1867-04-13: Unprecedented
Summary: The Electors of Rivana gather to cast the first vote for Archduke or Archduchess of Rivana. It doesn't go as expected.
Date: 04/13/1867 IA
Related: The Secret Bargain
Alysande  Jaren  Martyn  Eleanor  Symon  Darren  Raelyn  Giorgio  Willard  Sybilla  Johanna  Thaddeus  Stephen  Tiadora  

King Jaren Tracano stepped into the Great Hall of Sunsreach Palace, with his wife Queen Alysande on his arm. The Lancers that flanked them on either side made for an impressive display, though in this case…at least hopefully…more for ceremony than necessity. They both stepped over to the pair of thrones that they occupied for official state business, and after Alysande seated herself, Jaren did the same in taking his own seat to her left, unclasping Winterthorn from his belt and resting it against the side of the Throne within easy reach, as had become his habit. Lancer habits died hard.

The Hall was of course filled for the momentous occasion of the first Archducal election since the betrayal by Alyanna Gerrell. Finely-carved tables of polished and stained cherry wood were spaced across the width of the hall, one for each Duchy, to include the Royal Duchy, even though they did not receive a ducal vote themselves. At each table sat those who were entitled to grant a vote for the Archduke or Duchess, which meant the Dukes and Duchess themselves, and their Viscount-level vassals. Behind each stood a second…in most cases either their spouse or heir if the latter was of age. Beyond and around the tables a steady flurry of servants and assistants flitted about, whether keeping the nobles refreshed or bringing them (or carrying off) messages. The rest of the hall was fairly well-packed with a multitude of other nobles of Rivana, primarily here to see and be seen, as no Archducal position had ever been granted on the first vote before. While no law or decree demanded it, tradition dictated that each claimant and their vassals voted purely for the representative of their own duchy at first…a symbolic show of fealty. Once done, the assembly would recess for a time and return for a second vote. But few had high hopes that the position would be decided today.

Jaren knew that Alysande feared her requirements for accepting an Archducal nominee would not be met short of trickery or royal interference. That she harbored doubt that her people could muster enough unity to gather seven votes for a single candidate. He knew Alysande had considered a last-second appointment of a permanent Viscount of Greenmeadow to allow for a tiebreaker vote, but she did not wish to make the appointment in haste, nor to grant public shame to Prince Martyn by removing him from his position so abruptly. Even if she had a fairly clear idea of who she wished to hold the fiefdom of Greenmeadow, that would not come until after her first child was born, when the potential sting of Martyn losing that position could be salved with being named Regent-Designate, thus avoiding any appearance that he had lost favor with the Crown, for he had not. Martyn himself may not have cared, as he knew his appointment was temporary, and Alysande had told him herself that she had been pleased with his handling of Greenmeadow, but Alysande considered appearances more deeply than Martyn did (or Jaren did, for that matter…he had a better grasp of such things since becoming King, but sometimes he marvelled at Alysande’s ability to forsee the effects of even the smallest ripples in the pond).

Jaren glanced briefly to Alysande, smiling faintly, though he hoped encouragingly. Her returned smile looked more wary than hopeful though, before she lifted a hand to silence the hall, and spoke, “Let the proceedings begin.” No grandiose speeches. This wasn’t supposed to be an event about the crown, but rather those that swore loyalty to it.

Prince Martyn Tracano rose from his seat at the Tracano table, giving a bow towards Jaren and Alysande, and with no sign of his usual awkwardness spoke in a clear and even voice after he straightened: “The County of Greenmeadow abstains due to vacancy.” Ceremony and protocol he handled well enough, and in truth the demands upon him in this affair were light. He seated himself, and his wife Johanna, who stood just behind his chair, lowered a hand to rest on his shoulder as he nodded to the Viscountess Raelyn Cassomir beside him.

Raelyn rose to her feet, smoothing her gown unconsciously as all eyes fell upon her, she offered her own curtsey towards the Throne, and spoke clearly. “The County of Ironhold nominates the Duchess Eleanor Greycen of Seaguard.” No surprise there. She could have deferred voting position to one of the other Counties if she chose , but Raelyn wasn’t exactly the sort to mince words.

