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Old August 9, 2018, 02:44 AM   #1 (permalink)
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[ZA] I'm on a quest of which I know I can never fail [Mimesis]

Summera, Era XXV Post Fractum

In the end, Sliucha managed to figure out a use for the old Apothecarion building, which had mostly gone untouched since the move to the larger Moonstone Academy. Her governor's office was rather unconventional in that it was the seat for the Academy as well - combining the head doctor, headmaster, and governor positions all in one place. It probably wasn't the best way to do things, but with all of the responsibilities that she juggled, at the moment it certainly made things a little easier. Maybe one day the job of running the province would warrant a proper governor's palace or something, but for now she had her little place tucked onto the second floor of the Academy's main building.

Still, for what she wanted to do, that sort of location didn't seem like it would cut it. What Sliucha had hoped for was something akin to a mass public audience, where the citizenry could bring her petitions, tell her of their troubles, and she could see about sorting things out where possible. After all, with so much bureaucracy in place, it could be difficult to get her attention. It seemed like a good idea, every now and again, to be able to directly talk to people like this! The main issue being that all of the foot traffic that it might generate could clog the systems at the Academy.

That wasn't good for a hospital. People died because of that.

So why not hold it at the Apothecarion instead? It was decently roomy, nobody had business here anyway. The reception on the first floor could handle the inflow of traffic, there were built-in waiting rooms, and when it was somebody's turn they could ascend up to the second floor where Sliucha had set up an impromptu office / meeting space. It seemed like a plan! So, preparations were made and the call was sent out.

Governor hearings, starting now!
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Old August 16, 2018, 08:19 PM   #2 (permalink)
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News that the Stewart-Governor was going to be holding hearings spread pretty quickly. By the time Sliucha got ready and got comfortable, the bureaucrats already had a list of names going and the first floor of the Apothecarion was beginning to teem with a diverse crowd of folks of all shapes, colours, sizes, and, naturally, pocketbook-depths.

It was the last that determined order of precedence for entry to the Stewart-Governor (the bureaucrats clearly knew what they were doing) and the first to gain entry to the second floor were a group of the more prominent and wealthy residents of ZA. Sliucha would likely recognize most of them. They were led by Nelda Oyatami, one of the leading stakeholders in the coliseum business - or suite of businesses, really, since there were a number of side-elements that all came together to make the grand coliseum the success it was.

Anyway, Miss Nelda Oyatami had a particularly keen eye for who would be the next coliseum champion and a flair for dramatic pairings in the arena. Even now there was a set of extra-large and very nice looking bodyguards/gladiators (if one liked the super-muscly, broken-nosed type look, that is) standing just a few steps behind and to the side of her - separate from the rest of the businessmen of course but still... there.

"Stewart-Governor Sindosa." Miss Oyatami politely curtseyed. The group behind her followed suit, and then there was a certain degree of milling around as everyone waited to be introduced and acknowledged in turn.
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Old August 17, 2018, 01:12 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Ahhhh. Well, Sliucha could understand why things had been lined up so that the people with the greatest reputations and deepest pockets were the ones that were being given priority in this sort of thing. It didn't mean she had to like it, of course, and she certainly hoped that this didn't mean that everybody else was getting ignored. Well, she'd do her best to make sure that everybody got a fair shake at talking with her.

She'd need to figure out exactly how regular she wanted something like this. It was the first real time they were doing something like this, so there was plenty of stuff to iron out. For now? Wing it!

For now, the setup was simple enough. Sliucha had a nice big desk in front of her that had tons of reference forms and documents for her to pull from. In front of that was a space where somebody could stand if they wished to speak and address her, and then a multitude of chairs behind that if it was a big group or something - or, well, if some people wanted to sit. That was more likely for a group of people, sure. If somebody wanted to sit while talking with Sliucha, more of a 1-1 situation, they'd probably be better suited pulling a chair up to the desk itself.

Anyway! For the sake of appearances Sliucha had her dorin bodyguards flanking the table to, you know, make it look like she was important and such. There was a polite nod of her head as she was greeted by Miss Oyatami. Introductions were made, and Sliucha idly scratched on a piece of parchment everybody who had come. Look at her, being all professional. She was actually going to take notes and everything! She felt like a proper Steward-Governor.

