Chapter 1: Prologue; Call To Arms
[Osterode; Imperial Mansion]
The drawing room was occupied by four individuals; one man and three women. Two of the women – one with long black hair and the other hooded – sat next to each other on comfortable sofa, watching the remaining woman and man, each occupying a chair, take turns moving the pieces on the chessboard set on a table between them while sitting across from one another.
The man's name was Lelouch Lamperouge; he was 21 years old with mesmerizing amethyst eyes and shoulder length black hair, his clean shaven chin giving him an effeminate appearance. His short sleeved tunic and trousers were black and lined with fur to keep out the freezing cold of the North, he wore a purple cloak around his shoulders. Hanging from a chain around his neck was a large ruby set in a v-shaped pendent.
He was the Prince of the Principality of Euro Britannia, residing some distance to the West of Osterode. Within the principality's borders his official title was Emperor, however due to its small size and recent establishment; he was formally recognized as a Prince by King Victor of Zhcted. 10 years ago, Lelouch's fleet had landed in the cold wild lands Northwest of Zhcted, and for 4 of those years the two powers were unaware of other's existence, until Lelouch while inspecting the Southern frontier happened upon a group of mercenaries beset upon by tribesmen. It was from them that he learned of Zhcted and its language, but it wouldn't be until the following year that his legions would venture far enough South to encounter Zhcted's army – and two of its war maidens.
The woman sitting across from him was so similar in appearance; she could've been mistaken for a close relative. Her name was Valentina Glinka Estes and she was 20 years old. Like Lelouch, she had amethyst eyes and long waist length dark hair that appeared black like Lelouch's, but in the sun, a blue luster was revealed. She was a tall beauty with a curvy figure. She wore a sheer white silk dress with a fur collar around her neck and waist, over a crimson bustier and an indigo waist slip – both of which were visible through her dress – exposing her midriff and had exceedingly low necklines revealing much of her cleavage and ample bosom, which drew many an admiring gaze. As a result it looked as if her considerable bosom would escape at any moment if not for a pair of hooks linking together under her bosom pulling in the two sides of her dress. Her hands were covered by silken hand wear with fur cuffs, looped around her middle fingers to her wrists. Artificial flowers were fashionably placed on her dress and red shoes, in addition to a single flower placed in her hair.
The title 'Glinka' denoted her as one of Zhcted's seven war maidens; a Vanadis.
And leaning against her chair was her badge of office, her Virald; Ezendeis.
Ezendeis was a large red and black scythe, the shaft as long as Valentina was tall, with three long curved blades, one large blade on one side and two smaller ones on the other. A large gemstone was set into the head of the scythe; the other end of the shaft was tipped with a sinister double headed axe.
Despite the ominous appearance, the Virald seemed to have the ability to fade into obscurity. Valentina could carry it through a festival packed with people for all to see and no one would bat an eyelid. This effect didn't seem to work on the hooded woman sharing the sofa, whose gaze remained fixed upon it as if they were engaged in some form of staring contest.
Lelouch moved his king a single square forward, his signature yet unorthodox move. "You're as lovely to gaze upon as ever, Tina." He said using her informal nickname. Few other than her fellow Vanadis, Sofy ever used it.
"Oh my. If you keep looking at me like that, I'm liable to blush." She said candidly as she moved her queen before leaning back into her plush chair, while crossing her lovely legs.
Lelouch and Valentina had first met when she had approached him to renegotiate trade terms between Osterode and Euro Britannia, when she succeeded her predecessor 3 years ago. Each Vanadis ruled over one of seven duchies' arrayed around Zhcted's royal capital; Silesia. Osterode resided so far to Northeast that it may as well have been another country. Because of its location in the far North, its one sea port froze over every winter and could only trade during the warmer seasons, and Euro Britannia's one port was fortunately further south.
Osterode had always been the poorest of the seven duchies' due to its remoteness and was desperate for trade, however trade via land routes were an arduous undertaking due the long distances and equally long travel time. Only sea trade was profitable, however the tendency for Osterode's port to freeze every winter stifled it, henceforth Lelouch always made his diplomatic visits during the summer. Osterode's closest neighbors were the Duchy of Brest to the South and the Dukedom of Byogosz to the West, neither had access to the sea, accessible only overland.