“The nomination of The Duchess Eleanor Greycen of Seaguard is noted, and let the vote be recorded.” Alysande replied as a court scribe kept a careful note of the proceedings. For posterity, even if it was a ceremonial vote. Alysande nodded to Raelyn before she resumed her seat. Behind her stood her husband, Stephen, late of House Greycen and a son of the Duchess herself, hence the reason Raelyn’s vote had been entirely predictable. “The Duchy of Seaguard may proceed.”

Eleanor Greycen, who sat perfectly composed at the center position of the Seaguard table, rose smoothly to her own feet, offering her own curtsey, though perhaps not so deep as Raelyn’s had been, before looking up and declaring, again to the surprise of no one, “I accept the nomination of the County of Ironhold.” And thus her own vote was cast for herself. She returned to her seat, with her son Thaddeus positioning it to allow her to sit more easily, and the Viscount Giorgio Bazan rose next.

Offering his own bow, the dusky-skinned Giorgio declared, “The County of Summerseat stands for the Duchess Eleanor Greycen.” He offered the ghost of a smile towards Jaren and Alysande, and then Eleanor, before settling back into his seat.

The County of Hiltor followed, with the Viscountess Voranta repeating the process, and casting her vote for the Duchess Eleanor as well. When she was seated, Alysande nodded once more and spoke.

”Let the votes be recorded. The Duchy of Normont may proceed.”

The Viscount Willard Carling rose, rendering his proper courtesies and his seemingly perpetually-scowling face didn’t seem any more happy to be speaking when he declared, “The County of Holymount nominates the Duke Symon Gerrell of Normont.” He returned to his seat promptly, having some difficulty hiding that he wasn’t entirely comfortable with his position.

Duke Symon Gerrell rose to his feet, reaching behind him to give the hand of his sister Tiadora a gentle squeeze as he did. After a bow towards the throne, a smile flitted across his face and a touch of mischief lit his eyes, “Majesties, Graces, and Excellencies, some of you may well have heard that tradition and I are not always inclined to walk in harmony. We are all very busy people, and I feel our Kingdom is better served with action rather than strict adherence to wasteful practices.” He glanced briefly to Willard Carling before noting, “I do not accept the nomination of the County of Holymount, and withdraw my name from further consideration during these proceedings. The Duchy of Normont stands for the Duchess Eleanor Greycen of Seaguard.”

That brought a stir to the crowd, with an audible collection of murmurs and gasps providing a low roar in the chamber. Jaren’s brow raised in surprise, and he stole a brief glance to Alysande, whose expression looked both curious and carefully considering. After a few moments she lifted her hand to silence the room once more.

“The Crown acknowledges the withdrawal of Duke Symon Gerrell from consideration in these proceedings.” With that said, Symon actually bowed a second time, then returned to his seated position.

The Viscount of Stonehold did not exactly look surprised by Symon’s actions, though Willard Carling was red-faced and clutching his winecup so tightly that a visible tremor could be seen. Still, he looked a touch uncertain as he rose, offering his own bow and wringing his hands a bit before he finally spoke, “Ah…Due to the withdrawal of our preferred candidate, the County of Southmarch stands for the Duchess Eleanor Greycen.”

Jaren watched the Normont table closely. He could not tell if the Viscount Bayard had been cajoled into his vote by Symon or whether the man was simply following the will of his liege, or something else had transpired. Possibly all three. The Viscount could have still stood for Symon in protest if he’d chosen, as Willard Carling would likely continue to do out of sheer stubbornness and pride now. Perhaps he’d ask Aidric or Tristan about it later. Alysande nodded, her gaze briefly flickering back to Jaren. 6 votes for Eleanor Greycen, and unless Willard Carling could be swayed that was likely where it would remain deadlocked. Symon may have ruined any chance of Alysande’s conditions being met by alienating Viscount Carling, but perhaps the Greycens might be able to find a way to bargain with him. A slim hope, but not impossible.

Alysande nodded once more as Viscount Bayard returned to his seat, “The vote is noted and shall be recorded. The Duchy of Eastfield may proceed.” And here, both Jaren and she expected the wall would stand, and the breach remain undivided. Alysande’s hand reached over and briefly squeezed his own. Though he wasn’t sure if she was reassuring him or herself.

