Tea And Cigars
A short story set in With Tooth and Tail. These are not characters from the game, instead I wanted to maybe portray how people from outside of the game’s “Empire” reacted to the news of the ongoing civil war. This is from the perspective of the ruling/upper class, but I thought that point of view could be a bit more interesting. You might guess, due to some gentle (or blunt) suggestions that the heroes here are based in an Empire similar to that of pre-World War 1 Empire of Great Britain, while the Kaiser Chancellor are from Germany, and the Eastern Empire relates to Russia. I know that such details are never explicitly given in the game itself, but what’s fan-fiction without a bit of fiction, right?
Tea and Cigars
Sir Arnold Law, Prime Minister of His Majesty’s government, was sitting in his office, listening to his secretary who in turn was dictating his plan for the next day. The staunch bulldog always appeared to have an expression that suggested either complete disregard of everything and everybody around him, or hostility. It was that, or some believed he was outright lazy, which was far from the truth. Behind those seemingly exhausted eyes was a mind so cunning and ruthless that few could match up to it, especially in the political scene.
His office was respectable. While not lacking in statuettes, paintings and a surprising number of clocks it was comfortable rather than pompous. The desk behind which the Prime Minister sat was heavy and large, filled with all manner of clutter. His own chair almost too large for his stature, meanwhile the seats intended for visitors slightly less comfortable but acceptable by most standards.
Wearing his black suit and black bow-tie, the bulldog listened to the fox present in his office, his secretary.
“After lunch with the Duchess at 2 o’clock you will have a meeting with the Kaiser’s Ambassador. At 4 o’clock a meeting with the Minister of Economics. After that your wife has requested your attendance at Sir Oakes’ Ball which begins at 6 o’clock.” the secretary spoke. She was strictly on point with all she said, Sir Law was not one to waste time, especially his own. He slowly bobbed his head and reached for a glass that was present upon his desk, one filled with whiskey. A brief sip later, and after the secretary was done a feint knock came from the door to the office.
“Yes?” came Sir Law’s gruff voice.
The door was opened and a servant’s head poked through.
“Pardon me Prime Minister, but a Brigadier General Darlington is here to see you?”
A loud harrumph came from Sir Law, his flabby cheeks wiggling about briefly.
“It is about time. Let him in, and give us some privacy!”
The secretary bowed respectfully and then departed from the room, Darlington soon entering, the door closing behind him.
Brigadier General Darlington, much like the Prime Minister, was a dog. But unlike the Prime Minister, who had a visage perfect for either politics or bull-fighting, Darlington was a Golden Labrador. One could not see a friendlier face anywhere in His Majesty’s armed forces, and that lead many to underestimate him. He was considered a patriot by many, a loyalist and a profound believer in his Majesty’s Empire. In equal measure he was ready to negotiate as he was ready to go to war, and with an Empire as vast as this one both were equally useful tools in maintaining the peace.
Dressed in his army uniform, cap held in his hand, the Brigadier General bowed respectfully to the Prime Minister.
“You called for me, Sir Law?” he asked, and with another harrumph Sir Law motioned to one of the free armchairs in front of his desk.
“Don’t be yanking on my leash Charles, sit down. We have much to talk about. Whiskey? Cigar?”
“Some tea would be welcome.” answered Darlington.
“You must be the only abstinent General I have ever heard of.”
With a quick bark Law called his Secretary back into the room and ordered his friend some tea. Black, as black as the night outside the window, with no sugar or even a lemon to decorate it.
Sir Law in turn produced a box from his desk, opened it and produced a large cigar. He took care when preparing to light it and as he took his first few puffs,and as the cigar’s smell soon filled the room Darlington began to speak.
“I take it this is not merely a social call? I presume I can even guess why you wanted to see me.”
Law grumbled a bit, puffing out a large cloud of smoke, and then dosing his dry throat with some whiskey.
“It’s not exactly a secret if it’s all over the papers and talked about in every pub.”
Darlington nodded slowly. The tea promptly arrived and the Brigadier General took a sip of it. Involuntarily he licked his nose, it was a tick of his when drinking especially strong tea. When they were alone once again in the office Law spoke.
“The whole cabinet and the King are troubled by these events. Even the Lower Chamber is debating over the issue.”
“The issue of?” asked Darlington, innocently enough.
“Intervention. Granted people are about as willing to go there as they are not to go there.”
“Lack of a reason or excuse? Did not think such trivialities stopped us in our pursuits before. How many have fallen to our grand empire, over tea, a canal or even potatoes.”
“This is different Darlington, and it isn’t that simple.” came Law’s smoke filled words. “First, we don’t know who started that war, and why. We don’t know who killed the Empress, we do not know who is benefiting from all the chaos there. Because, frankly,” Law sat back in his chair, resting an elbow on one of its arm wrests and scratching his cheek, “everybody is loosing from it.”