Which was why Euro Britannia's willingness to act as a midway point between Osterode and Zhcted's remaining Northern sea ports in Lebus and Legnica that lay South of the Principality, made them an invaluable trading partner, storing goods at the docks during the winter to be delivered in the late Spring. Even so, while Osterode was in great need of commodities it had little material goods to offer in return, even before the trade deal made with Euro Britannia 5 years ago.
However Valentina had her finger on the political pulse of Zhcted, she knew whose favor was to be courted and whom to ignore, who had something you needed and vice versa. It was this that Valentina offered to Lelouch when she became Vanadis of Osterode, as they both knew that information is power, as such, business between the two became lucrative.
"How is construction of the new trade roads coming along?" She asked. For the past couple of years Euro Britannia had begun cobbling its trade roads leading into Zhcted. Currently they were constructing two such roads; one leading South splitting into Lebus and Byogosz, and a second leading East towards Osterode before splitting off to the Southeast into Brest.
Unlike Zhcted who only cobbled the streets of their walled cities, Britannia cobbled all its primary roads leading between major cities and towns, a practice continued by Lelouch as part of his long term plan to civilize the North. The roads cut down travel time and allowed trade year round, something Osterode would greatly benefit from.
"The rough terrain is slowing us down, I'm hoping to finish the Southern routes before the end of the year, and the Eastern routes may take another year or so." He said before teasingly smiling at her, "Why, you nervous?"
Most of Zhcted's Northern provinces were only interested in the convenience of increased trade with the North. However, Valentina was one of the few who knew that Britannia used those same roads for the rapid deployment of soldiers to the battlefront. Something she had learned from her occasional visits to Euro Britannia over the past couple of years, perusing their limited library of their military history. Valentina was an avid reader, while Lelouch could already speak the Zhcted language fluent enough, it was Valentina that taught him how to read it and the two had exchanged many books between them. Valentina considered the fact that only she knew of the possible threat posed by those roads as her own private joke, though she was certain the others would catch on as soon as the roads reached them.
Lelouch of course knew she was aware, henceforth his question.
Smiling coyly she said, "There's no reason to be concerned over a single road." Indeed Osterode's greatest defense lay in the distance between it and its neighbors, and the rough terrain in-between. A cobbled road leading into Osterode would be the only means of invading in a timely manner. However, because of that Valentina could concentrate all her soldiers along that route using it as a kind of bottleneck, as opposed to spreading her army thin over a large area trying to determine the invaders point of entry. One could also try invading by sea... provided it wasn't during winter when the North Sea froze.
There was a soft knock on the drawing room door prompting the black haired woman to look up.
"Enter." Valentina called out.
The door opened revealing a courier who entered and bowed before handing her a letter. "A message from King Victor, I am to await your response before returning to the capital." He said.
"Thank you," She smiled as she received the letter. "I'll have my Minister arrange for a room and food while you wait." She gestured to a man waiting outside the door, undoubtedly having escorted the courier here. With a final bow, the courier followed after the Minister.
When they left, she broke the seal and began reading the king's letter, in spite of present company. Her eyes narrowed ever so slightly. "It's a military draft."
"Did something happen?" Lelouch asked, then he smirked before adding, "Or am I not supposed to know?"
She favored him with a smile before answering. "The river acting as a border between Legnica and Dinant has flooded due to torrential rain. Grievances have become heated on both sides, and petitions have been made. Brune's King has declared hostilities."
Hostilities between Brune and Zhcted had been brewing for over 20 years. "Victor has commanded that I and one other Vanadis mobilize our armies to Dinant. Unfortunately my constitution won't allow me to perform my civic duty." She said fanning herself with a hand, feigning illness.
Lelouch chuckled at the display. "Who's the other Vanadis?" He asked wondering why the King wasn't mobilizing the Vanadis closer to the field of battle, he had at least three to choose from that could react in a timely fashion. Though he understood the king's intent.
She pouted. "How quickly your mind wanders to other women... It's Eleonora Viltaria. Right now, Legnica's and Lebus' navies are cooperating to clear out pirates from Asvarre." Answering his unspoken question.
