her reputation.”

“In other words, you need me to babysit my baby sister and make sure those vipers don't get the better of her.”

Olariche nods: “You're the one person she'll trust.”

“Sounds like you're in a real bind here...” Maya pops a grape into her mouth and savours both its flavours and the flavour of the moment. Deciding she has allowed Olariche to squirm long enough she gestures for the spymaster to join them at the dinner table. “Please, sit. Let us discuss my terms...”


* * *​


18.01.2044
Glancing nervously over her shoulder, Tanya barely manages to keep herself from shouting when a hooded figure comes up to her.

“Oh thank R-rigg... it's you.” The Chief Priestess puts a hand on the newcomer's shoulder and breathes a sigh of relief. “I stalled for as long as I could to keep the Sisters away from the shrine. How did it go?”

From under her hood, Azu the Younger offers the poor priestess a reassuring smile. She gestures and a small figure comes out of the gloom to join them. In her hands, Coatopoxt the halfling carries a brightly coloured case, the Old One rune of healing engraved upon its lid. Faint traces of other runes and pictographs are too faded and ancient to make out.

“We got everything we need.”

 

stnylan

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This could end up being rather dramatic :)
 

dark_melancholy

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So it appears as though Queen Lyssa might get a new lease on life after all.
There is hope as long as there are people who rely on her for their power and prestige!

And I hope people don't mind me leaning into the "lost technology" vibe the Amazons had in the old days :p

This could end up being rather dramatic :)
Things are shaping up to get rowdy. In a similar vein to the above caveat, I hope people don't mind more political intrigue! It's amusing that, for all that her opponents claim Lyssa is lazy and scheming, things sure devolve into petty infighting whenever she's not there to keep the kids in line...
 
Chapter 47

dark_melancholy

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Chapter 47: Internal Conflict

27.01.2044
Princess Inanna takes a deep breath in an attempt to calm herself. She has already snapped at Ixchel twice while getting ready, the last thing she needs is to lash out at her lover a third time.

The circlet signifying her nobility slips on to Inanna's head. At once it feels like a snake wrapping around her skull, crushing it mercilessly. She reaches up to free herself, but Ixchel takes Inanna's hand in hers and firmly pushes it back down.

“Stop fidgeting,” the bodyguard says bluntly. “It doesn't suit you.”

“That's easy for you to say.” Inanna sounds more petulant than she intended. Being almost two decades older than her companion, that sort of tone is definitely not something that suits her.

The two of them are alone in Inanna's palatial quarters – for now. Standing behind the princess, Ixchel puts the finishing touches on her outfit and leans forward to kiss her hair: “Just imagine that you're marching into battle.”

“Ugh... I wish...” Inanna groans. In exasperation she tugs at the silk robe she is wearing. It had been a gift from her mother – an unwieldy and overly ostentatious thing, but her sister had insisted she wear it. “That said... this might well turn into a battle.”

Ixchel squeezes her lover's shoulders reassuringly: “Then I will be right beside you, as always.”

Brow furrowed intensely, Inanna mouths her thoughts as if testing them out before committing them to sound. She bites her lip and reaches behind to put her hand on Ixchel's. “No... that's why you're not coming with me...”

“Excuse me, what?” Ixchel demands. If she is touched by Inanna's gesture, her fury over being ostensibly left behind is greater.

“You gotta go back to Nalixo. If things come to blows... we're going to need warriors and you're the only one I can trust.”


In fact the situation is so serious there weren't even snide footnotes on the illustrations in the last chapter.

If Ixchel wants to protest the decision, she is not given a chance to do so. A knock on the door heralds a visitor, one that does not feel the need to wait to be admitted.

“Hurry up! You do not want to be late for this.” Even the usually jovial Maya is somewhat on edge today.

“Yeah, we're done here,” Inanna nods. If she can avoid any more cloying finery, all the better.

“Good.” Maya clasps her hands under her ample bosom with a resolve that brooks no protest. “Now, remember: The threat of a duel is your greatest asset and everyone knows that. Whatever scheme it is Tisiphone has in mind, she's banking on you being unable to challenge her. That's why you need to settle this thing right away.”

As her sister goes on, Inanna immediately regrets getting up and heading through the door.

“I've made the case to the Sisterhood that you should be the first to speak, on account of your power and prestige. All you need to do is make it count.”