"Miss Oyatami, and everybody else, thank you very much for taking time out of your day to come speak with me," Sliucha noted, looking up once she was done with her initial notetaking. "Please proceed with the matter that has brought you here today."
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Old August 18, 2018, 08:00 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Yes, given no specific orders, Sliucha could be fairly sure - even if there was no hard evidence to prove it - that there was a certain amount of... negotiating going on that involved people's names being moved up and down the list. Everyone was on it, of course, but nobody had said anything about where in the list people were supposed to be listed. So unless the Stewart-Governor were going to mandate specifics, that's what was going to happen.

As Sliucha greeted Miss Oyatami and her entourage, they all came and sat on the chairs provided - with the exception of their own guards, of course, who took up flanking positions at a polite, not-too-intrusive distance.

"Thank you, your Excellency. We wished to discuss a small matter of safety with you - a precautionary measure, really, but with the city ever expanding under your good leadership, those of us who live in the Central District have been sensing certain challenges to keeping our neighbourhoods quiet and decent. So we thought - to take the bull by the horns - that we could establish a neighbourhood watch to help keep the peace. Using our own pooled resources, naturally."

Miss Oyatami flicked a finger back to where her guards/gladiators stood. Obviously, one wasn't to expect the likes of Miss Oyatami herself to patrol the streets.
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Old August 19, 2018, 12:40 AM   #5 (permalink)
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Mhmm. Ahuh.

"Miss Oyatami, you are absolutely free, alongside your colleagues, to form your own unofficial neighborhood watch if you wish," Sliucha spoke. That was to say, so long as they didn't cause any undue trouble? It was only natural for people to want to protect their assets. "That being said, has the city watch been insufficient in protecting public order, in your opinion? They are, after all, supposed to be responsible for this."

Sliucha's exact relation with the local city guards had always been strange. Kael had been the Commander in charge of them. They hadn't listened to her when she was the Aedile, because she wasn't the Commander. When she'd declared herself lieutenant governor, they hadn't listened much to her then, either. Now? Well, Steward-Governor by order of the High Prince himself, so they were a bit... a bit nicer, sure. Still. Kind of awkward.
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Old August 21, 2018, 10:05 PM   #6 (permalink)
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A slight shuffling of feet and a settling in chairs greeted Sliucha's favourable pronouncement. That... hadn't been very difficult, had it? "Thank you, your Excellency," Miss Oyatami replied graciously, and there were a few murmured "thank yous" from around her as well.

As far as Sliucha's own question, however... the other lady's lips pursed slightly as she mulled it over. "Well, insufficient might be... a bit harsh. And certainly, there are areas of the city where a bit of rowdiness is only to be expected - and really, is a part of the Ziel Aerca atmosphere that outsiders have come to expect." She paused. "But we have noticed the rowdiness encroaching at times onto areas of the city where that type of presence is undesirable, that much is true."

"It's all those newcomers from out east... coming here, thinking this is some frontier town like Melodia. No respect." Rumbled a fellow who sat a few seats over from Miss Oyatami with a glower obviously directed at those sorry thrill-seeking easterners rather than Sliucha herself.
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Old August 22, 2018, 02:19 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Sliucha usually did her best not to be difficult about things.

Well, the matter at hand hadn't been difficult. It was the followup that seemed to be just a little bit more complicated. It seemed like there was a bit of friction between the "long-timers" and the "new blood" inside of the city, which frankly Sliucha thought was rather silly considering the fact that Ziel Aerca, in and of itself, was such a new place. Perhaps it was just a matter of the fast pace with which life seemed to be lived in Moonstone. Even if the city had barely been around for five years, those who had entrenched themselves early on considered themselves practical veterans. And for good reason, too, as those who had come in early on certainly hadn't had an easy time riding out the troublesome waves that Ziel Aerca had experienced.

For one, they'd been in Centripax to begin with, you know?

Ultimately, Sliucha decided not to engage on it. No need to make things awkward, even if Ziel Aerca was a frontier... well, maybe not town, but certainly a frontier city. Moonstone was a frontier province. At least in comparison to the more established lands further out east.

"I will ensure that the city watch is noted of the issue and investigates properly," Sliucha noted. "Please see to it that your 'local watch' takes appropriate action should there be any incidents, and inform the city guard appropriately." If Sliucha got word that this was simply a matter of thugs bullying people? Well, she'd have to re-open this matter and have some words with those involved.

