Everywhere Red, Part 1

  • Baron

    Emis Semtur had to duck–quickly–in order to avoid the bottle of vodka that had been hurled at him. The glass shattered against the cobbles at the entryway of the Coghanese Forum Hall. The screams and angry shouting of the hundreds-strong crowd he had managed to weave through merged into a singular protean cacophony. People were mad, and they were mad enough to threaten anybody who went by–be they innocent or no.
    Executive Decree 121-1 had had greater consequences than even the Arbiters–people experienced with public opinion and justice–could have imagined. If not for the numerous new Enforcer positions stationed in Ighodia made available by the very same decree, the city may very well have been burning, if not the Forum Hall itself.
    Locking the Ambassador inside are two Enforcers who appear tired and bewildered in equal measure. They bear no mark of station, but appear to be part of the Third Cavalier’s regiment based on their pauldrons of steel instead of bronze. They exchange a look of worried relief with the Ambassador before resuming their posts. Even still, large objects of various character slam against the wall and doors nearby, hurled by the angry crowd outside.
    Emis Semtur walks past the doors leading into the forum hall: blocked as they are by armed Enforcers, no entry would be possible even if he were headed to the interior. Instead he makes his way further into the building, past the frozen, snow-draped courtyard, and into the entryway of the office of Ambassador Premiere Ielis Raghn.
    Semtur considers knocking, but decides against it. He had been working closely with Ielis for some time now, and whilst her age allows her nihilistic humor to retain some momentum, he has nevertheless learned some key things to overlook. Sometimes, Ielis would say, it just isn’t worth knocking. Semtur smiles.
    The ancient woman sits at her desk, frantically browsing an assortment of parchments and papers on her various furniture. Her gray hair tosses back and forth as she plucks and examines various articles on her desk, the other chairs, and almost any other flat surfaces she could find–a stack of books included.
    “Semtur,” Ielis greets quickly, absently. Her nod is almost indistinguishable from the rapid movements of her head as it attends to her frenzy.
    “It’s chaos outside. How did you get in?”
    “Didn’t leave last night,” Ielis says, allowing Semtur’s attention to locate a misshapen lump of blankets and garments that once served as a makeshift sleeping space. A half-empty cup and an empty but used plate lie nearby, but the assortment is left out of the way so as to serve as little inconvenience as possible.
    “You shouldn’t make a habit of this as much as you do,” Semtur chides as he paces to collect and organize the garments and blankets. “Not good for your posture…”
    “You think I’m young enough to worry about my posture anymore? Hah!” Ielis cackles. “Bring over the tea table. Make yourself some if you wish, I just need more surface space.” Ielis punctuates her demand by throwing a small sheaf of papers to the floor beside her; they fall amongst a pile of dissimilar paper with related content.
    Semtur busies himself with gently setting the tea set on the floor, eschewing any beverage for himself, and dragging the somewhat dainty table to Ielis’s side. As he situates the table–and as Ielis almost immediately capitalizes on the new space–Semtur begins to spy the pages that capture his mentor’s attention so wholly.
    “What are these?” Semtur asks, perusing the microscopic texts before Ielis. “Helian compacts? Old charters for the...are these from the Prelate Magna?”
    “Mhmmm…” Ielis trails.
    “I’ve never seen you work this way, so disorganized,” Semtur worries. “What’s with the disarray?”
    “Chaos within, chaos without,” Ielis says with mock sagacity. She sits back in her chair, turning to face Semtur for the first time. Her ancient ash-gray eyes lock with his youthful face, and Semtur prepares yet again to learn.
    “It isn’t our responsibility to deal with the ramifications of the people at the doorstep. They endanger us, sure, but our attention as Ambassadors turns outwards. As...complicated as it may be, the domestic turmoil is up to Bansse to resolve. Cavaliers keep the peace during peacetime and wage war during wartime. Ambassadors make the peace during wartime, and sometimes must make war during peacetime. Can’t afford to miss the Redjacks on account of the Decree, so to speak. As such, I’m examining compacts from Helios and Isara in regards to their piracy issues—see how they resolved them, if they did.”
    “Still worried about the Redjacks, then?
    “Have to be. Can’t worry about the turmoil of the interior if the exterior is still under threat.”
    “Isara, huh?” Semtur emits a low, appreciative whistle. “How did we get documents all the way from over there?”
    “The last few trade ships willing to come out this way carried some print. I had to ask specially for it, though. It may be a long, long time until anything from past the Eithar comes in, though, what with how dangerous our ports are these days.”
    “Not to mention the sorry state of the navy. Be it trade or otherwise.”
    “Mhm,” Ielis agrees.
    “Need any help?”
    “If you insist… I’ll need someone to run to and from the archives—”
    “—Back past the crowd? Over and over again?”
    “Through the window,” Ielis smirks, jerking a finger behind her to the tall window there. The exterior there opened to the forest on a hilltop. It would be a trek through the cold, deep snow, but would undoubtedly be safer. Even still, Ielis wouldn't complain if he avoided the cold a few minutes more, right?
    “Where are the others?” Semtur asks, basking in the warmth of a small stove in the corner before his departure.
    “Silma is in the hall right now. The others are at home. Safe, I hope,” Ielis adds.
    “And here we are, trying to stop a war within and without.”
    “Not trying,” Ielis corrects, quickly. “And not within. Not our job.”
    “You always say that,” Semtur jolts. “Sure, it’s not legally our problem, but the issues today and in the recent past still affect us as Ambassadors. They still reflect our public image abroad.”
    “I’m merely saying what I must attend to, primarily.”
    “I know,” Semtur quiets. “Can’t focus on everything in equal measure. Go crazy that way.”
    A few minutes pass in silence, where Semtur seriously considers some tea, and Ielis rifles through her makeshift codex. Even this far away, the roaring crowd can be heard, and eventually, both realize they have been paying the distant roar more attention than they have their own tasks. Semtur clears his throat.
    “What do you need from the archives?”
    “Anything Helian or Isaran. Literally, anything. See if Añora has anything on the Redjacks, too.”
    “I’ll be back within the hour.”
    Semtur approaches the window and fidgets with the lock, disengaging it and climbing through. He crash-lands into the snow banks outside, before wrestling himself to his feet, dusting himself off, and walking northwards to avoid the crowd.
    Against his better judgement, though, Semtur wheels about and makes for the crowd. One more peek can’t hurt...and besides, Enforcers are everywhere around the crowd, making sure it stays mostly tame.
    Semtur sighs in relief as his numb boot-clad feet hit the paved cobble once again. The crowd surges and screams before him, a breathing animal of fury and despair, thankfully ignorant of the Ambassador behind them. He, the Enforcers, and many others catch words of “home” and “loss,” “family,” and “dead.”
    Semtur would be the only Ambassador that day to hear the one word that would pave Coghan’s roads red with blood.