Never Backed Down #Sanya #Killick


Who: Sanya, Lord Oskar Von Essen
With: Killick, an audience of bystanders
Where: The Queen's College, Great Lecture Hall
When: Friday, March 7th, 872 RoK

Sanya had a special place in her heart for Lord Oskar Von Essen--one she wouldn't dare speak of to anyone. Here was a noble who refused be seen as anything other than who he felt he was. Who, when he refused to continue wearing dresses and get married to to the man he'd been betrothed to since birth, was ostracized and still refused to bend or break. He made a name for himself, made his way through the Queen's College on his own merit and hard work, spent his coin wisely, and built himself a fortune before the Von Essen family stopped acting like they were in mourning over the death of their precious daughter and welcomed back their successful son.
He'd been headmaster of the School of Economics for half a decade now, and although Sanya only took as many economics and political policy courses as she needed to supply additional perspectives beyond her family's private tutoring in such matters of rulership, she enjoyed them most when Von Essen was teaching.
He cut a striking figure in his suit where he stood at the podium, a study of a purposefully-constructed outward image. Short-shorn masculine hair, baby-soft naked cheeks, clothes cut in a style that squared his shoulders and narrowed his hips. Masculine, confident, wholly himself.
She could never do that. She was quite comfortable in her femininity. But, being herself, constructing herself so obviously? Who she loved and what she felt, worn out on her sleeve like that? No.
Even if Sanya hadn't arrived early in the lecture hall, she would have had a reserved seat, given her noble heritage. But she sat in the student's section next to Killick, leaning forward in a way that was slightly less than noble, more bad posture she'd learned and embraced as a student. The lecture hall seats were packed full, and standing spectators were crammed in tighter than shoulder-to-shoulder.
"The headmaster certainly draws an audience," she said. "Or, maybe the city is bored and decided to take this as an excuse to get out of the rain?"
But Sanya knew it was the former. The king, mysteriously dead. The storm that raged on. The Royal General and Royal Scholar still sequestered. People wanted to hear something that made some kind of sense--and Von Essen's ideas about the possible economic advantage of de-centralizing and allowing regions to rule themselves had a certain power.


Who: Killick

With: Sanya, Lord Oskar von Essen, an audience of bystanders

Where: the Queen's College, Great Lecture Hall

When: Friday, March 7th, 872 RoK

They were contradictions in so many ways - Sanya leant into the lecture, while Killick sat at attention as though his spine were a steel sword and the bend impossible. The learned behavior was yet another tic added to the repertoire of parts and pieces that made up the man he wanted to be: Someone who belonged here, more even than had simply earned his place.

He almost shushed her.

Almost, the curl present on his lips as they made to bare teeth, but the tsssch! never came. Instead, his gaze was drawn away from the headmaster's speech, brows furrowing as his attention caught on movement in the wings. Guards.

There were plenty of reasons guards could have been coming to a hall this tightly packed. The rain wasn't one of them.

"What's that?" He hissed to her with a jut of his chin, a habit harder to break than so many others he'd worked to beat out of himself. "Royal guards? Why would they be here...?" Maybe to make an announcement? The king had died and so much was still up in the air - some sliver of hope dug into Killick that there would be news to deliver... but even with as many people were packed into the lecture hall, surely a public address was more appropriate?



Sanya looked over in the direction that Killick had indicated. For her, Royal Guards or any of the sort of security that tended to accompany nobility wasn't always something that drew questions so much as it faded into the background. They hadn't quite stood out to her the way they must have to Killick. But now that she saw them, she did have to wonder what they were doing at the Queen's College, and why they were filtering the way they were up through the aisles and toward the presenter's stage. 

"Nothing small," she decided, sitting up straighter, brow furrowed. Something was about to happen. Good or bad, now, that depended entirely on what came next.

Headmaster von Essen stood tall at the podium, seeing his audience more or less settled in, and tapped it twice to signal for silence, and silence immediately fell--even among the standing commoners packed into the back.

"In the time of war, after the werewolves massacred the Fairisle line and left the nation adrift without clear leadership or lines of communication, it only made sense for the next king to be determined by a pair of individuals who best understood the facts surrounding the war--the Royal General and the Royal Scholar," Oskar said, launching into his preamble with ease, relaxed, even if he noticed the Royal Guards making their approach. "This was a time before the Belmonts established so much of our land's current infrastructure and its learning institutions, like this college. Hundreds of years have passed since that time, and we have learned and grown as a nation. We have more than empty larders and traditions and fears of wolves in the night.

"We have knowledge to assess, as a whole people, the wisest course of action," he continued. "Instead of two men who are today admittedly still among the most well-informed making the decision for our nation, instead of blood lines leaving our nation's future to the whims of whatever individual happens to be conveniently born of the right parents at the right time, we could have a committee of voices, each expressing the needs of their regions, all working together to make this vital decision.