Walking down the palace corridor, Inanna's gaze is distant.

Maya sighs and grabs her sister's hand: “Listen, if you are going to forestall any attempt by Tisiphone and her cronies to usurp authority, you need to demand that the council confirm you as successor to the throne.”

Suddenly Inanna snaps out of her reverie. Squeezing Maya's hand, she brings her to a halt. With an anxious glance behind her, she says softly: “Can we... stop by and see her?”

Maya has to steel herself to refuse the heartfelt request. Reaching up to pinch her tall sister's chin, she forces Inanna to look at her: “There is no time. Now, you have to focus!”

“I know!” Inanna growls. She makes to use her powerful physique to intimidate her flabby sister, but somehow can't bring herself to do so. Instead she dejectedly allows herself to be pulled along.

As I was saying...if you make the first move, there is no way Tisiphone can challenge the decision with a duel. The nobles would turn on her for that kind of contempt, forcing an Amazon to fight a pregnant woman.”

Inanna clutches the side of her head and groans at all the instructions. Give her a battle plan and she can follow it to the letter, but this kind of petty manoeuvring... “Ugh... why don't you come with me? You can tell me all this stuff while the council is in session.”

Maya gives her sister a pointed look: “Are you joking? The gathering is for nobles only.” She throws out her arms in exasperation: “I'm not even a real Amazon – as you so often remind me!”

“It's so unfair...” Inanna shakes her head. “You've always been better at this kind of stuff.” It's not entirely clear if she thinks it is an injustice to her sister or to herself. Perhaps even she doesn't know.

“All the more reason to make this about settling the succession. Tisiphone can probably get some nobles and chiefs on board with seemingly innocent amendments, but few of them are going to question your authority as heir to the throne.”

If Maya intended her words to be inspiring, she badly miscalculated. Spotting an alcove, Inanna storms off to curl up and hide her head in her hands.

“You were always her favourite...” Inanna mutters as Maya comes panting after her. “Nothing I do is ever good enough.”

Awkwardly patting her sister's shoulder, Maya makes a tentative protest: “Nonsense. For one, you're a brave warrior whereas I'm... well...” Rather than finish the sentence she simply rubs her doughy midsection with her free hand.

“But doing queen stuff is all about... being smart and...” Inanna peers up from between her fingers. All of a sudden she blushes furiously, but is unable to stop herself from continuing: “...and... making babies!”

Coming from Inanna, this catches even Maya off-guard. Rather than address her sister's sudden candidness, she huffs: “I don't even have any children!”

Inanna drops her hands, furious now: “Well, at least... at least you love fornicating with males!”

“I love a lot of things!” comes Maya's rather flimsy protest to that particular accusation. If Inanna's weirdness had her off-balance before, she is now reeling. “But like it or not... yes, it's up to you to continue the royal line now!”

All colour drains from Inanna's face and she springs to her feet. White-hot anger burns in her eyes as she jabs her sister in the chest: “How dare you! Don't speak as if she's already dead!”

With that, the princess stomps off. Perhaps not the reaction Maya was looking for, but at least she is on her way to the meeting hall now...


The lumpy snake princess has a point. It's not looking good for a dynastic succession right now.


* * *​

A soft glow spreads in the gloom of the queen's bedroom as Chancellor Azu activates the Old One artefact. The ancient gears groan and whine as arcane locks unspool. A minuscule crack opens between the cylinders making up the frame of the thing, only for the mechanism to grind to a halt.

Azu wastes no time in grabbing a knife from amongst their crude medical tools and wedges it into the opening. Slowly but firmly she tries to pry open the ailing device.

“Shouldn't we be more careful...” Coatopoxt the halfling ventures anxiously.

Gritting her teeth, Azu instead applies a dab more force: “It's not like we can just return it. If the Sisterhood find out we stole from the vaults it doesn't matter what condition it is, we'll be dead either way.”

Her Miyan protégée swallows heavily, realizing that as a mere halfling she'd be deadest of all.

The two breathe a sigh of relief as the mechanism finally comes unstuck with a weak hiss. It is a short-lived reprieve soon interrupted by a knock on the door.

“D-did you get it to work yet?” Chief Priestess Tanya can barely get the words out for all the panting and stammering.

Azu nods: “We need to figure out how to use it, but we should be able to begin stabilizing the queen's condition soon.”