Still, she'd try to appeal to their better nature. "Do your best to be patient if possible in these cases, however. Do remember that much of the influx stems from those whose lives were uprooted and destroyed in the aftermath of the Xet Invasion. They have lost everything, and have come here seeking the opportunity to rebuild. It may simply take them some time to acclimate to their new reality."
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Old August 27, 2018, 08:13 PM   #8 (permalink)
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Sliucha's lengthier stipulations resulted in a few nods here and there, and a raised eyebrow from Miss Oyatami. "Naturally, we will liaise with the city guard when necessary." The woman sounded as if that went without saying. "We will be mindful. Ziel Aerca is the sum of its many.. disparate parts." Indeed. There was a bit less obvious agreement on that last statement, however, if Sliucha were to go by the response of the whole party rather than just Miss Oyatami's statement. Disparate parts and newcomers were all well and good, and on the one hand were very good for the economy, but, after all.... R.E.S.P.E.C.T.!

Scrappy and egalitarian (in some ways) ZA's roots might be, but human nature - the nature of all sentient beings, really - was only occasionally scrappy, and not at all egalitarian.

Still, despite a few lingering issues, it looked like the big questions had been resolved and a plan that was to everyone's liking had been agreed upon.

Unless Sliucha had something else to say, then, or wished to press the issue further at this time, it seemed as if it was time for Miss Oyatami and her retinue to make the usual leave-taking formalities and make room for the next down on the list.
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Old August 28, 2018, 09:52 PM   #9 (permalink)
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Very well then! Sliucha would make a note to check up in some time to see how Miss Oyatami's little venture was going, otherwise, it seemed like this first session was over.

Have a sip of tea, shuffle some papers around... wait for the next set! Or the next person, however it worked.
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Old September 10, 2018, 03:46 PM   #10 (permalink)
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The next ones on the list were a pair, actually, and at first (given the way the list worked) they might be surprising pair - neither one looked particularly wealthy, or in any way out of the ordinary at all, in fact. Just a regular middle-aged husband and wife, the former looking to be fully human, the latter with the darker skin of a westerner but the fine-boned features and body structure of an elf - something of a racial "mutt", in other words.

"Your Excellency," the man spoke as the pair approached, bowed/curtsied, and made themselves comfortable. "My name is Tom Ross, and this is my wife, Navia Al-Inbar Ross. We requested an audience with you in hopes of getting permission to set up a proper home for our organization, a chapter of the Hands of Faith."

"You might not know of us - pardon, your Excellency -" Navia broke in as her husband finished, apparently too wound up to just leave it at that for the moment - "but if I may explain, we are worshippers of Mercy but really a charitable institution, fostering donations to the poor and tending to them... providing them with shelter, or at least that's what we hope to do, with your permission. We have the support of a number of prominent local businessmen, which is allowing us this hope to expand into a proper organization." She beamed up at Sliucha, incidentally also likely explaining why they'd been able to get in second. Perhaps some of those "businessmen" were the very ones who had been in the hall not a few minutes before.
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Old September 10, 2018, 11:45 PM   #11 (permalink)
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The next people to meet Sliucha were a bit of a surprise at first, but the more they talked, the less surprised Sliucha got. Well, wasn't this complicated? But she should have expected this sort of thing to happen eventually. Shei'yein had never been much a fan of religion and had always been against the idea of a state religion. He hadn't allowed the Church of Faith a presence in Moonstone, for instance. Granted, it did hurt in some ways - the Church did provide services beyond merely ones of faith, after all. Sliucha didn't intend on changing things too much anytime soon, though.

There was just a bit of... flexibility in how she applied it was all. Naturally it didn't apply to her, after all, her Alithean operations were all state-approved! Namely because she'd shown Shei'yein the figures involved in running her operation, and all the zeroes from revenue and profit? All taxed accordingly, naturally. It was a matter of weighing the pros and the cons, after all, and while some faiths had too many cons? Sliucha's had managed to pragmatically win over, if not the approval of the High Prince? Then at least his tolerance.

Rules could be bent. Faith was a powerful thing, and one could only suppress it for so long. It was merely a matter of ensuring that the avenues of faith provided were, ahem, state approved. On the surface, it did all sound rather good, didn't it? Speaking of which, hm, Mercy?

