"Lady Muiyn, please take a seat." Her host indicated a comfortably upholstered chair of Imperial manufacture.
"Thank you, Ambassador." Muiyn swept her ankle length skirts to one side and sat. The entire office was very Imperial, possibly to remind any local visitors exactly who the ambassador was representing. "I take it that you’ve had correspondence from His Imperial Majesty to expect me?"
"I did," he affirmed. "Usually those sorts of letters cross my desk about young men hoping to make a name for themselves. You'll excuse me, I hope, if I say that your gender is not the only thing that makes you different from most of them?"
"Not at all," acknowledged Muiyn. "I have a name, and a position at Court that I hope will be unique for many years to come, the Divine Powers being willing."
"Yes, indeed," agreed the Ambassador gravely. "I have tried to impress upon our hosts here that the person of a Late Emperor's Living Witness is the equivalent of close blood relative of His Imperial Majesty, but the nuances of the political, cultural and religious ramifications are difficult to convey. Speaking of religion, the last letter I received told me that you had married in a wedding officiated at by His Holiness in Moskva. There seemed to be an error in the letter because it refers to your husbands as being Uralic Knights?"
"Yes, I have four husbands. Yes, they are all Uralic Knights." Muiyn smiled briefly. "I believe that there was an exchange of letters, while I was in the field, between His Holiness and His Imperial Majesty in which they amused themselves by discussing my welfare. Apparently, His Holiness suggested that as I seemed to get on well with the knights he had provided as my escorts, they would make suitable consorts. His Imperial Majesty agreed, and when we returned to Moskva His Holiness conducted the ceremony with our ambassador there as one of the formal witnesses." She added reflectively, "Both of my grandmothers feel their right to find a husband for me has been infringed upon, but they can hardly complain in the circumstances."
"Indeed," agreed the Ambassador. "Now that you're here, I've arranged a meeting for us with the Warlord Xhou Miang who is responsible for the Dependency that includes Wuxiang. Do you require any of your husbands to accompany you?"
"Is Warlord Xhou the sort of person who would be impressed by me coming to the meeting with four armed men?" Muiyn added, "Or will they want assurance that I'm a respectable person who's not about to encourage foolish behaviour or make a play for the richest elderly widower in town?"
"Please, the richest elderly widower in the capital is Zuhing Taomin and he was probably a cause of death for his last six wives. Anyone trying to steer you away from him would be trying to do you a favour." The ambassador smiled. "I think an armed attendant, possibly two, would be an excellent thing to have at our meeting with Warlord Xhou. No need to introduce them as your husbands, but it would impress the Warlord and his staff with your dignity and give you two extra eyes and ears in the room."
Muiyn queried gently, "Me but not us?"
"They are Uralic Knights," pointed out the ambassador. "Their first loyalty, not counting your marital bond, is to His Holiness, not His Imperial Majesty."
"I agree," replied Muiyn. "As long as I never do anything against His Holiness' or Muscovy's interests, I see no problems there. If for some reason I did do something against those interests, I'm not sure what they would do. Lock me in our rooms and pray about it, perhaps? That would be better than some of the possibilities."
"I understand the Uralic Knights to be men of action," noted the ambassador. "Armed men of action, but also men of great personal integrity."
Muiyn smiled briefly. "I certainly hope so." Then she smiled again and this time there were dimples, "I must ask them if any of them speak any of the languages of the Dependencies. If we're going to have extra ears in the room, I hope we can gain more advantage than might be expected from it."
"Warlord Xhou likes to conduct asides with his staff in Fuhang," noted the ambassador. "It's an official language but relatively obscure - it only has several million speakers."
"I will particularly ask whether any of them speak Fuhang," noted Muiyn.
"It would be useful," replied the ambassador. "We both know that His Imperial Majesty means no ill towards the Dependencies, but this sort of negotiation is a game in which the more pieces you have on your side of the table, the better off you are."
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