This is the beginning of a story I'm writing, but I'd like some opinions on it so far.
|About 3,000 words.
It seemed as though all of the civilized world fought in the land of Marisea, and monitoring strife and social tension was a tiring job.
Minos Souli leaned back into his posh chair and calmly smiled. He interlocked his fingers behind his head and became enveloped in a modest moment of reticence.
He never wanted to be here; that is, in a decaying nation. But alas, Minos and his wife, gracious Queen Circe, were given a more callous meaning to the phrase “duty calls.”
While political situations like these call for absent-mindedness, Minos couldn’t help but naturally think. “Magic, studying, and romance… Those were the times,” he remorsefully muttered.
Minos, now the Minister of external and internal affairs, had sunken bags under his amber eyes. He considered sleep to represent a concept now alien, as the political and aristocratic life constantly tugged at him like a greedy child. Indeed, the haughty aristocrats were always greedy.
Minos scoffed at the odd collection of dust that gathered on the neglected portion of his polished desk. The dust, as if bellowing cries of triumph, mocked him. The casual specs had erred him, but the mage preferred not to bear the superfluous trouble of cleaning it up. Plus the rest of the orderly room was already free of stain, and the overall cleanliness added to the tranquil ambiance.
As Minos fastened his eyes for another brief moment of lull, the ornate door to his office received a gentle knock. Immediately did he rub his cheek with his palm and sigh.
Valentinos Varelos walked inside with a graceful gait and a stack of official papers in his hands, all of which had cursive writing on them. Minos' bleary eyes groveled at the terrible sight of it.
Valentinos’ shaved face revealed his pale and clear skin, which bore striking similarities with Minos’ skin. In spite of that, the cultural similarities would promptly find their end. Minos’ unshaven face retained a short and mousy beard.
“Sir,” Valentinos said. “The Assembly has requested I speak with you.”
The Assembly! Unfortunately, it was a necessary evil in the government of Marisea, one that both the Queen and Minos had to adequately deal with from time to time. He silently said a prayer to Lazarus, his god, for thanks that the Assembly, fortunately, possessed no authentic power. To most, that institution merely demonstrated smoke and mirrors.
“Hello to you too, Valentine. What do they want this time?” Minos vainly attempted being at least a little enthusiastic.
“The Representatives of the four parties want an analysis on the current state of the nation. They explicitly requested you write it, or come to the Assembly Chamber and tell them yourself. Oh, and please, don’t call me Valentine,” Valentinos composedly said with a tiny dash of mild irritation in his voice.
Minos smirked and sat up in his executive chair. “My apologies, fine Valentinos. Valentine is an exquisite name, but perhaps it is not for you,” he paused and then continued, "anyway, it disappoints me that the Assembly needs help in discerning this, but I shall write to them.” The Minister spoke with splendid eloquence and class. Minos adapted faster than any other rags to riches men. However, whether or not he adequately prepared for such adaptations presented themselves as a wholly different story.
“If you don’t mind, sir,” Valentinos timidly approached the office desk and occupied the comfortable chair facing it. He carefully placed the thick stack of papers on the desk as well. “I would like to hear about it myself. What knowledge of the apparatus might you have?”
“State your question and I shall elaborate,” Minos said authoritatively as he diligently prepared a pen and paper to write on for the remainder of the painstakingly dull evening.
Valentinos leaned in, “How would you describe the ongoing state of affairs for Marisea?” From what Minos could deduce, Valentinos planned to ask several burning questions.
“I’d say it’s stagnant. It’s been a year since my wife and I arrived and some citizens are still apprehensive. Plus the Recession is still hampering our economy, so many are turning to new political ideologies in a fad,” Minos explained.
“It’s modern history. I am sure you are aware of the economic meltdown the whole continent experienced a few years ago, correct? That’s the Recession,” Minos tediously asked.
“Well you see, I’m more of an ancient historian myself,” Valentinos said firmly.
Minos experienced the sudden urge to test his intellect, but his eyes glanced back down to what he was supposed to be drafting. The writing dwelled in the dire condition of the country.