"Our options should not be limited to a child prince, a child bride, an unborn baby, a lost princess who could very well be dead."

This was about when the Royal Guards came up to the edge of the stage and their leader said something more or less inaudible from where Sanya and Killick were seated. Lord von Essen stepped away from the podium and turned to the guards to offer a reply, also too soft to be heard, only to step back and audibly project across the auditorium, using no apparent aid beyond its natural amplifying architecture.

"It seems, my good people, that I am being arrested for treason!" he declared with a broad sweep of his arm toward the guards, who began to scramble up onto the stage after him.

Sanya sat up straight now, eyebrows furrowing for a flash before she smoothed out her expression and put on her best mask of nobility. "But, who exactly would order this arrest, when there's no king? One of the dukes and duchesses? This doesn't make sense..."



She wasn't wrong - and neither was his gut when it said this was. As the Headmaster went on, Killick found the creeping, crawling sensation rumbling right beneath his skin getting worse. Maybe it was what he was talking about, building his way toward outright treason as the crowd looked on and the guard drew nearer. Killick's hands itched even as he found them gripping the sides of his desk, all hope for respectable posture abandoned as he leaned in to try and see better what was happening next. What was going on?

And then, Lord von Essen went ahead and spelled it out for them all, and Killick's eyes went wide.

Could he have expected anything else, though? If someone were to question Zaire's claim to his ship, they would be met with swift counter. This didn't seem any different a situation - someone trying to keep power by silencing those who would take it from them.

But Killick had come here to escape that kind of tyranny, hadn't he? And Sanya was right... wasn't she? "Maybe they've done it themselves. The guard," He murmured out of the side of his mouth, a haphazard tilt of his hand indicating the arrest ongoing before them. "Or the General. In a --" He pulled his lower lip briefly between his teeth, brows furrowing for a moment as he sought the word that wasn't mutiny, "In a coup, you have to take out the ones who will make the takeover difficult." Throw them overboard or worse to make a point. To make sure that whoever gets installed next, there's no question that they rule.




For Sanya, everything about this situation felt distant and hypothetical more than it felt really, truly real. She didn't personally have to worry about her status being affected by anything that happened at the King's College. She had the wealth and status to get through pretty much any circumstance that came upon her. She felt cool, calm, faced with a puzzle more than anything else.

Arresting Von Essen risked making enemies of the merchants he dealt with, the guilds, the students, the bankers. Von Essen wasn't the headmaster of the School of Economics for nothing. He had too many connections to just lock into a box, and that meant whoever was making this move either understood the risk and had the power to counter it or didn't really understand the risk at all.

Killick's tension, though, did have a way of transposing itself over into Sanya's calm. He had a different perspective on this, a reasonable perspective for that matter. He had more familiarity with the way that people without a noble safety net might see what was going on right here and now. And he was right. It could be a power grab from lower down the totem pole.

"Gentlemen, gentlemen, and lady knights," Lord Von Essen said, still keeping one step ahead, voice carrying loud across the auditorium. "You misunderstand the nature of this thought exercise. I mean only the greatest honor to the royal crown of Eventyr. It behooves us as a people to be open, reflective thinkers, weighing out the many possibilities before us. Our Queen's College exists in part to study all things and bring new insights to our rulers and to our people. Improving yourself is not treason."

Two guards flanked him and grabbed hold of him, lifting him bodily from the ground to drag him toward the edge of the stage.

"But... if it is, it's still worthwhile," he added. His voice was less clear once he was off the stage. The auditorium had been designed to amplify voices specifically from the stage, not from the area around it.

"If we can figure out where they're taking our headmaster, we can figure out who's behind it," Sanya said, hopping to her feet. She wasn't the only one starting to stand up. Many people around them, students and faculty alike, were rising to their feet and shouting out in protest, confusion, uncertainty, words blended together. "Do you feel up for it? If you're with me, it's an inquiry, not a challenge."

She'd understand if Killick didn't want to go running out of the auditorium onto the streets, searching after their arrested headmaster. With so much uncertainty in the air, and the storm besides, it wasn't exactly the most wise or comfortable thing to do.


In a way, Killick almost couldn't blame the guard. Whoever was driving them to this. Because Lord von Essen's words were a drug, a coy idea presented in such inoffensive words that it was easy to let it crawl up under your skin. Even Killick himself had to wonder if the Headmaster was right...

Of course, the way he was manhandled off the stage didn't help. If someone was that determined to keep the Headmaster's mouth shut - there had to be a good reason.

And yet again, Sanya was right. His nose crinkled, a thoughtful expression as he watched the fear rise across the room - if they stayed here any longer, they'd get swept up into the panic as well, here. They wouldn't learn anything more than they already knew... So he nodded, pushing himself slowly to his feet: "Got to be quiet about it. So no one follows us, either."

Because at least the guard were a known danger - if anyone in this crowd got the bright idea they knew what they were doing, they'd be a liability.