This story takes place just a few months prior to the anime. Several characters are OCs. There is a spoiler regarding the true identity of one character.
A Saturnalia Canticle
By Ivy Rangee (who does not own Last Exile)
The Ivy Keys
On the Frontier of Anatoray
17 Dekembris 3037
First Day of the Feast of Saturnalia
Topsy Turvy Day
Alex Row's Quarters
"But it would mean so much to the crew."
"I never attend."
"Sophia, please, I have no heart for celebration."
"Perhaps, it would divert your attention from your concerns."
"I don't wish to be diverted," said Alex, putting down his quill, and rubbing his eyes.
"Let it go for one night; how can it hurt?"
"Don't you have duties to attend to?"
"I'm off-duty until tomorrow morning, though I'm due in the galley; the officers are serving a traditional Saturnalia dinner to the crew. Won't you reconsider?"
"No. Now leave me in peace."
"Only if you have a celebratory drink with me," replied the first officer, undeterred.
"One of us will be staying sober tonight, and that would be you, Vice Captain."
"Arthur is the duty officer; so pour me a drink."
"Do you promise?" asked Alex, suspiciously.
"You'll leave after one drink?"
"Yes, one drink, and I'll disappear."
Alex pushed his glass toward her. "Two fingers of single malt with ice."
"I have to make the drinks?"
"If you want one you do," said Alex, standing to remove his cape and gloves. He crossed the room, and stowed them in a closet.
"But, Alex, it's Topsy Turvy Day."
"You are a princess; I am a mere captain. I believe you outrank me."
"A very lazy and unscrupulous captain, who invokes my lineage only when it benefits him," said Sophia, placing her hands on her hips. But Alex ignored her protest, returning to his desk and recommencing his log entries which were two weeks behind.
With a shrug of annoyance, Sophia seized his glass, marching to the makeshift bar he'd created on his coffee table. There she plopped unceremoniously onto the couch, pouring them each a drink.
"Your drink is served, Captain."
Retrieving a small oval picture frame from his desk drawer, Alex joined her, settling in an easy chair and gazing out his oval window as the first stars appeared in the quickly darkening sky. Sophia took the opportunity to make a series of rude faces at him, ending her silent tirade by sticking her tongue out.
"You realize I can see your reflection in the window, Vice Captain."
"What will you do, throw me in the brig?"
"You scoff, but just keep up this insubordinate behavior and see what happens. Sticking your tongue out at a superior officer during wartime - I believe the penalty under old maritime code calls for walking the plank."
"And how will you explain that to my father, Captain Row?" asked Sophia, handing him his drink.
"Condolences, Your Royal Majesty, but your daughter loved the occasional night time stroll on the upper deck. Unfortunately she was also exceedingly vain, always refusing to wear her spectacles. Thus it was, she tripped on an unsecured mooring and over the edge. We're all lost without her," said Alex, taking the glass with the hint of a smile.
"You will have to do better. That excuse will never hold up; you know very well I wear glasses only to disguise my identity. It was your idea."
"I know that, but your father doesn't," replied Alex, leaning back and resting his boots on the table.
"You're such a conniving bully."
"Conniving, perhaps, but a bully? Never. I loathe attention."
"True, you prefer to skulk about in the shadows."
"Whenever possible. The shadows are just more interesting."
"I shall haunt you until your dying day."
"You know I believe you. For all your seeming benevolence, you are still the same spoiled, obnoxious, chubby, ill-mannered, annoying child you were the day you boarded the Silvana. I believe all of my efforts to mold you into a person worthy of the throne have failed."
"Who are you calling chubby?"
Alex guffawed despite his best efforts at suppression.
"You laughed," said Sophia, pointing at him. "Don't shake your head; I heard you. I made you laugh."
"I'd hardly call it a laugh – a chuckle at the most. I'm trying to impress your shortcomings upon you, and the one you mentioned is the least important."
"So you noticed?"
"I bulked up; and you noticed."
"Sophia, I did not notice."
"Tatiana and I have started an extreme weightlifting regime. Would you like to feel my bicep? It's quite hard."
"Maybe, later, after another drink. Speaking of Wisla, did you ask her to report to me before taking her leave?"
Alex lifted his drink and chugged it, and then, handing it to Sophia, he nodded to the ancient bottle of single malt on the table.
"How many, Sir?"
"Better make it three fingers, lots of ice."
"No, how many drinks have you had?"
"A vice captain may not, under any circumstances, slander her captain as a liar, even if it's true. I'm sure that's covered somewhere in the chivalric code of useless bullshit."
"You cursed, Sir, that means you've had at least three. You promised not to drink in excess."
"Bullshit is not a curse; it's more properly an oath. You know, Sophia, you're beginning annoy me more than usual."
"Splitting hairs between a curse and an oath - that sounds like four, possibly five, drinks. Why don't you have the normal symptoms of drunkenness?"
"It's the curse of the Rows."
"Have the visions returned, Alex?" asked Sophia, her tone turning serious.
"I don't believe you. You're lying and self-medicating. Then when your condition becomes severe you'll take some extreme, bizarre action."
"The treatment holds," said Alex, raising his voice in irritation. "It's Topsy Turvy Day, Vice Captain, I have reason to drink alone."
"You should never drink alone; it's a sign of addiction. Make this the last one."
