What Lies Beyond the Looking Glass Andrew Caine, Silver Political unrest in the kingdom of Aurelian was putting it mildly. Andrew sat within his study as a stack of parchment was his sole company. The fireplace - bordered with fine marble - burned brightly as the warmth kept out the season of windfall’s icy nights. Unlike other Aurelian nobles, Andrew preferred spartan comforts as opposed to needless luxuries and decadence. His study only contained shelves of tombs collect from all over the kingdom and beyond while a great rub made of the pelts of five great bears the noble hunted had adorned his dark marble floor. His table made from the finest of cinder wood. His house’s crest hung high above behind him. Portraits from great artist lined each pillar that started from the floor and reached to the ceiling. Though extravagant to a peasant perhaps, this was hardly anything unique - save for the design of course. Andrew scowled as he signed a paper and moved onto the next. The death of the empress couldn’t have come at a worser time. With Minister Justinian taking over, he wasn’t sure what was more outrageous. That the minister had somehow managed to remain alive or the riots that had sprouted all over the kingdom. The plague that swept the streets of the capital and the near cities was staggering as well. The city guard and the military had long since absolved into one force for logistical reasons. Quarantines were erected all over the cities. Those who had symptoms of the plague were quarantined immediately. It was merely for show however. Andrew held no illusions what policies he had helped enact. The directive of killing the infected if they got belligerent. While the empress heavily opposed this, she was forced to concede when city guards were assaulted by the individuals and became infected themselves. Grim business. He was sure history would not have been kind on him. Now, before him, he was to approve the regency of minister Justinian. The absolute insult it was! The minister had disregarded the proper conduct and had seated himself due to military enforcement. Being friends — Andrew mused — with the admiralty seemed to have paid off for that snake. Refusal of the proposal was his first choice. However, his well-being would’ve been jeopardized. Andrew had no desire to join the empress — bless her soul. Hearing a knock at the door, he looked up as he shifted his monocle. “Enter!” The door swung open as one of his attendants walked in. “Lord Caine,” said the young man. “You requested records earlier, sir. The lead attendant charged me with delivering them.” The documents to the under city. The errand had slipped Andrew’s mind. “Set it on the table,” he said. “I expect Lady Erin to be visiting later this evening. Has she arrived yet?” “I shall inquire at once, Lord.” Returning to his work, Andrew dismissed the attendant with a hand. When he heard the door close, he pushed the documents to the side and got up. He groaned as he stretched his legs. Sitting was for the lazy he thought. Rather than being cooped up in his glorified prison, riding out for the hunt or simply strolling through the noble quarters was much more tempting. Sorting the affairs of the Ministry of Internal Affairs was not his job. What he did was merely a courtesy given his family’s legacy to the city. The city as indebted to him and his ancestors. Under the purview of the empress, Aurelian had prospered because of House Caine’s actions. Hearing another knock, Andrew looked towards the door. “Lady Erin, a pleasure,” he said as he motioned towards the chair at his study. How improper this meeting was. His attendant should’ve kept the vixen in the foyer. “Let us skip the formalities, Lady. You’ve requested to speak to me. Why?” Lady Erin, dressed in a beautiful emerald green dress sat down, her face hidden a ballroom mask. The exquisite pieces were part of the culture of the nobles. The game of intrigue. It was truly the ultimate game in both court favor and silencing enemies. “Thank you Lord Caine - I assure you - the time you spare myself is but an honor.” Andrew smiled as he took a seat. “House Caravel - as always - may it remain strong,” he said. He was in no mood for court speak. “Now pray, Lady Erin, what brings you to my estate?” Looking towards the documents, the woman sighed. “I assume - as we all I assure you - that you’re busied by current matters? The death of her majesty - a tragedy - was a horrific incident.” “May she rest in the embrace of the Earth,” Andrew said, cautious of what the woman wanted. “Milady, your business? As you say - as you could no doubt tell - I am rather preoccupied at the moment.” “House Caravel would like your support - graciously requested - to lobby for the western burrows.” Andrew tapped his fingers against his chair. A bemused eyebrow shot up. “For what reason?” Lady Erin stiffened under his gaze. The Game had begun. “The merchants - if you will - have been under the guidance of House Caravel before the rebellion. With the area of the city left without a Shepherd, House Caravel desires back what once was theirs.” “Why would I desire - no affront intended, of course - the influence of a fellow house to increase? What would House Caine gain from this - if you’d be so kind?” “Other than the favor of a grateful House of Aurelian? Talks - negotiations - of merchant tributes could be arranged - under the purview of friendship. Is it not a favorable for both of our houses, my lord?” Intrigued, Andrew saw the sense in the deal. It would certainly expand House Caravel’s influence; but if Andrew were to manipulate the negotiations, the influence and political power of House Caine could advance as well. With the recent occurrences, allies for his house was in great demand. It was no little secret that Minister Justinian and himself were at odds on multiple things. He needed all the political draw he could get. Andrew rose as Erin did as well. “If it’d be proper, Lady Erin, we shall continue these talks at a later date.” Walking towards the door, he led her out as they made their way to the grand hall. “I shall think - with great care - on what we’ve discussed. You’ll have my terms and answer - quickly delivered - in due time. When things settle down.” When they reached the main door, Lady Erin turned towards him and curtsied. “We await your answer, milord.” “A good evening then Lady Erin.” As his attendants walked Lady Erin to her carriage, Andrew stayed until the carriage pulled out. Turning hard on his heels, he looked over to his head steward. “Have Aislyn attend me at my study,” he told the steward. “Also, send some servants to inquire the Minister of Economics. She has something for me.” The man bowed as he went about his master’s orders. Ascending the stairs, Andrew went back to his study as he rubbed his forehead. Things were moving quickly, and he had to ensure he’d come out on top.