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"In spite of the civil war," Matarian retorts, "Berista is still a very large and wealthy nation, and benefited greatly from the conquest of other kingdoms during the Fourth War; Elder Cupboard was correct in saying that much. Even after the war Berista remains large and wealthy, while many other kingdoms, including my own, suffer from poverty and the loss of life. I will not vote in favor of Berista until such time as appropriate reparations are made."
"Berista was not initially in the NEA. They were roped in. I do not think they are the ones who should be paying the bulk, regardless of wealth." Manfred interrupted. "Or would you prefer to have the victor nations rebuild, since they are also richer?"
"The nations of the Northern Elvish Alliance rebelled and attacked the Council nations. How much more quickly might this war have been over if Berista had maintained its loyalty to the Council? I don’t think it is unreasonable to demand that they help to repair the damage they themselves caused. The victor nations will be putting immense amounts of time and resources into rebuilding; all I ask is that the aggressors in this war do what they can to put things to rights. As I said, I vote against allowing Berista back into the Council until reparations have been decided upon and paid."
"They lost their loyalty because their queen was killed and replaced with a young child who had no idea about anything!" Manfred replied back. "They were occupied just as much as the Farthings were!"
"Then it will be a good lesson in taking responsibility for one’s actions." Matarian answers dismissively. "Shall we continue with the vote?"
"If we are talking about responsibilities, Matarian, then perhaps you should answer for your own crimes of overthrowing Famardy’s King." Manfred said quietly.
Matarian turns to look at Manfred. This discussion has now gone from irritating to dangerous.
He’s strangely competent today. Is his usual demeanor just an act?
He might be a more formidable opponent than Matarian had thought.
“Was that a crime, King Manfred?” Matarian answers softly, in a voice like silk sliding over steel, “Olad was insane, and a servant of the Dark Spirit besides; the people were suffering and dying under his rule. He was guilty of murder, war-mongering, and the unlawful use of blood magic.” he is about to say more, but catches himself. He’s said too much already.
“Put me on trial if you must, but this is not the time nor the place.”
As he re-centers himself, Matarian sneaks a quick glance at King Aldo; his representative at the Coalition had been quite vocal about that very topic.
"And by your logic of responsibilities, his crimes fall on you." Manfred continued, without missing a beat. "So if you’re willing to have a good lesson in taking responsibility for your actions, be my guest."
Manfred spoke dryly and without whimsy, his face almost paler and grayer, as if he had aged since the Southern Coalition.
"You are out of order, King Manfred; hold your tongue. The Mad King’s crimes weigh more heavily upon me than anyone, and I have done my best to set them to rights. However, that is neither here nor there. Berista still has the same ruler that it had during the Fourth War, and I intend to see that he atones for what he has done. You will notice that I suggested no ultimatums against Sarenu and its new government; or perhaps you chose to ignore that? Now, may we proceed with the vote, or must I continue to be insulted?"
The rest of the Council, having had dissolved into petty squabblings, focuses in on Manfred v. Matarian as it heats up
King Aldo rises
"Matarian is the only Council member present who has killed his predecessor. My brother never had a son, and took the Wolf children in and raised them as his own. Matarian then murdered his brother, a Crusader of the Crown, slaughtered his adoptive father, and seized control over Famardy. By all rights, Famardy should be my kingdom, when my brother Olad died."
Aldo laughs without jolliness.
"This Southern Coalition was made out of necessity. If Berista is to be punished for the coercion of its people, I vote that Matarian be brought to justice for the murder of my brother. Not even touching the topic of his attempted murder of my family. No doubt Matarian wishes to be King of Kasinthia as well."
Elder Cupboard smiles
"I think my royal member, Manfred, wishes to say something.
"I concur. King Manfred, what is it you wished to say?"
Manfred took a sharp intake of breath.
He had forgotten about the dead brother. It had been ages ago when that ghost…
“I…I think that King Matarian has made one good point. It is neither here nor there. The business of today…is of our elvish nation brethren. When this is all said and done, we can move onto the matter of Matarian’s own crimes. Paranoia on any end, be it Sarenús government destroying us all, or Matarian taking over Kasinthia, is poisonous to everyone.”
"Well said, King Manfred. Thank you." Matarian says calmly enough, though the color in his face is still quite high. He is breathing deeply, though quietly, to calm himself.
"Then do we agree that Berista not be punished and allowed to rejoin the Council?"
Grumbles from some, then the votes go like this
Aldo, HP, Dollthel, Vishnak for return
Shige, Hofuthkorp, Jarlsjalfi for punishment
Matarian votes for punishment.
Bree votes for return
"Bawerstrom votes for punishment."
Queen Aoife walks in to the Council Chambers, a Healer scurrying behind her
A collective gasp
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