"Aedaan, you mean?" Sliucha asked, the name popping into mind. She felt like Shei'yein had been involved there, somehow. What had that been about, again? It had been a while, she didn't quite remember. The Hands of Faith... despite the name, though, Sliucha wondered how their relationship with the Church of Faith proper might have been. Probably not too great, considering how the Church viewed Diana, after all. It was probably rather complicated.

"Might I ask how you got the support of these local businessmen, and what that support entails?" Sliucha continued. "If you have that, how necessary is my assistance in this matter?"
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Old October 4, 2018, 03:46 PM   #12 (permalink)
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Yes, indeed, Your Excellency! We are followers of the Aedaan, Bringer of Mercy." Navia answered, beaming at Sliucha in satisfaction - the planetar was still a relatively new deity, after all, and not everyone would have been able to place her correctly.

Tom had also relaxed slightly, and answered Sliucha's follow up question with a lot less nervousness than he'd been speaking with at first: "It's a bit of a long story... you see, my cousin is a trusted business associate of Master Cassanave here in the city, who owns that livery in the central district and trades in horses - and he told us about the many opportunities here... as well as the desperate need of many for services such as ours. So when we were looking to move, we decided to come here, and my cousin was happy to introduce us to Master Cassanave. We had been running a similar house of mercy in Imperia, but left it to help the refugee crisis... and with the crisis over, had been looking out for a similar spot where we might be of the most use."

"Master Cassanave and a few of his friends set us up with a small apartment in Malian Kame and provide us with regular donations from which we tend to the poor and the destitute. And those who are suitable we try to refer back as potential employees. But now that we are better known we desperately need more room, and would like to set up a proper chapel as well, so that our wealthier patrons can see for themselves the source of all our beneficial activity... however, when I floated this idea to Master Cassanave, he suggested that we refer the matter to you, both for... more official support for the chapel -" the lack of an organized Church presence had not gone unnoticed in the city, clearly - "And to see if such an institution could be appropriately zoned."

Navia, as always, provided a more helpful explanation of her husband's last and rather delicately phrased request: "As an organization for charity, rather than a business, we would like to be exempt from the regular taxes, Your Excellency."

So there it was. A very lengthy story with a very blunt point.
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Old October 4, 2018, 10:13 PM   #13 (permalink)
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Ahaaaaaaa~.

Smugness from Sliucha's impression of religious organizations fitting exactly the lowly motivations of the pair notwithstanding (the governor did a very good job of keeping a calm and placid face), she carefully considered the request before her. Truth be told, this was really the worst possible combination when it came to how the request could have been made of her. She had tiptoed around Shei'yein's hostility by ensuring that her own religious activities generated a profit - and tax revenue - for the province. Now she was faced with a situation where a religious organization, charitable and benevolent as it may have been, was actively attempting to do exactly the opposite.

And of course a chapel was just absolutely needed for this sort of thing. There was always some icon of wealth that was required, regardless of the mercy or the humility or the charity that seemed to be preached. The question was whether this was a matter of corruption that could be turned in Sliucha's favor, or whether she'd need to take a hardline stance in enforcing the official writ of the land.

"My predecessor was quite firm in his distaste for these matters," Sliucha began to explain, just to help set up the context for Tom and Navia. It was strictly a matter of authority. Shei'yein would have never tolerated the Church's influence it held over individuals. The people were to be loyal to the Prince above all else, but faith and religion tended to be able to hold precedence when present. "It is why you will find no chapel to the Church of Faith here, for instance. The High Prince was a very secular individual. It's why a chapel for the Hands of Faith would be quite a hard sell, particularly if there will be any proselytizing."

"I am admittedly a little more... lenient," she noted, eyeing up the both of them. "Flexible. Understanding. I believe a place can be earned in Moonstone for those of your kind. It is simply a matter of... benefit. If the province can gain something from your presence, then a degree of tolerance is permissible." She steepled her fingers in front of her. "Your charity work has gotten you one step in the door. I'm willing to at least listen to you. But if you aren't going to pay taxes, then you'll need to find some other ways to show me that you'll be useful to me, and to Moonstone."