“It’s getting late, Valentinos. Go back to your home, I’ll answer any other questions you have tomorrow,” Minos considerably commanded.
“Of course, sir,” Valentinos stood up and began his departure from the room. However, once he reached the exit, he abruptly stopped and remembered what he brought in, “Oh yes, the papers. Marshal Elias told me to inform you that they’re complaints from the military, as well as suggestions about how to improve the well-being of the National Army.”
Minos gently rubbed one of his temples, “I’ll have a look at them. Thank you, Valentinos.”
And with that, the civil servant left the delicate room.
An arduous hour promptly passed. The paper was completely finished. On it detailed “The Realm of Marisea,” and the political issues of the country. According to Minos, civil order has been at an all-time low, although the people weren’t at the point of rioting. Another problem to mention is the ethnic and political conflicts taking place within the region. The nyxanees, a species of blue-skinned humanoids, made up the bulk of minorities and often battled with the humans that inhabit the local area.
During the process of extensive revision, Minos read attentively one part of the paper out loud, "Gentlemen, many of the wealthy aristocrats have informed me of unknown political entities that are much like yourselves. They tentatively call themselves the Amphitorians and the Metonites."
Ah, the radicals of Marisea.
Minos continued talking aloud, “Not much else is known about the two, other than that they despise dissidents and are excessively authoritarian.”
Politics was never this man’s forte, but he genuinely enjoyed discussing it with his peers at the pertinent time. When it came to the Assembly and their four distinct parties, Minos strived to stay neutral. Nonetheless, he indulged himself in politics when appropriate.
He decided to delay the complaints and resolutions until the next morning and chose to leave the government building. In spite of that, his eyes did have one quick glance at what the stack contained. It was as he feared, they were about the rising political tensions and disagreements in the National Army. A common downfall of nations, a divided army never did anyone good.
Thankfully, the Royal Palace, or the mansion where the royalty lived, wasn’t too strenuous of a walk.
After stepping outside, Minos observed the sundry buildings that made up the capital city of Marisea. Caleira, the City of Virtue, undoubtedly made him honored to be apart of its economic development. Monuments and art dedicated to religious leaders were everywhere, the most prominent being a gold statue dedicated to Lazarus in his full suit of armor and sallet.
Like most other cities, the capital severely suffered from the Recession. Notwithstanding that, Minos and Her Majesty worked to revitalize Caleira with tremendous success. A typical individual might be paranoid as to whether or not their beginner’s luck would end, but Minos was no average person. A skeptic to the notion of luck, his years of study in university finally paid off in the end. Still, the mage would much rather study and comprehend the mysteries of magic.
He discreetly concealed himself from the late-night citizenry by veiling his visible face with a black cloth and taking the barren backroads. As the first Minister of both external and internal affairs, his fame rivaled that of Queen Circe, so the proper precautions had to be made.
After a minor and peaceful jaunt, Minos arrived at the Royal Palace. The guards at the entrance gate, both of whom held carbines, saluted him. The housekeeper by the name of Adriani Zannis accompanied him as soon as he carelessly stepped through the gate.
A maid to the core, Adriani tenderly cared for the Souli family with all her heart.
“I’m glad you’re back, Lord Souli,” she cheerfully said.
Minos smiled and faintly said, “Good evening, Adriani. I trust everything is in order?”
Adriani escorted Minos through the dazzling and ambrosial front courtyard. She spoke candidly as the wind drifted by nimbly, “Order is my top-priority here. Would you like anything to eat or drink before you sleep, Lord Souli?”
“I appreciate the offer, but I must go to bed for now. The longer I stay awake, the easier it is to pass out and embarrass myself.”
She despondently lowered her head, “Oh, I see. Then I won’t delay you any longer. But, I have a quick favor to ask.”
“As long as it’s reasonable.”
“Great! Then I would like to request you to employ me as an indentured servant,” the housekeeper beamed brightly.
Defying the instinctive urge to laugh, Minos inquired, “An indentured servant? Why would you want that?”
