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Zero Tolerance: Slippery Slope 
4th-Oct-2008 04:57 pm
work, chewing on thumb
Title: Slippery Slope
Author: </a></b></a>diabolicalfiend 
Characters, pairing: DG, The Queen and OCs
Rating: G
Summary: The truth is out.
Warning: post-series
Length: 1564
Disclaimer: Do not own.

Table of Contents

Bernard had to endure DG's wide-eyed look. "But how can you support a policy that you don't believe in?" she asked him.

"Highness, before Her, I had served eleven governments set up by the Queen. If I had believed in all their policies, I would have been passionately committed to keeping out of the Common Market, and passionately committed to going into it. I would have been utterly convinced of the rightness of nationalising moritanium, and of denationalising it, and renationalising it. On capital punishment, I'd have been a fervent retentionist and an ardent abolitionist. I would have been a Keynesian and a Friedmanite, a grammar school preserver and destroyer, a nationalisation freak and a privatisation maniac, but above all, I would have been a stark staring raving schizophrenic!"

DG followed all of that, which was an achievement in itself as rarely did she understand a word that came out of his mouth. It made sense and damned if she didn't learn more from him than all the socio-political studies that Toto forced her through put together. She smiled at him. "Poor Bernard," she remarked, patting him on the shoulder. "But what about Minister Shale? He's already starting to panic."

Bernard waved it off. "Politicians like to panic, they need activity. It's their substitute for achievement." DG laughed again, deciding to like Bernard when he was in one of these moods. "Politicians come and go, Princess, it's the infrastructure that needs working on.The civil servants don't change, even with an evil sorceress in power. She still needs people to do the paperwork."

"Simpler in a despotic regime," DG mused.

"An example where simpler doesn't mean better, Highness."

She nodded absently. "The Ev ambassador's coming," she remarked. They had a meeting that morning. Though it was likely Bernard already knew. That was his job.

"Yes, Highness."

"Know what it's about?"

"As, no doubt, do you."

"How could they find that stuff out?"

"It's a large operation, Highness. There was a leak."

"A leak? In a time of war? Nearly?" she corrected herself.

"As I said: it's a large operation. It was never under our control whether or not it would be leaked. What was in our control, was when."

"You mean, we leaked it ourselves?"

"Common practice, Highness," Bernard replied casually. "It is in our terms. Undoubtedly, the Queen wishes to send a message - further convoys will not be tolerated."

"The Ev or Hawk won't be happy." DG nodded, understanding. "Mother wants us to put up a united front. So I'll be at the meeting."

Bernard nodded. "I've already cleared it from your schedule."

"How long do you think it will take?"

"Shouldn't take too long. There'll be less posturing. It's almost time, Highness."

DG ignored the flash of irritation at Bernard's constant use of her title and stubborn refusal to use her name, realising that it was merely her sudden nervousness wanting to strike out at someone. "Ok." She nodded once to herself and stepped out of her office, Bernard, and the guards outside, stepping in to follow her.

The Great Hall of Receiving was a place that DG avoided if she could help it. It was huge for one thing. Cavernous and echoey, each step she took inside there bouncing off the walls, making her sound like a hundred people. She had to walk some distance to her seat by her mother's side, to the left, as the younger sister, but that was nothing compared to the walking involved when someone was to be 'received'. Took anyone a half hour to walk up there. (Ok, maybe it was more like fifteen minutes.)

Anyway, DG had plenty of time to settle by her mother, give her hand a squeeze and for Bernard to settle into the partially hidden chair behind her, where he could give her his advice should she need it. This was the Queen's show, so that wasn't too likely. Taking up the main Advisor's Chair, to the right hand of Lavender's ear was, of course, Ambrose. DG grinned at him. He quickly returned one of his own before returning to his sombre expression.

Ahamo was just barely lower than his wife, also on the left. Between the two, Azkadellia sat, with Zero in the Advisor's Chair, which was sad, because no one else seemed to be up for the job. Perfectly willing to do secretarial work for her, they didn't want to be seen to be 'advising' her. Zero, naturally, couldn't care less what he was seen doing.