She had some suggestions of her own, of course, but she wanted to see what they might be able to come up with on their own.
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Old October 9, 2018, 09:23 PM   #14 (permalink)
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The husband and wife's faces noticeably fell as Sliucha plowed forward, outlining the Prince's general approach to religious organizations and his personal beliefs. While there were lots of folks who had little serious connection with the Church or with places of worship, out-and-out secularism was still downright strange. Not only were the gods powerful beings who made their presence known, but the institutions which claimed to be the main conduits to the gods - in this case, the Church of the Faith - were powerful. Personal practice and institutional adherence didn't necessarily need to overlap - and didn't, in many respects - for both to nevertheless be strong forces in the day to day lives of ordinary people.

Tom and Navia had obviously known at least a bit of the story, but hearing it from a direct source was still on a different level entirely.

"Gain something?" Tom repeated weakly, not so much outraged as kind of... shocked. It was clear that he'd never expected that question - maybe never even thought of things in such bald, transactional terms, even though if one actually studied what he and his wife had been doing it clearly wasn't just a bleeding-heart one-way meal ticket that they'd been handing out, either.

It was Navia, again, who stepped into the breach after a prolonged moment of silence. "But we already do provide a social service," she insisted, not necessarily willing for Sliucha to characterize their mission as "giving out free stuff". "We help those who otherwise might turn to a life of crime off the streets; surely that is a benefit for the whole city." And getting a bit fired with the theme, now that she'd begun: "And we do make every effort to identify those who can work and vouch for them with our patrons, who gain reliable workers thankful for any sort of work at all. Turning potential criminals into law-abiding - and tax-paying - working citizens, " she pointed out, raising a finger triumphantly. "Everyone deserves a second chance."

"That is the golden rule of the Bringer of Mercy." Tom nodded affirmatively, gaining heart along with his wife's speech.

Was that convincing? Obviously Tom and Navia had convinced themselves, but... well, they hadn't needed much (or any) convincing to begin with. Question was, what about Sliucha?
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Old October 10, 2018, 01:37 AM   #15 (permalink)
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Shei'yein had always been the sort of person to do his own thing, regardless of other people. If Sliucha had to guess, it was a matter of power and authority once more. No god could tell Shei'yein what to do, and the same could be said of their mortal institutions on Telath. Granted, there were definitely many issues that came along with such a stance, as said institutions definitely did not appreciate the sentiment, one would imagine. It probably helped quite a bit that Moonstone was so far away from the usual centers of religious activity - the Church of Faith was a monolithic entity but Vesta was but a distant thought. But proximity wasn't everything. Northumbria had resisted the influence of the Church despite being right next door, and at the same time, the reach of the Church went beyond simple physical presence.

Education.

It was something Sliucha had planned on tackling soon. With the Church's stranglehold on most avenues of education, Moonstone needed a firm plan for how exactly to tackle that problem. It was going to be an uphill battle any way they did it, if they weren't going to rely on the Church - and quite frankly, as an Alithean and all, Sliucha preferred that they not get any more of a foothold in the province than necessary. Beyond that, of course, was the simple fact that the Chuch simply remained the dominant denomination in the Empire. True enough, the people that came to Ziel Aerca were usually a different sort, but the influx of refugees had likely brought along more conventional and orthodox faith and beliefs as well.

It was a thorny, tricky issue. Just like most of politics.

"Why couldn't I just invest in a state service that does the same, without the religious connotations?" Well, the government already did some limited charity work, primarily in the style of public works projects to try and drive down unemployment. With their resources admittedly relatively scarce, there wasn't all that much to go around for the more downtrodden of society. Sliucha wouldn't mention this, however, in hopes of driving her point home. The Hands of Faith weren't strictly needed if that's all they wanted to do. She knew that there were obvious benefits, in that they had an existing infrastructure and were likely able to draw on interprovincial resources that Moonstone itself might not be able to acquire, of course - but she preferred to try and squeeeeeeeze.

"It sounds like you run into quite the number of individuals with your charity work," Sliucha mused, seeing if she couldn't sway the pair in a direction more to her liking. "And information can be very valuable. Let's say you do save potential criminals and turn them into law-abiding citizens. What about those who don't quite make it? Would you be willing to pass along any information you acquire, any rumors, on persons of interest in criminal cases? Provide forewarning to the town watch if you hear anything of value? Serve as yet another pair of eyes out on the streets, helping protect the city from those who might do it harm?"

Who would suspect a charity of providing an information network for the state?
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