Viscountess Sybilla Marwyn rose to her feet, her bow sharp, her expression as dour as someone called the “Iron Countess” would be expected to have, made all the more so by the scar that slashed diagonally across a face that might otherwise have been considered fair. “The County of Stonewall nominates Duke Darren Haldis for the position of Archduke.” And her duty being done, the Viscountess returned to her chair.

Darren Haldis gestured to the Viscount Lockley, and the fellow rose and rendered his own courtesies before speaking, “The County of Ramsbridge seconds the nomination of Duke Darren Haldis.” He glanced to Darren, smiling a touch, before returning to his seat. Darren did not immediately rise or speak, and so Queen Alysande briefly filled the silence, and Jaren could only admire how well she kept any exasperation from her expression or tone when she did.

“The Crown recognizes the nomination of Duke Darren Haldis of Eastfield and the votes are recorded.” She added with a lift of a brow, “Duke Haldis you may proceed.”

Darren Haldis took a breath, then rose to his feet. Jaren’s eyes narrowed, not in suspicion, but in the recognition that Darren’s body language spoke of anticipation. Not exactly fear, that he could ascertain, but definitely a degree of tension. That was…curious. But not nearly so curious as the words that the Duke of Eastfield began to speak.

“Majesties, Graces, and Excellencies…” Darren started after he made his bow towards Alysande and Jaren, “We have suffered these past years. We have been a Kingdom divided against itself. Near all who stand within this hall have kith or kin that have fallen or been forever marked by our struggles. More to the point…our people have struggled, but despite their hardships, they have by and large remained loyal, because they knew our fair Queen kept them near to her heart, and would do all she could to protect them.” Darren nodded respectfully towards Alysande, who now bore a curious expression of her own.

Darren continued, “We should remember, though, that particularly of late…it has been a shared struggle. That despite long-held differences, we have fought and strived together and arrived at a destination that promises opportunity and hope for a far greater future.” He turned and looked towards where Thaddeus Greycen stood, nodding slightly once more, “I have found honor and courage among those I was taught were my hated rivals. I have seen firsthand what those divisions can do…not just to the Kingdom, but specifically to those of my own lands. If my father had managed to set aside old grudges, would the battles fought against the traitors in my own land have cost less loyal blood? I cannot say, and I cannot dwell upon might-have-beens…but I can choose, for the Kingdom…the Crown…and for the people I am tasked with protecting and ruling…to find a better way, and to try to set aside petty old feuds in the name of a strong and united Rivana.”

Alysande’s eyes had grown wider by the moment, and she leaned forward in the throne now, her grip on Jaren’s hand having tightened to an almost white-knuckled grasp. Wariness was being replaced by cautious hope…and a touch of disbelief. It was an expression that was mirrored throughout the Great Hall as it was becoming clear where this was headed, he had but to say the words…

“So while I am honored by the trust my loyal vassals place in naming me for the position, I respectfully decline their nomination for Archduke and withdraw my name for consideration in this vote. Let it be recorded that the Duchy of Eastfield stands for the Duchess Eleanor Greycen.”

Chaos. That was the only way to describe the sudden flurry of gasps, shouts, and other exclamations of shock that erupted from the gathered onlookers. Jaren was fairly sure a few people in the Hall had fainted given the pockets of motion in various points throughout the crowd. Even those seated or standing near the tables looked flabbergasted…all save the Duchess Eleanor Greycen, who remained seated, and looked towards Darren Haldis, nodding her head…and smiling. A reserved smile, perhaps…but seemingly not entirely insincere.

The good side was that nobody really seemed to look exactly angry. Even the Viscountess Marwyn and Viscount Lockley were more surprised than infuriated. Certainly there would likely be a bit on both the Haldis side (and perhaps a bit on the Greycen) after the shock had worn off, but for now people were still processing this unprecedented turn of events.

It was rampant enough that Alysande’s lifted hand initially went unheeded. After a few seconds, she glanced to Jaren, and he rose to his feet, calling out in a bellow more suited to a battlefield, but necessary to be heard over the current din.

Silence! These proceedings are recalled to order!”

That proved to be enough…the noise died down, and while there was still a bit of activity as those that had fallen unconscious were carefully carted to the outside fringes of the crowd or aided back to consciousness, silence soon overtook the hall once more.

