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Really, King Stronghammer, you look fabulous.

When the table was set in order after the meal and everyone had taken their places again, the Queen bid King Brogan Stronghammer to tell hez tale.

Che stood up and said, Like all of you, we in Menkal have played the fool for the arms merchants of Nath, despite our formidable warships which protect our rivers and the coast. At times during the last century we have sailed to campaign against Alodra, the cities of Nath, and even to the shores of Hamar. But for the last twenty years, with only one recent exception, the unfortunate misunderstanding with Count Zelus, we have been at peace with the entire Land We Know. That is why when Telan Blackseed came to me with tidings of Alodra building many pontoons designed to bridge the River Armak, I was not panicked into buying the catapults he was offering to repulse the supposedly immanent attack.

Queen Firegem said, He did offer to sell us the prefabricated pontoons, King Stronghammer, but I was never tempted to buy any of them.

So you said, Your Highness, when I made my state visit here to Atria in the following week, the King said. And thereupon we both knew Telan Blackseed was a liar. Blackseed stiffened at this, but said nothing. With the Queen's permission I passed through Alodra to Markal, and crossed the border to Caph the Saiph League. There I saw some of the finest bottom land I have ever seen, better than around Mizal even, with soil so deep and rich it was nearly black, yet there were no crops, save weeds.

The Republic is largely a manufacturing economy now, said Telan Blackseed with obvious pride, not merely an agricultural one like all the monarchies within the Land We Know.

The King replied, The Saiph League is indeed a manufacturing economy, High Lord Advocate, but it manufactures weapons of war. Solely. Noble ones, let that fact sink in for a moment. Everyone who makes a living in the Saiph League is either employed to make weapons directly, or they support those do. Their livelihood rests on keeping us at each other's throats.

I will tell you what our economy purchases for us, Blackseed countered. In a legal sense even my guards are on the same level as myself, with the same rights and obligations to the state. Can any of you noble born say the same thing about yourself and any one of your servants? A lowly apprentice could rise to attain to my seat on the State Council. Blood counts for nothing in the Saiph League, only ability. The Republic is a meritocracy.

Alodra, too, is a meritocracy, the Queen answered. In the Land We Know the strong govern the weak. This is the pattern ordained by the gods on all the worlds, and if by some fluke your attempt to turn the natural order upside-down has lasted two centuries, it cannot last much longer.

In reply to this Blackseed said, Your Majesty, we of the Saiph League believe that the idea of a self-governing people is so appealing that it will sell itself abroad, without the need to export revolution. We believe people across the entire Land We Know will someday throw off the chains of the noble class and adopt the egalitarian ideals of our Republic.

The Queen smiled at this. Not just individuals but kingdoms, too, may form republics after a fashion, Lord Blackseed. She stood up and raised her voice. I now propose the creation of an entity I choose to call the Union of Kingdoms. Within each individual kingdom, we royals shall maintain our absolute sovereignty. Yet decisions which have an effect outside of our respective borders, such as concluding treaties or going to war, shall be thrashed out in this very council chamber with every kingdom represented.

I second your proposal, Your Highness, said King Brogan Stronghammer, standing up again as well. At this moment consider Menkal and Alodra joined in your Union of Kingdoms precisely as you describe.

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Strangers In Paradise