The name drew the attention of the dark haired woman. Figneria was 23 years old. She was tall like Valentina, with long black hair covering the left side of her face and wearing a black sleeveless close-fitting tunic, the design of a falcon sewed on her clothes vividly stood out.
She was one of a rare few female mercenaries, known as 'Finé of The War Blade.' Few survived as long as she did, most having died ghastly deaths upon defeat. It was both a miracle and a testament to her skill in battle that she was able survive long enough to become famous. She and Elen had a bit of history from when they were both mercenaries.
She had met Lelouch 4 years ago when he requested her services, a year after his introduction at Zhcted's Royal Court. She served as his bodyguard when he attended various functions throughout Zhcted.
"Ah… those pesky pirates." Lelouch recalled. "I remember assigning a portion of my own fleet to root out the ones that ventured North."
"So Elen, huh…" He pondered, "I wonder if it's worth sticking my nose in this?"
Sitting next to Finé, the hooded woman at long last shifted her gaze away from Ezendeis. She wore a long sleeved off white hooded robe that extended all the way to her ankles. Lime green hair spilled out the front of her hood cascaded down her chest, she looked no older than 16. Her name was C.C. and she was an Augur; a priestess and official who performed divinations, foretelling events by observing and interpreting signs and omens. Amber eyes focused briefly on him before reaching for a pouch secured at her waist. Reaching in, she drew several dice from it and with a sharp gesture scattered them across the surface of a table set before the sofa.
Each dice had a variety of symbols and colors on each of their faces, the markings on the dice were used in a form of divination known as cleromancy. She examined each of their marks and groupings intently as Valentina watched curiously fascinated, she knew that divinations performed by Euro Britannia's Augurs had immense influence on all major decision making, including going to war.
"The sword will be bewitched by an arrow from a bow." C.C. declared, her words immediately had the attention of her Prince.
"Is this an enchanted arrow?" He asked his demeanor deadly serious.
"Magic isn't always needed; an act of Valor during battle can instill respect and leniency in a foe... if they are of the honorable sort." She clarified.
"Elen views the world from a mercenary's perspective; she's too practical to fight fair and square." Finé pointed out.
"She also values people on their abilities." Lelouch added, "If an enemy combatant were to perform exceptionally on the battlefield, he would undoubtedly catch her interest. Though few can impress her that much."
"But arrows and quarrels are useless so long as she has Arifar." Valentina interjected, "Whoever this archer is, it would require him to perform a nigh impossible feat for his arrow to get near her, let alone strike her."
"Unlikely as it is, I can't afford to ignore this... archer." Lelouch frowned.
"Sounds like someone is jealous." Valentina teased, "And I thought Elen was too young to suit your taste."
"I take it you were supposed to depart shortly?" He asked her.
"Enough time to load supplies and sail to Legnica." She answered. "If I refused, the King wouldn't have enough time to dispatch another Vanadis. Elen would have to fight Brune alone."
"Not enough time to have Sofy brief me on Brune's current status, she's too far south." Lelouch muttered irritably.
"I'm offended." She said in mock anger. "While my specialty is Zhcted's internal politics, I have enough trade connections with Brune that I can inform you its current political climate. Some of it I'm sure you'll find very interesting."
Intrigued he asked. "Being currently indisposed, will you allow us to participate in your place?"
"I'll have the messenger inform the King, I'll omit the details of the Augury. While such information would be of grave concern to the King, the fact that you intend to amend that means I don't see the necessity in bothering him with such matters. I'll also send a second messenger on our fastest ship directly to Legnica, telling them to expect you." With a flirtatious smile she added, "Come by my private chambers tonight and I'll tell you all I know of Brune."
"Finé, C.C. Have the Avalon ready to depart first thing in the morning." He ordered. "Can you have your messenger stop at the Principality along the way? I have instructions I need delivered to my Consuls."
"Of course." The two women stood from the sofa, before they departed Valentina waved Finé over. "Should you require assistance readying your ship, feel free to impose on the ports mayor. I'll have one of my ministers provide you with the necessary documents." She offered.