“What does that m-mean?” Tanya demands, sheer stress rousing uncharacteristic anger in the poor woman.

“Hopefully we can ensure she doesn't get worse.”

“Not g-good enough!” The priestess marches over to get a closer look at the Old One machine. Opened up, it reveals a dizzying array of tubes and sharp implements.

Retaining her calm composure, Azu the Younger puts a hand on Tanya's shoulder. She manages to keep her voice even as she explains: “Waking her up now could end very badly. We both know several weeks without proper nourishment would weaken anyone considerably.”


Azu is a slow-and-steady, risk-averse kind of gal. Or as the Amazons call it: "A disgrace"

The priestess refuses to be calm, however. “You d-don't understand! When I let the traditionalists call the grand council, it was so you could revive the queen!”

Eventually, yes!” Azu is not one to be rushed.

Nearly giving in to despair, Tanya buries her face in her hands – but only to compose herself. Meeting Azu's eyes, she says firmly: “The Old One's blessing is not something we can rely on the grand council to handle. They are preoccupied by petty concerns.”

“But we can't risk the queen's life!”

“Only Rigg's regent can p-protect us from the f-forces of Chaos! If you don't do this, we are risking everyone's lives.” Seeing Azu still hesitate, Tanya grabs the hem of her robe and lowers her voice into cold fury. Sweat pours from her brow now, her lip quivering. “And lest you f-forget: I'm the Chief Priestess of Rigg and head of the Sisterhood and I know what you did.”

Eyes wide, Azu swallows nervously, unable to muster a comeback.

Satisfied, the usually meek priestess exhales forcefully and lets go of the terrified chancellor. Nearly doubling over, she staggers over to steady herself against the wall. “G-good... good...” she mutters, almost delirious. “I'll speak with the queen tomorrow, then."


Being aggressive doesn't come easy to poor Tanya and it shows.


* * *



The atmosphere in the throne room is very different from the hedonistic parties that usually take place here. Seated in a roughly circular pattern, the participants are much the same – matriarchs, chiefs and other prominent nobles – but the occasion is a lot more sombre. Nothing makes this more clear than the empty throne at the head of the congregation.

Also notably absent is the highly respected Matriarch of Quetzlpan. Still recovering from her wounds, Calypso the Younger could not make it to the meeting. One less supporter – or perhaps one less challenger to the throne.

Watching the proceedings from afar Maya cannot decide which. Although not allowed to enter the room, she peers in from one of the side entrances. Having practically grown up in the kitchen, few know the palace servants better than her. Back then that rapport earned her an extra pastry here and there. Today, access to a closed meeting.

“Come on...” the princess mutters intently under her breath as the Sisterhood representative yields the floor to her sister.

All eyes turn to Inanna who refuses to meet them with her own gaze. As if arguing with herself, she mouths wordlessly. Even from this far away, Maya is sure that she can see tears in her sister's eyes.

She can't do it... Maya realizes to her horror.

Remaining in her seat, Inanna gestures weakly for the meeting to proceed. At the opposite end of the chamber, matriarchs Tisiphone and Melandra exchange smug looks.

Closing her eyes, Maya thinks back to their earlier exchange, in particular Inanna's last words before they parted. To her sister, claiming her birthright would mean admitting that their mother would die. Inanna would gladly fight any foe from Lustria and beyond, but that reality she simply could not face.

And so, for the first time in her life, Inanna had yielded to her enemy without a fight.
 

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The stakes could not be higher
 

Specialist290

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Matters are slowly building to a climax. I'm almost expecting the Queen to burst in on the assembly in full swing, making one of her grand and flashy entrances, taking everyone by surprise once more... but given the desperate measures being employed to save her life, I'm not so sure I'd call it a certainty.
 

dark_melancholy

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The stakes could not be higher
Unfortunately, Inanna is terrible at gambling!

Matters are slowly building to a climax. I'm almost expecting the Queen to burst in on the assembly in full swing, making one of her grand and flashy entrances, taking everyone by surprise once more... but given the desperate measures being employed to save her life, I'm not so sure I'd call it a certainty.
That would be very like her, but even the great Lyssa might have trouble kicking down the door while in a coma. Maybe if they wheel in her bed while she's still unconscious, but something tells me it wouldn't have quite the same effect. Mommy ain't here to save you now, Inanna! :(
 
Chapter 48

dark_melancholy

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Chapter 48: Defiance


27.01.2044
“The matter brought up by the Sisterhood is clearly a sign of...” Tisiphone's voice trails off in the tense throne room. She shifts awkwardly in her seat, struggling against her very pregnant belly.