“My family. Even when I’m under your employment, we can’t sustain ourselves. My two sisters and I, we can live here and work for you.”
In this industrial age, the idea of indentured servitude introduced itself as an outdated concept. However, many people, autocrats in particular, still clung to the notion in hopes of having the edge over their workers; many loopholes existed in the system.
Minos recalled past workers’ rights movements and felt compelled to decline Adriani on the spot. He could already perceive one of the parties of the Assembly calling it a scandal and another saying it’s a violation of rights. It was a move if discovered, could damage his political career.
Minos grimaced at himself and his spine crawled at the thought of his very own political career. He never did like politicians.
Minos responded adequately, “I’ll think about it, Adriani. Give me until afternoon tomorrow and I’ll decide on the matter.”
Crinkles appeared on Adriani’s face, “Thank you, Lord Souli.”
The two willingly returned to their lonesome, although the housekeeper hastily found evening work she needed to adhere to with the other maids.
Minos’ eyes yearned for beloved sleep.
The master bedroom was vacant, but the maids had ensured it stayed in peak condition even when the lady and lord of the manor weren’t present.
Minos reasonably expected that his wife, Circe, would arrive the following morning. A diplomatic invitation to a land across the mighty sea came to her favorable attention about a week ago; she attended a patrician marriage there. The request included both of the Soulis, but his milieu didn’t bother with the notable achievements and milestones of others.
And him not going didn’t matter much in terms of international relations. What’s essential proved to be Her Majesty’s attendance to the event.
Minos heartily rejoiced at the moment. Not even bothering to take off his leather shoes, he collapsed into his snug bed and instantaneously fell senseless. No nightmares terrorized him that night, and no monotonous dreams pestered his mind either. Fierce excitement about his beloved wife’s possible return prospered.
The next morning, Minos awoke to the mellifluous chirping of local birds and experienced refreshing rays of dazzling light. The burning sun of this industrious world, Vania, glimmered wonderfully in the dawning sky.
As usual, the morning subsisted in the standard procedures. The maids reliably provided contemporary clothes and organized the manor’s dining hall for breakfast. While most nobles preferred to eat leisurely with their family members and close friends, Minos and Circe instituted a new tradition at the manor. The maids, butlers, and other houseworkers ate with the two during meals, and they often rotated sporadically due to the table being too cramped to fit everyone.
That esoteric tradition didn’t occur this morning.
Marshal Nikos Elias tersely arrived at the Royal Palace to discuss what he vaguely described as something important.
The dining hall laid empty except for the two men sitting at the long table. Both were eating their delicious meals, but the Marshal relished the taste a bit too much. Minos didn’t mind the unusual behavior, but he couldn’t criticize him; a soldier usually didn’t get the chance to snatch amazing and cultural food.
“Lord Minos, it’s been too long since we’ve last spoken,” Nikos said while eating buttered white bread.
Minos decided to tread carefully; the Marshal never was one for small talk “I agree, Nikos. You can call me by just my first name. There’s no need for formalities here.”
Nikos grinned before taking a sip of wine, “Whatever you say. Anyway, I should get to the point. The army, mainly the higher-ups, don’t trust you.”
“What? Why’s that?” Minos inquisitively asked.
“I don’t really know, but I think they don’t like you,” Nikos plainly, and a bit redundantly, said.
Minos exhaled, “Well, I grasped that. It’s unlikely they all hate me for no reason.”
“That’s why I’m here, to help them understand you. I want you to join me and a few of the higher-ups on a huntin’ trip,” Nikos invited the legislator.
Minos indecisively nodded. Hunting? Why would Minos, a high-ranking government official and former mage, be interested in hunting? In spite of that, his hands itched in anticipation. His logical side took over and began thinking about the intriguing possibility of him accepting the personal invitation. He scarcely recalled last night, in which he ascertained the adverse effects of a divided army. A decent chance to mend a potential gaping wound offered itself to him.
“When and where will this trip be?” Minos fully fastened himself to the excursion.