With that done, Jaren looked out over the assembly once more, before settling back onto his throne, though as soon as he was seated, Alysande rose to her feet, keeping her expression carefully schooled.

“The Crown acknowledges the withdrawal of Duke Darren Haldis from consideration in these proceedings. Let the vote be recorded.” She looked towards the scribe, who quickly and neatly dashed off those notes, before sprinkling sand upon the ink, letting it soak up the excess before blowing the grains off of the paper it was written on. He rose to his feet, moving before the Queen and kneeling, eyes cast to the floor as he held the paper towards her. Alysande took it, studying it a moment, and called out, “The vote stands at 7 for the Duchess Eleanor Greycen, 1 for the Duke Symon Gerrell, two for the Duke Darren Haldis, and one abstainment due to vacancy.” She handed the paper back to the scribe, who returned to his small portable writing desk off to the side of the thrones. Alysande smiled now, before speaking once more.

“The Crown accepts the will of the Electors, Duchess Eleanor Greycen…come forward and kneel.”

Eleanor rose from her chair and stepped around her table, allowing herself one brief, rare moment of near-affection as she briefly clasped the forearm of her son and heir Thaddeus in passing. A Royal servant moved in from the side to place a pillow upon the hard floor for the Duchess to kneel upon. She settled into that position smoothly despite her age, that wan smile not quite leaving her lips as she bowed her head, though not before briefly…triumphantly…meeting Alysande’s eyes. Not so much silent gloating as silent acknowledgment of the fruit borne of a lifetime’s ambition.

Alysande spoke the oath, “Duchess Eleanor Greycen, do you swear to fairly represent all nobles of the Kingdom of Rivana? To serve the Kingdom by standing as advocate for their needs, desires, and concerns, and to aid in communicating those of the Crown to them in kind? To ensure the laws of the Kingdom are justly applied? To view grievances between Houses impartially and recommend just and fair resolutions to those conflicts as needed? Above all, do you swear to strive always to uphold the strength and stability of the Kingdom of Rivana through your actions?”

“I do swear it.” Eleanor replied, her voice raised just enough to carry through the hall.

“Then I hereby name Eleanor Greycen as Archduchess of Rivana.” Alysande reached over to where a servant bore the Archducal medallion on a decorative pillow, and lifted the thick gold chain to place it over Eleanor’s head, before offering her hands to help Eleanor to her feet. Not just due to her age…it was a symbolic gesture to represent the Crown and the new Archduke or Archduchess working hand-in-hand for the good of the Kingdom. When Eleanor was on her feet, Alysande leaned forward and briefly pecked each of her cheeks, the gesture returned in kind. Another part of the ceremony, though when they faced each other once more, there was at least a trace of real warmth in Alysande’s smile as she added a less formal, “Congratulations, Eleanor.”

Difficult though the woman could be, there was little doubt as to her competence, and she and her house had been steadfastly loyal to Alysande and her father before her. This was far from the least desirable outcome that could be had in these proceedings.

“Thank you, Your Majesty.” Eleanor’s own smile was as close to bright, warm, and genuine as it ever got, which spoke volumes as to how pleased she was with this (well-engineered) turn of events. And then Eleanor turned to the gathered assembly, inclining her head as applause both merely polite and moderately enthusiastic broke out. Hardly a raucous endorsement, but the new Archduchess was not the kind of woman that would inspire such fervor. What she would do, however, is present the assurance that the job she had been tasked with would get done.

“It would please the Crown that the Electors join us at a formal state dinner to be held tomorrow evening, celebrating the Archduchess’ appointment and thanking you all for your role in seeing these matters attended to.” A brief pause before Alysande nodded to the assembly once more, “These proceedings are now adjourned.” And with that, the crowd, Electors and spectators alike dipped into bows and curtseys held fast as Jaren rose to his feet, picking up Winterthorn and swiftly re-affixing it to his belt, before offering his arm to Alysande as they moved to depart the Hall. The Lancers fell into step on either side of them as they moved, and once they were through the doors to the palace interior and they were closed behind…the room erupted into the thunder of excited conversation once more.

No doubt, it was a day that many would be talking about for a very long time.


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