Chapter 18: Jagged Assembly III
[Link to part 1: The Solune Prince: Jagged Assembly I]
Natasha approached the elevated thrones, moving past where she had stood before, and positioned herself where Chloe had been.
“I can now answer any questions about the expedition.”
A hand went up.
“What is it, Siren?”
“The state.” Natasha said. “Since he has some experience handling expeditions, Astore will maintain an account and manage wages. Perhaps he can explain for me.”
“Sure,” Astore began, “Any residence or food will be supplied. I am unsure of the exact numbers at the moment. I will maintain communications with the treasury via a messenger while we are down there, but we will be travelling with a large sum of gold. Assume that wages will be modest though, as a lot of what we will take will account for room and board.”
Natasha said, “That was actually a good question. Likely, as a royal envoy group, you will be provided something reasonable, and if more payment is needed, we can negotiate government to government through letters.”
The King and his wife entered quietly; politely. They joined the group and stood near the centre.
The King announced, “The arena is being assembled. There is a field we keep cleared outside the wall, in front of the castle, for arenas and other similar events. Tomorrow it will be finished. The event, we have decided, will be advertised in the city today, and proceeds used to fund a portion of your expedition.”
Siren looked up.
Lilllith said, “Truly? You believe your men can assemble this in one day?”
Chloe smiled with the pride of her city.
The King said, “Yes, it is a little modest, but it’s finished.”
“Colour me impressed; though in disbelief. Never have I encountered such an expedient group of contractors.”
The King said, “They are not contractors. We have contractors in this city, but as you suppose, they are slower workers. Contracting assumes a certain lack of trust—it’s why they have their name: they must be held to their work by contract.”
“I am aware, King.”
“The guard has developed more networked trust, and so I have sent them to build. They are trained in such things, of course. We had to do something to compete with the image the East had set forth.”
“If the guard is building your arena outside of the walls, then who is keeping the peace within?”
“Higher ranking individuals in key roles. Such people can do the work of many; it is why they have been their positions. The Captain of the castle guard is here watching to door, I am sure you have seen him.”
“Yes, I had assumed that your men were simply all so well trained.”
The King laughed, then his wife, and then certain other members of the room. “Not so much well trained, but I suppose you could call it that.” The King continued, “When citizens encounter a guard from the upper ranks knocking on their door, inviting them to the arena, if it is within their schedules, they—”
“They feel the presence of force within the city.”
“…Something of this sort. Of course we are aware that most people are very dutiful, or busy, and will therefore be unable to make it, or simply uninterested. But, as you say, the point is made; the presence is felt.
“Further, should anything go wrong, the ranks within should be able to manage. If not, it is not as if the guard has been commanded to a battlefield. They are right here, outside the wall, waiting to be alerted.”
“How interesting. You must understand that such expedience is highly abnormal where I come from. It takes a certain massive amount of energy to rile a crowd, even of workers, to get a job done. I am sceptical, but I will be interested in seeing if your empty field will have an arena in it—a modest arena as you said, on the morrow.”
The King acknowledged her and then announced, “Everyone who has arrived and volunteered your time, I hope you have a sufficient grasp on the situation. Please come to the arena tomorrow at the same time, noon.”
Chloe, feeling a certain obligation to end the discussion she had started, stood up and addressed the room. She closed the discussion and invited further questions to be directed to her father or to Natasha. She concluded with, “As I am aware that some of you are…busy in the mornings, I believe that it would be fair for you to be accommodated with a meal before the arena event begins…yes?”
She looked to her father, who nodded. “This is within our power. Any of you may come to the basement of the castle tomorrow morning. I will have someone inform the staff of your names.”
He looked to Natasha, who nodded.
The session ended and the non-royalty among them, along with Natasha, exited; leaving the King, his wife, and Chloe behind to discuss.
Lilllith, having inquired, moved ahead of the rest and exited the castle to watch the assembling of the arena-in-progress, and perhaps make some suggestions or modifications of her own.
Alexandre and Siren exited shortly after, but quickly went their separate ways, leaving Astore and Natasha in the noise of the foyer.
Natasha said, “Keep an eye on the Lussa woman. She…” Natasha considered her words carefully. She reminds me a little of my mother. Instead, she said, “Not too close an eye. She is a guest, and yet…”
“She is still and outsider.”
Natasha frowned, and then her face hardened. “We do not speak of our guests in this way. She is from outside the city, outside the Kingdom. Yet, she is a guest.” She sighed. “Watch yourself, especially as you exit the city and become the only uniformed ambassador of the Solune Agents.”
Natasha looked at him with severity, and then left him to himself, standing in the foyer. The noise of the crowd, of the little Solune square, opened up around him.
The woman in the header is Natasha Glass Rhye.