Finé accepted her offer with a bow before departing with C.C.
In Valentina's private chambers, she and Lelouch sat in a tete-a-tete; an S-shaped sofa so that two people can converse face to face. Valentina had shed her silk dress, wearing only her bustier and waist slip. Her red bustier was strapless leaving her shoulders bare, like her dress it had a low neckline revealing much of her bosom. Her indigo waist slip was short to allow for ease of movement. Her shoes had been put away leaving her barefoot, the flower hair ornament sat on the dressing table.
"What can you tell me about Brune?" Lelouch asked once they were both settled.
"As a military power; Brune favors the sword and the spear, it has many undulating meadows, as such Brune's heavy infantry and cavalry excel at coordinated charges with spear and shield, like an oncoming shield wall." She told him. "As for projectile weapons; the army mostly relies on the sling. In their eyes the bow is a hunter's tool, a weapon use by criminals and cowards who fear fighting in close quarters.
As a result their bow technology is of poor quality compared to Zhcted's, they scorn even the crossbow. Most can only hit a target at under 150 alsins and wound at less than 100, while the crossbow has an effective range of 350, they are often prone to failure as it's difficult to maintain, so they rarely use them."
"As I recall, Elen has an archer that can hit a target a little over 260 alsins." He pointed out.
"He's an exception. In battle during the initial engagement, volleys of arrows are fired from the rear into the enemy lines serving mostly as distraction while the front lines charge you. There are no accolades for archers no matter how well they perform. That's Brune's military doctrine." Finishing her explanation, she leaned back into the sofa and lazily draped her legs over his knees.
Lelouch ran his hand along her legs, savoring the feel of her skin. "No wonder you doubt the threat to Elen, it would be trivial for Arifar to deflect such poor marksmanship."
"In a way your legions aren't much different from Brune's. You both rely heavily on coordinated attacks with heavy infantry excelling in close range combat. And you don't rely much upon the bow; the favored throwing weapon of the legions is the javelin is it not?" She asked as he fidgeted with her toes.
"The pila, yes." The 'pila' was a short throwing spear hurled into the enemy lines during the initial phase of the battle; it had a range of roughly 25 alsins, although some soldiers could hurl it as far as 50. "Although I do have many archers and slingers among the skirmishers in my auxiliaries." He said tickling her feet eliciting a burst of giggles from her.
"True, true! How could I forget?" She said twitching with laughter on the sofa, when he relented she added. "However, the real reason for Brune declaring hostilities, is that King Faron's son; Prince Regnas, turned 16 this year."
"Ah, he wants the Prince to have some battle experience under his belt. What better battleground ground to blood him on, than a trivial skirmish over flooding that neither side is taking seriously." He said amused, he began massaging the bottom of her foot eliciting sounds of pleasure from Valentina. He often found that she was more forthcoming with information when she was in a good mood.
Enjoying the foot massage, she continued. "Unfortunately the young Prince isn't long for this world."
"Internal discord?" Lelouch inquired.
"Two Dukes, aspire for the throne." Lelouch began massaging her other foot, she continued. "Duke Ganelon in the North, and Duke Thenardier in the South. Ganelon's brother-in-law is the king's nephew. And Thenardier's wife is the king's niece, their son; Zion is 17 this year, he'll undoubtedly be present at Dinant. The two have been throwing their weight around in spite of the King lately."
"So they both have strong claims, so who'll be the first to plunge the knife?"
She favored him with a conniving smile, "both."
"A ceasefire until the Prince is out of the way, before fighting it out for the throne." He concluded.
"That's not even the best part," her smile grew mischievous and she beckoned him closer. Intrigued, he leaned forward until they were nose to nose and she whispered in his ear.
Lelouch gave her a startled look. "How did you learn of this?"
"He-he... Ganelon wanted to brag to someone, and he knows I won't interfere with Brune as it holds no interest for me. Or at least… not yet." She giggled.
"Doesn't this count as interfering?" He asked.
"Only if you act on it." She said, "Ganelon won't care either way, but Thenardier will oppose you to the death. I'll leave it to you, whether to pursue it or not."