Clearing her throat, the matriarch wipes beads of sweat from her brow and inhales deeply before continuing: “A sign of deeper problems.”

Exchanging looks with the pale matriarch, Ekwealor picks up the argument. Looking infinitely more comfortable in her pregnancy, the court priestess of Mamazo lies confidently: “The priority of everyone in the Sisterhood is of course the blessing of the gods. But it is only fair if everyone can voice their concerns.”

“There are several royal decisions that need to be made,” Chieftess Pragya of Tabazco agrees, but warily. Unlike Ekwealor she isn't prepared to outright lie about her motivations, choosing instead carefully vague statements.

“When Queen Thalestris fell in the Great Raid, it was left to the nobility to make decisions until a new queen was chosen,” Ekwealor adds helpfully.

That little history lesson is met with murmurs of approval from those present. Matriarchs, chiefs and lesser nobility of all stripes; Maya watches them all from her hiding place in one of the side entrances.

They like the idea of having that kind of power vested in them, Maya observes from her hiding place. She doubts many of them has given it much thought before, but Maya imagines it must be especially tantalizing after living under the authority of a domineering queen like her mother. And a council dominated by commoners like Marshal Kriemhild and Steward Azu...

In fact, the only one who isn't showing at least tacit enthusiasm is her sister. Slumped in her seat, Inanna wrings her hands under the table, occasionally mouthing silent words to herself. Despite their differences, Maya cannot help but sympathize.

As satisfying as it might be to see her sister squirm at the thought of being the failure for a change, Maya cannot relish the feeling. The discussion continues among the cautiously opportunistic nobles, their suggestions growing ever bolder. Of course, some of them are not even cautious.

“There are also many domains that remain unassigned,” Melandra of Mamazo declares loudly. She doesn't have her court priestess's scholarly way with words, but there's no need for that when throwing out a juicy bait will suffice. “In fact, it seems only the queen's daughters hold grand domains, while Kavanna, Teuinochacal and... others... are left with no one in charge.”


"Others" like that one title me and my mother have been bugging you about since forever


Anumeha and Pragya, each chief of one of the Kavanna islands, immediately look at each other. Neither is bold enough to come forward and claim overall command of the archipelago for themselves, but that doesn't mean they aren't worried the other will do so.

“If a Matriarch is unable to fulfil her duties, someone else must take command of her Domain,” Tisiphone opines, her words clipped. She has to take a moment to compose herself before continuing. “By virtue of not assigning these domains, this responsibility falls on Her Highness.”

At the face of it, she is arguing for the distribution of the aforementioned domains. But if the queen has forfeited these titles, is not the same true for Amazonia itself?

“I second Matriarch Xenara's motion,” Melandra says formally.

No doubt that dull woman had to practice that phrase many times, Maya thinks to herself. However, her disdain is increasingly giving way to fear. The nobles are getting bolder than she imagined.

Maya looks over at her sister again. As much as she is loathe to admit it, Inanna could be her only hope. Inanna might be in a position to throw away her birthright on a childish whim, but Maya does not have that luxury. As soon as the nobles stop respecting her mother's authority, all that Maya has – her wealth, comfort and perhaps even her life – would be forfeit.

Unfortunately, Inanna does not inspire confidence, sitting as she is with her head in her hands. Around her the conversation continues.

“We should appoint custodians for these domains,” one noble ventures. Maya isn't sure if the woman is deliberately stating the obvious or just stupid. Amongst these muscle-brains, she leans towards the second option.

“Of course, there are other matters where ordinarily the queen would make a ruling...” another points out, pausing for effect. One of Tisiphone's allies, perhaps? Or simply eyeing an opportunity for herself.

“Why don't we decide on the domains first?” Melandra says impatiently. Tisiphone gives her a look that suggests she'd rather her co-conspirator be a bit more subtle.

However, her displeasure pales compared to the expression Inanna reveals as she raises her head. For a moment she surveys the chattering assembly then slams her fists on the table with such force that the hall immediately falls silent.