“Then perhaps outside manipulation? Our far-eastern friends or the Kaiser’s doing?”
“You mean the Chancellor’s, but no. They are taking advantage of it but they were not ready to leap out of the boxes as soon as they opened. Must be somebody who did not reveal themselves yet.”
Darlington scratched his chin.
“Well, there are at least a dozen little republics, autonomies and dictatorships breaking up the Empire as we speak. Any one of them might had been behind it.”
“Again, I have my doubts. The Eastern Empire was already crippled before their civil war, and now it’s collapsing on itself. Might be we put too much faith, if any, in the Empress.”
A moment of silence followed, for the decaying Empire to the east.
“And this talk of intervention? To what end?” asked Darlington.
“You want the truth or the half-truth?”
Law looked through a few documents on his desk, finding a particular one and beginning to read it outloud.
“In the interest of security of assets belonging to the crown and its subjects, his majesty’s government deems it necessary to intervene to such an extent that the security of said assets is assured. Further, any soil belonging to the Crown is still property of the Crown and any attempts to claim it will be met with open hostility.” Law mumbled a bit. “I could read you the whole thing, but it’s a work in progress.”
“And the actual reason for intervention?” asked Darlington.
“Better to have an Empire, even if a sick and dying one, than whatever will come if we do not make sure things go along with common interests. Even the Kaiser, I imagine, wouldn’t want to find out what happens to an Empire taken over by the working class or capitalists.”
Darlington took another sip of his tea, licking his nose again, this time thoughtfully.
“What are our options then? Installing a puppet Emperor?”
“Again, not that simple. The Kaiser- pardon me, Chancellor, might see things the same way we do but he won’t exactly let us fiddle about in an Empire bordering his own. Hells, I imagine that even if we had a good reason to intervene there he would protest profusely.”
“What about helping whoever is the current authority over there, and help them take back control?”
“Sounds sensible, does it not?” Law took another large puff of his cigar. “But it’s neither to the interest of the King, the Cabinet and anybody really. And then, who would we help? The Army? The Capitalists or the Workers? No, too costly, too bothersome, too few benefits. We are however keeping an ear out for any heir’s to the throne. That might be an angle we can exploit.”
Darlington, over the course of the talk finished his tea, and set the cup down, together with its saucer, on the Prime Minister’s desk.
“So, we cannot intervene because of the Keiser, and even if we wanted to we do not know who to support in this little war.”
“Exactly, but there is one thing we can do.” grumbled out Law.
“Exactly. Sooner or later all the unknowns will be made clear and we will know what to do next. The Keiser in the meanwhile might gain a few protectorates or alliances with whatever manages to escape the dying Empire’s grasp. Whatever is left behind will still be large enough to remain an important issue. But, onto the next point.”
Law rested his cigar against an ash tray on his desk and then leaned forward again.
“I already spoke with the Chiefs of Staff about this, we need to prepare for the eventuality that an intervention will be necessary. The Kaiser will not let us march through his land, so the Navy’s assistance will be key. Plenty of ports we can land in, if need be.”
“And you want me to lead this… how will it be called?” asked Darlington.
“We are still undecided whether the papers will prefer “Expeditionary Force” or “Volunteers”. You will learn in due time.”
Darlington seemed to nod in approval, looking to one of the many clocks hanging in the Prime Minister’s office. Why so many were needed in one single place the Brigadier General could not begin to guess.
“Well, it is time for me. As always it was a pleasure Law.”
The Prime Minister remained seated while Darlington rose up off his chair. Law grumbled a bit, taking the cigar in his hand once more.
“Pleasure as always.” after a brief pause, but before Darlington left Law asked. “How’s the weather? Still bloody cold?”
“Afraid so Prime Minister.”
Law grumbled noticeably louder.
“Even the weather is fleeing from that damned powder keg.”
Darlington left the Prime Minister’s office, and after bidding his farewells to the secretary and staff he was on his way back home.
Law remained in his chair, still smoking his cigar, looking out through one of his office’s windows to the streets and rooftops outside. As much as he enjoyed intrigue this particular situation made him feel uneasy. There was something afoul happening to the east, something nobody could had foreseen. The only thing he hoped for was that the ripples of that ongoing explosion would never reach this country, his country. For unlike the Eastern Empire, his Majesty’s Government passed through many trials and obstacles, overcoming every single one, be it internal or external. But what followed in the wake of such actions was blood, a lot of blood. As much blood as one would have to spill to keep his home safe.
And Prime Minister Sir Arnold Law was ready to do what was necessary, no matter the cost, to keep his Majesty’s country safe. And nothing, nor nobody would stop him from ensuring that.