Yawning she stood from the sofa and stretched, Lelouch took the moment to admire her lovely figure. "I think I'll turn in for the night. Could you kindly extinguish the candles?"
Using a snuffer, he extinguished them one by one. As the light dimmed Valentina undressed, Lelouch watched as she shed her bustier before sauntering over to the ornate canopy bed. Stopping before the bed, she glanced over her shoulder at him smiling coyly, her hands pausing at her waist slip.
"You're such a tease." He responded as he snuffed another candle. Allowing the slip to fall at her feet, she clambered onto the bed. Turning to blow out the candelabrum on nightstand, she found Lelouch standing next to it gazing upon her nude form.
Caressing her cheek with one hand, he snuffed the three remaining candles one by one. He pressed his lips against hers, snuffing the last candle before pushing her down onto the bed.
Sitting on the edge of the bed, Lelouch dressed as dawn broke. Behind him Valentina's bare form lay on the bed, her chin propped up on one hand, watching him, she had been quite frisky earlier, he had woken up to find her straddling him.
"One of these years, you must give me a child." She said. He had been sleeping with her for two years now – at her invitation of course – she had initiated the relationship soon after becoming a Vanadis herself, even so, Lelouch had yet to get her pregnant. It wasn't because he was already married, as his wives had no objections to his liaisons with Valentina to which she was grateful to the women, the number of children he already had meant he had no problems siring children either. No, it was their political circumstances that prevented them from having children.
"You know why we can't." He countered gently. As part of the king's anti-expansionist policies curtailing the Vanadis' attempts to expand their territory and power; they couldn't inherit lands outside of their duchies even if they came from a noble house, nor could they marry aristocrats who own land, though second or third sons with little to inherit were permissible. While economic ties were permitted, marriage to foreign nobility was prohibited, so as to minimize foreign influence over the Vanadis. As a result most Vanadis chose their partners from within their duchies, such as one of their ministers or advisors, occasionally an exceptional individual acting as a trusted companion would catch their fancy. Part of the reason was that the title of Vanadis wasn't hereditary, but chosen by their badge of office which not even the king had control over, the Virald, and only women were chosen. Nor was the position permanent, if a Virald vanished from the Vanadis' possession and they were unable to summon it back to them, they were disqualified as a Vanadis.
Lelouch glanced over at Ezendeis. "If you weren't a Vanadis it would've been a different story. I'd have married you and taken you back home with me." He leaned down and kissed her.
Valentina fixed her pointed gaze on him. "That didn't stop you and Alexandra."
Lelouch shrugged. "We were young then, and we're not married, much as I would've liked to have been. Things could've turned out drastically different if Victor had reacted poorly."
Indeed, Victor – Zhcted's King – was the greatest obstacle to their relationship. "Victor won't be King forever." She said with a sly smile. With playful smack on her rump, he stood and left. She said nothing further on the matter, Lelouch refused to discuss Victor's probable successors deeming it a hazardous topic, and she was no closer to an elegant solution. Valentina stared at the door for a time before rolling into her back.
That morning Lelouch set sail back to his Principality.
End of chapter
A/N: A Project I started a started a few months ago and has been collecting dust.
Geass isn't present in this story and C.C. isn't immortal, though Lelouch's faction will have a unique weapon to make them stand out next to the Vanadis. Some of you may have clued in that Lelouch's faction has the 'Roman Empire' theme going for them.
As the intro implies, Lelouch is aquainted with the seven Vanadis and already has a bit of history with them.
So yes, your eyes don't deceive you, both Fine and Tina are close associates of Lelouch despite being antagonists. Both Lelouch and Valentina make for a perfect scheming pair with long overreaching effects on the story.
I'm not sure whether to continue this incarnation of the story, or whether to modify it into something different. The complication is Tigre's Black Bow and whether or not it is tied to his bloodline, or chooses a successor a random like the Vanadis' Virald. For the time being it remains a oneshot.
If you're interested in seeing me continue this story in its current incarnation, or offer any suggestions, feel free to leave a review. (better yet, go to profile and vote for the 'Code Geass x Lord Markmans & Vanadis' on my poll and any other categories that take your fancy.)