All eyes on her, the princess leaps to her feet and roars: “You're nothing but disgusting vultures! Sitting here, dividing up the realm as if my mom is already dead. The Sisterhood calls you here 'cause we have to figure out how to honour Rigg, but you're all too busy deciding which... which royal privilege you're gonna steal first!”

The congregation is utterly flabbergasted by the sudden outburst, giving Inanna free reign to continue her tirade. Her eyes burn through tears as she speaks.

“You talk about 'the Great Raid' and the stuff that happened with Queen Thalestris... when none of you have ever known any queen except my mother!”

Many of the nobles look uncomfortable being faced with this truth. None of them are old enough to have any recollection of that calamity. Even the oldest among them, Chimalma - the unassuming Matriarch of Tlachcoatl - was merely two years old when the Great Raid occurred.



It's as if nobility in a crazy warrior culture skews young


“If you're gonna sit here and decide on royal stuff, you gotta acknowledge that my mom is no longer queen and go ahead and pick a new one already!” Inanna angrily challenges the assembly.

No one seems keen on rising to the occasion. Inanna is right: Lyssa is the only queen they have ever known and declaring an end to her reign would be the end an era. Suddenly they are faced with a decision much more monumental than throwing around a few titles and prerogatives. The threat of a furious Inanna outright murdering anyone willing to suggest that her mother is dying is probably also a bit of a deterrent.

However, if anyone thinks they can simply keep their mouths shut and let Inanna rant until she has said her piece they are sorely mistaken. Seeing the council's inaction, the princess's eyes narrow, loathing writ large on her face.

“Then I say this stupid grand council can just abolish itself. You're not worthy of your power!”

At this, Tisiphone finally protests: “We can't do that!”

“Anyone here can bring forward a motion,” Inanna counters in a moment of eerie calm before she explodes again: “And that's my. damn. motion! If you wanna challenge it, we can settle that once you've recovered from your...” Inanna looks down at Tisiphone's pregnant abdomen in disgust. “...condition.”


Well that's one way to centralize power

It is a sneer that opens the floodgates and suddenly the whole throne room is in an uproar. Heated arguments are made for and against the princess's behaviour. Violence is threatened, with or without cause. Petty grievances suddenly flare up. And in the middle of it all, Melandra stands up and glares at Tisiphone: “What the crap was that?? You promised me Camaca!”

“Ladies, p-please!” Stepping into the middle of the room, Chief Priestess Tanya desperately tries to get everyone's attention.

“Let the Sister speak!” someone shouts. Gradually the crowd calms down, out of respect for Rigg's foremost servant. Or failing that, respect for the spears of the priestess's shrine guard.

“By the p-power vested in me by our g-great goddess I request that we p-postpone this meeting. Let us reconvene tomorrow so everyone can settle down.”

Mutters of begrudging assent spread through the crowd. Amazons let go of their neighbour's neck and put away ceremonial weapons – ostensibly acquiescing to the priestess's authority, but for the conspirators it is a chance to regroup and get on top of the situation again.

All of a sudden things aren't so urgent after all? Maya observes. After having pushed for this meeting the priestess now suddenly calls it off. Perhaps Tanya has a plan? Maya finds herself praying to her goddess that she does.
 
Last edited:

stnylan

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Sometimes you just need to say it how it is.
 

dark_melancholy

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About as subtle as a club to the face, but perhaps all the more effective for it. Maybe Inanna has something of her mother's charisma in her after all.
The threat of said club to the face is a nice charisma booster.
Sometimes you just need to say it how it is.
Honesty is the best policy and all that. Just like the audience (maybe?) Inanna thinks all this talking back and forth has gone on for too long.


Speaking of getting things going, I've finally reached the point where I actually have to play the actual game after (*checks watch*) too many years! I had a poke around, but it seems nothing much has been done on the Amazons in this mod in the meantime, so I'm thinking of maybe adding some stuff to make the game a bit more interesting. For one I'm tempted to use a tweaked "rite of passage" event made by @masterui that makes the Amazons less likely to all become dumb bimbos. I'll have to think about it some more, because I don't want to upset the game balance and I'm an idiot when it comes to understanding CK2 scripting (maybe I've gone through that Rite of Passage...?)

Anyways I won't bore you guys with any more behind the scenes stuff except say that I'm working on the next update and it (probably) won't have any political meetings.