Jeb had taken up the Princess' Consort position, which may have been premature, but he was also head of the Royal Guard so the chair was his. Cain was in the other Queen's Advisor Chair.

The doors opened and steps started to echo inside the room. DG was getting increasing antsy as the troop of people neared them. DG could see the logic of making these guys walk. The entire ruling house was here and if they had weapons, it was damned difficult to get out of here, plus by the time they got into visual range, they would have been exhausted by the walk.

Guards still dotted the room, some ceremonial, lining the corridor and eventually the carpet as the 'received' had reached near the podium. Others were more secretive about their placement, but DG knew they were hiding in the shadows. Plus there was a magic shield in front of the podium. Which DG decided was a Very Good Thing once she saw the look on George Spencer's face.

Once he was in the ceremonial position, he respected the tradition of not speaking until spoken to, but DG could almost telepathically 'hear' the expletives rushing through his head. "What can We do for you, Representative of Ev?" the Queen eventually broke the silence.

Spencer was in no mood for games. "Your Highness. I will make this brief. We know all about the minefield."

It was not completely set out yet, but Lavender nodded. "We understood that you would find out sooner or later," she replied.

"As we see it, you have two choices. Either remove the mines... or we will take this queendom and remove them ourselves."

Lavender let that hang. "We appreciate your directness," she replied carefully. "Now allow us to be equally direct. The mines stay. We will not allow any more Ev reinforcements through the Desert."

"You will not allow!?!" Spencer near snarled.

"You heard me," she confirmed, staying as calm as Spencer was incensed.

Spencer apparently realised that, so changed his tack. He plastered on a smile. "I can see how that can be your first reaction. But you and I are reasonable people, and surely reasonable people can come to some sort of... compromise."

Lavender responded to that with a rise of her eyebrow. "I didn't think Ev believed in 'compromise'."

"It saddens us how deeply you misunderstand us," Spencer replied, a breathless 'disappointment' tinging his voice. "All the Kingdom of Ev wants is to live peacefully with our neighbours."

"Then why the military buildup?" she asked reasonably. "Why the weekly convoys of troops to Hawk's Territory?"

"It's Hawk's People. Don't get me wrong," he added quickly. "I'm pleased to call them allies, but, as you know, they've just been through a terrible upheaval of government. I'm afraid it's left them somewhat... jittery. So they're understandably concerned with ensuring the sovereignty of their borders. And since our pact, their concerns are our concerns."

Lavender smiled coldly. "I would think, by now, you would have more than enough troops to defend Hawk's Territory."

"I may think that and you may think that but Hawk's People..."

"Are 'jittery'?"

Spencer smiled. "You see our dilemma."

"I'm beginning to."

Apparently thrilled with this, Spencer paused to think. "What if we agreed to limit our convoys to cargo trucks, construction units... civilian aid? Things that'll help them get their economy back on its feet. Did you know that when we arrived, children were starving in the capital city? It was heartbreaking."

"Real shock," Cain muttered darkly, out of Spencer's earshot, but not DG's. DG's fingers scratched at the underside of her chair arms.

Lavender apparently chose to ignore Cain's remark. "I had no idea things were so bad," she humoured Spencer.

"Hawk's People are a very proud people. They don't want to admit to outsiders how dire their situation really is." He let echoes of his last statement fade before he spoke up again. "So are we agreed? You remove the mines and we restrict our convoys to medical and economic assistance."

"That sounds reasonable," Lavender agreed. "Naturally, I'll have to discuss it first with my family and advisors."

"Certainly, they would do as the Queen commands," Spencer spoke happily. "For my part, I will personally speak to the King to secure our end of the bargain."

"What about Hawk?" And the puppeteer Sorceress.

"Oh, he'll be furious," Spencer waved it off. "But we've developed something of a rapport and I'm sure he'll soon see the wisdom of our decision."

"We shall leave it in your capable hands," Lavender replied.

Spencer smiled back at her. "You won't be disappointed," he assured her. "This is a momentous day! You and I have taken the first step in creating a lasting peace between our two venerable peoples." Lavender nodded once and Spencer turned around, beginning the long walk out of the Hall.

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