Alex stood and bowed, "As you command, Your Majesty. Well, it's been fun, but I the galley calls, Your Highness."
"There is no reason to mock me. When your symptoms return, you must seek treatment. We are on the brink of a major offensive, and your skills are needed. You cannot risk an irrational episode on the bridge."
"Sophia! Do not presume to tell me what I need."
"Let me search your desk."
"You will not!"
"If I fine draughts or needles…"
"If you touch my things I'll have you thrown off my ship."
"You cannot; you are bound by your oath to Marius."
"I have a license; I am bound by no one."
"Alex, it is my duty to keep you healthy; please do not make me the villain."
"Am I the only one who remembers what day it is?" whispered Alex.
"Are you losing your mind? We just talked about it. Everyone is preparing for…" Sophia paused, gasping.
Turning away from her, Alex stalked to the window, and leaned his forehead against the chilly pane. "No one remembers her."
"Oh Gods, Alex, I'm so sorry. I forgot; today was her birthday."
"Is her birthday," Alex corrected.
"Of course, 'is her birthday', and I haven't forgotten Euris." Sophia went to him and placed her hand on his back. "She's my cousin, and very dear to me."
"She is my wife."
"Let's drink to her, cousin."
Sophia rubbed his back, but he shrugged her hand away.
"To Euris Apollonia Junia Bassianus Row," said Sophia.
"Euris," said Alex, touching his glass to Sophia's.
"Forgive my blunder, cousin. I understand how difficult this day must be for you."
"You've forgotten her."
"Life goes on, Alex."
"Yes, a valiant soldier, wife, daughter, and mother-to-be is lost in the line of duty – but it's a trifle - life goes on."
"Alex…that is not what I meant."
"Have I cast a pall on your fun, Sophia? Run along; I prefer to mourn alone."
"Captain Row, you underestimate me."
"Do I, Princess Sophia?"
As the two glared at each other someone knocked on the door.
"Enter," said Alex, walking to the other side of the room, where he stood with his arms folded. Sophia walked to the window and did the same.
"Captain Alex, you wished to see me?"
"Indeed, Wing Commander Wisla. You are leaving for home?"
"Are you taking a heavy transport?"
"The Vice Captain said I could use one."
"May I ask a favor?"
"Of course, Sir."
"Would you be willing to drop something to my sister at Tereine Estate?"
"It's on the way, Captain."
"Please deliver this to Lady Hestia; no one else," said Alex, handing her a message tube.
"It is always a pleasure to see your sister."
"There are also two boxes for my nephews."
Alex went to his closet and brought out two small treasure chests. They were labeled in his scratchy script: one to James and the other to Peter. Both carried the admonition – do not open until Sigillaria.
"You need not worry, Sir. They're as good as delivered. The joys of the season to you, Captain Alex – Sophia."
"And you," replied Sophia.
"Thank you, Wing Commander Wisla."
Alex crossed the room to Sophia and took her glass from her.
"Alex, her birthday slipped my mind."
Walking to the door, Alex ignored her. "Good evening, Vice Captain. I'll expect the re-provisioning of the Ivy Keys depots to commence tomorrow at zero nine hundred, and I'll want hourly updates of the situation on the ground ... in writing."
"But, Alex, this is a covert mission."
"You will destroy your reports after I've read them."
Sophia walked to the door and touched his hand. "Yes, of course, Captain."
He seemed to relent with a small smile, but then, pulling his hand away, he pushed her out the door.
"Will you meet with Nikator?" asked Sophia.
"Yes, if he's available."
"Captain!" Alex looked down the passageway to see his chief mechanic striding toward him.
"The cargo's arrived."
"Wait ten minutes, and then bring it to my quarters. Use the catwalk."
"Aye, Captain Alex."
Sophia circled around Alex and back into his quarters. Leaning against the open door, Alex stared in frustration at the ceiling.
"Have all my lessons in discretion failed?" asked Alex, as he closed the door.
"Don't deflect; what or who have you brought aboard?"
"Sophia, if you wish to be a savvy ruler, you will have to learn when to mind your own business."
"I am vice captain…"
"Stop! I'm not interested in listening to one of your self-righteous lectures. On the Silvana, I alone rule."
"The Silvana is a ship in the Emperor's fleet. As such you are subject to…"
"I am licensed as a one man fleet; as such I have free reign to do as I choose with the Silvana which belongs to me and the crew, not to the Emperor. I'm subject to no one's orders or expectations as you well know."
"That may be true but…"
"Do not act in this manner when you are Empress. It is overbearing in the extreme. A good ruler gathers information surreptitiously. Then there is no need to drag the private matters of her subjects into the public sphere."
Sophia looked at him sheepishly. "Of course, Alex, everyone has right to privacy. I never had any until I boarded the Silvana; if anyone should understand it is I."
Alex opened the door and waved her out with a slight bow. "I believe they await you in the galley, Your Majesty."
"Would you like dinner brought to your quarters?"
"Yes, dinner for three. Have Ensign Hawes bring it up."
"But Alex, it's Topsy Turvey Day."
Alex glared at her.
"When would you like Ensign Hawes to deliver it?"
"Twenty hundred, with a bottle of the best red we have."
"And Sophia, have maintenance prepare the cabin next to mine for two visitors."
"Indeed, now go along, and don't disturb me unless it's a matter of life or death."