“Two days from now. I’ll come get you here, and we’ll take the tracks to Rhodeso and gather some horses. We’ll then travel a few miles out and kill some animals around nighttime,” Nikos indecently said while champing the last bit of venison of his meal.
Minos’ eyes narrowed, but he decided not to pursue the idle feeling for the sake of concluding this quickly. Military men were audacious sometimes and now seemed to be one of those times. He sipped his water and said, “Very well. I’d be happy to tag along.”
Nikos laughed and lifted up his cup of wine, “Great! I was afraid you’d take some more convincin’, but it seems the extra push isn't needed.”
“Yes, well, I hope it’ll be an efficient break for me,” the hopeful Minos said.
“It will be, I can guarantee that. Anyway,” Nikos extended his hand over the table, “I have some more business to attend to. I’ll see you then.”
Minos solemnly shook the Marshal’s hand, “The same goes to you.”
With that, Nikos left the Royal Palace.
Minos placed his palm on his chest and breathed deeply. Thankfully, that conversation ended swiftly. He would have delayed that discussion if possible, although sometimes even traditions have to be temporarily broken.
However, his knees softly trembled when considering the fact that a portion of the military didn’t like him. Why? What has he done to offend them? A splinter pierced his head as he tried soliciting himself for an answer.
Adriani strolled into the dining hall after she had witnessed the Marshal leave; she held a tray to collect the utensils and plates from the wooden table. The housekeeper squinted at his distressed expression and asked while cleaning up, “Is everything alright, Lord Souli?”
“It’s nothing to lose sleep over,” Minos reassured her and himself.
“Are you sure? I’m always here if you need me,” her deft hands tingled.
A susceptible heart flickered. “Thank you,” he hesitated, “but it truly isn’t anything that garners too much worry.”
“Whatever you say, Lord Souli. Now then, I have some good news.”
Minos leaned in with an inquiring countenance.
“Her Majesty is here.”
Now instead of a flicker, Minos’ heart vibrantly gleamed. “She is?”
Adriani nodded. She approached and handed him a white handkerchief; it produced an aromatic smell.
Minos cleaned his beard of crumbs and stretched his shoulders. His attention shifted to Adriani, “Thank you, Adriani.”
She clasped her hands together and smiled.
Minos turned toward the exit of the dining hall and undertook his departure. However, he announced, “And Adriani, I’ll accept your proposal.”
She gasped and nearly dropped the tray of dirty dishes. As the first indentured servant of the Souli household, she placed the tray down and bowed courteously. “Bless you, Lord Souli!”
The faithful husband arrived at the Palace entrance first, but he could fathom the faint sound of hooves trotting on a paved road. The two vigilant guards monitoring the pearly gate stood professionally with their loaded rifles strapped behind their shoulders.
An elegant carriage arrived at the Palace. Inside of it was no ordinary person.
A man, dressed in a high-ranking military uniform, stepped down from the driver’s seat and ceremonially opened the private carriage. Out of the wagon came Her Majesty, Queen Circe, the first of the undisputed Souli dynasty.
Minos’ eyes dilated.
She dressed modestly and lavishly. She adorned a blue and white gown along with a bodice and wide skirt of the same colors. They represent the official colors of Marisea.
Floral patterns consisted of most of the picturesque attire, and in the eyes of the eager beholder, made her astoundingly superb and delicate. A feathered bonnet obscured her rosy face under a shadow, and her long apricot hair seemed like a sore thumb.
Mere words couldn’t describe how Minos felt. Although the unbearable sense of feeling happy and overwhelmed engulfed him at once. And she had been dutifully gone for only about a week!
A second individual exited the carriage. It was another woman, a nun, and a university friend of the Soulis.
Minos’ initial instinct was to embrace his spouse, and he did so along with a kiss. However, as the engaged two intently stared at each other, he saw the years old burn scar that afflicted the left side of her neck. It took nearly the entirety of his willpower to forcibly prevent himself from thinking about the event, but the condemned past is nigh unstoppable.
“It’s barely been a week,” Circe said. “A week too long.”