Prince Romeo walked quickly through the halls towards the war room; a room rarely, if ever, used in the Palace. An annoyed frown played on the Princes’ face, seeing as how he had impressed even himself with a hunting kill just now. He had successfully managed to hit a fox with a bow and arrow over a hundred metres away. But before he could regale in his achievement, he had been summoned by one of the Royal Guard. Duke Riku had better have had a good reason for this.
Pushing his way through the double doors, Romeo entered to see the large strategy table covered in national maps and charts, many of which focused on Incasta and the surrounding area. A chandelier – less brilliant than the one in the dining hall – lit the room to an adequate degree.
All of the Royal Family currently present in the Palace was gathered there; Queens Katherine and Terrya seated in their thrones near the back wall, overlooking most of the room behind a grand desk. Duke Riku stood on the far side of the strategy desk from Romeo, a pointer in his hands. Shards was sitting in her beloved armchair while Nikz, Midnight, Angel and Strawberries stood near her.
Then Abigail came forward and embraced him in a caring hug, which Romeo replied to in kind.
“Could you two wait until the wedding,” Nikz teased, which prompted Romeo to glare at her. Nikz just laughed it off as Angel joined in.
“This summoning of yours had better have a good reason Riku,” Romeo stated, switching his gaze to the Duke. “You interrupted my hunt.”
“I’m sorry to do so,” Riku apologised, leaning on the strategy table. “But there’s a much bigger problem ahead of us.”
“Well,” Strawberries nearly shouted in reply. “Don’t keep us waiting. What is it?”
“War.” That one word from Riku’s lips silenced the entire room. Even Katherine and Terrya were shocked at this news.
“What did you say,” Angel’s voice barely a hoarse whisper.
“To be more specific,” Riku continued, like as if he had not just spoken openly of war. “The two large superpower nations that border Incasta to the north and east are at war with each other.”
“And how does this affect us,” Romeo questioned.
“These two powers – the Allied States of Allisia and the Holy Imperial Empire – have a deep hatred for one another, and it is safe to assume that they will go to any length to get an advantage in the war. One such advantage would be to capture or assimilate Incasta to gain an important foothold.”
The room went quiet again until Nikz stepped forward, a determined look on her face. “What are our options as a country, Riku?”
“We can either hold true to our Policy of Neutrality, which prevents us from taking either side, or we could assist one of the nations. The negatives to resisting an alliance could result in agitating the superpower we refute, and we could become another front in their war. However, if we take sides with one of the nations, there is a great risk we could be absorbed into that nation without a choice. We would lose our national identity and our purpose as soverigns”
Riku then turned to face Katherine and Terrya, still sitting on their thrones. “If I may voice my opinion,” He went on. “I would suggest we should remain in our current state of neutrality. It offers the best solution.”
“And you would willingly put our people in danger?” All eyes turned to Romeo, who was staring with zealous purpose at Riku.
“Romeo,” Abigail cautioned him, but he was already in one of his mood swings.
“I never said I would abandon them,” Riku replied calmly. “My first priority would be to evacuate them from the border in case of the possibility of an invasion.”
“Then why not go on the offensive? Post our army at the border and defy all others that try to enter.”
“Because it would be a fight we would not win!” Riku’s voice was now matching Romeo’s in intensity, filling the room with a palpable anger. “Allisia and the Empire are both three times the size of Incasta, and have vastly superior resources. Any attempt to fight them would end in a bloodbath.”
“Enough,” Katherine shouted, now standing from her throne. “Honestly, you two are a Prince and Duke, could you at least act like your titles instead of five year olds.” Riku looked down, falling silent while Romeo looked towards Abigail, who gave him a stern look while holding him by the shoulder.
“I say we should stay neutral,” Nikz spoke again. “We can shore up the defences and evacuate citizens while we await any response from Allisia or the Empire.”
“Yeah,” Shards agreed, the young Duchess standing from her armchair. “And maybe we could negotiate a truce with both powers.” Riku and Romeo looked to each other before nodding in agreement.
“Very well,” Riku said, turning back to Katherine. “I shall leave for the border fort Illion in the city of Authos. I’ll have a much greater chance of co-ordinating operations from there.”
“I shall accompany you there.”
All eyes turned to see princess Midnight step forward.
“With all due respect Your Highness,” Riku began, “The edges of an active warzone is not the best place for a young Princess.”
“But the soldiers of the Empire speak a completely different language,” Midnight replied. “I could help translate.”
“I won’t be by your side at your side at all times Midnight,” Riku shot back, concern causing his voice to rise again. “Who will protect you when I have to oversee military duties?”
“I can look after her,” Nikz said with a confident grin, resting her hand on Midnight’s shoulder. Nikz sent a look to Riku which may have seemed like nothing on the surface, but underneath Riku could tell those eyes were sending a message saying “You wouldn’t try and deny me, would you?”
Riku turned to Katherine. “Your Majesty, surely you don’t agree with this.”
“But I do,” Terrya’s voice floated down from her throne. Her grey eyes met Riku’s. “They could help you. You shouldn’t underestimate them just because they’re Princesses.”
“I agree with Terrya,” Katherine added. “Nikz and Midnight are to accompany you to Authos. Meanwhile, Romeo will assume your duties for the Palace and capital. Is that fine with you Riku?”
Riku looked from Katherine to Nikz and Midnight to Romeo, before returning his gaze to the Queen. There was no point in him arguing.
“Very well,” Riku responded with an honourable bow. “If that is what you wish, Your Majesty.” Riku then looked to Nikz and Midnight, Nikz sporting a smug grin.
“We shall leave eight o’clock sharp tomorrow morning.”