10: Let's Begin

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Princess Evangelina Romuli-Drausus inspected the crowd before her with a flutter of apprehension as silence brewed. She perceived the Court Ministers, Sub-Senates and other officiates which customarily convoyed the Excelian Royal Court and the Grand Elder Council.

The Grand Elders showed no reaction to her story, all twelve heads remained neutral from their seats evenly divided upon either side of the King and Queen, unlike the others who'd gasped or muttered beneath their breaths in astonishment and fear, leaving the King to command silence. His expression like the Queen's was difficult to read. She wasn't used to such lack of emotion especially from them.

General Goran Dragor-Ignatius convened beneath the sovereigns, with the other Generals of their assigned divisions: Legionnaires and Cavaliers. Then either side of them, sat their high-ranking sub-commanders and lieutenants before blending with administrative aristocratic Regalis and their nominated Caligati.

Grand Elder Michalis observed her with a blank expression, and he asked, "How do you know the Xzandians had help?" There was no trace of scepticism in this voice but rather intrigue.

"The way the Capital city was taken. It was too fast, too efficient and too well-planned to be a frontal assault. They knew where our weaknesses were and when to exploit them. The attack was executed by people I and my family had trusted. They betrayed us without hesitation."

"What do you think Goran?" Grand Elder Syphree Quintus-Byzantine asked, a beautiful middle-aged woman, with a tone both gentle and withered from time, betraying the detached expression upon her face. Her blue eyes tapered on the man below her and to her right.

"They didn't betray you princess. It was much worse than that. You had something they needed, and desperately wanted. Betrayal implies they were your allies from the start but from where I'm standing, they were never your allies. You shouldn't feel the pain of betrayal but rather anger at their deceit." Goran replied, distantly and without hesitation.

Syphree sighed, her cool detached expression vanished along with the other Grand Elders, as she placed a thin pale fist beneath her chin. A gesture which lengthened her wavy chestnut hair, expelling it further over her thin shoulders cladded in the uniform of the Grand Elders escaping from the elegantly braided bun on her head before she pointedly regarded the Centurion General with a firm frown. "When I had asked for your input, I didn't expect you to be harsh."

Before Goran could respond. Evangelina uttered, "It's okay. He's right, no matter how much I don't want to accept it." The room fell quiet once more before the Queen's voice cut through the silence. Her blue eyes detached, and her brows furrowed in thought as she paused the holographic screen that replayed the images of the coup while Evangelina filled in the pieces.

"That he is. Your energy is better suited to aiding us and taking back your Reserve. However, I'm curious . . . of all the information we've been given, why did the neighbouring countries not aid or shelter you?"

"I think it had to do with their resources, military power and the safety of their people. I don't believe they turned me away out of spite. As I had mentioned before, they were kind enough to allow me an escort until I arrived here even if none of them had survived."

"That's a long journey," the King added. "Especially without any use of the teleportation pads."

"It was safer that way, my brother and the Grand Elders believed the streams were being monitored and I had to take extra precautions," Evangelina declared.

"And your brother Prince Asana hadn't been conspiring against your parents or the Grand Elders?" he asked, as he had once before. Evangelina knew he was re-confirming her words for the records.

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