Most diplomatic meetings were steeped in pomp and ceremony, and while Arora wasn’t particularly adverse to such things meeting with the Acting King of the People’s Republic of High Imaskar was a pleasant change of pace.
“Ah, if it isn’t the most beautiful dwarven queen in all the Shining Lands!” Cucio stood as Arora was escorted into the study. She smirked, giving his hand a firm shake.
“I see you’re exceedingly charming as ever, Cucio.”
He made a mock-bow before reassuming his seat by the fire. “I have to say, it’s a pleasure to be called by my actual name once in a while. If I never invited you to visit, I don’t think anyone ever would.” The Bard-King’s eyes softened thoughtfully as he stared into the flame. “But that’s just me, of course. You? You’ve taken to ruling like a duck to water, if you don’t mind my saying so.”
Arora chuckled, taking a slow sip of ale from her goblet. “Do I make it seem easy?” She shook her head, looking down into the foamy amber drink. “I’m just doing the best I can.”
Cucio smiled. “Royal modesty, is it? So be it.” He reached over to a stack of papers, handing Arora a small manuscript bound in leather. She took it with a raised eyebrow, running her eyes over the title with a smirk.
“Thunderstrike: Memoirs of a Mad Mage.” Arora shot Cucio a pained look. “Oh Cucio... tell me you didn’t.”
“The first play was such a success, I couldn’t stop myself!” Cucio grinned as Arora flipped through the pages.
“ ‘You waste your final breaths begging for your life, Lurd, for I shall bring the mighty Justice of Bahamut down upon your head!’ by the stars, Cucio this is...” Arora sighed, looking back at the bard. “Why do you insist on writing me like this?”
Cucio shrugged. “That’s what you sound like.”
Arora snorted. “I most certainly do not.”
“See! Like that! ‘I most certainly do not!’ said Arora, high Justiciar of Bahamut!”
The dwarf rolled her eyes. “You’re taking liberties.”
He smiled, swirling the drink in it’s mug. “Maybe.” Cucio took another swig of ale, shooting Arora a sideways glance. “But it’s what the public expects. A shining paladin of righteous nobility, sacrificing everything for the good of all.”
“They might expect something more realistic if you didn’t keep publishing such things, you know.”
The King nodded. “In the interest of preventing a diplomatic incident, I suppose I must agree with you. I’ll revise it, but I guarantee you’ll adore it when it’s finished.”
“Oh?” Arora smirked, “And why’s that?”
“The love ballads.”
A sputtering cough sounded in the quiet study. Arora choked on her ale as Cucio scrambled to regain lost ground.
“Oh, it’s nothing bawdy, I assure you! It’s pure-hearted! Romantic! Inspiring!”
Arora put down the goblet. “No love ballads.”
“But... the duet with Arora and Klethen...”
“Maybe if you just listened to a few bars-” Cucio moved to grab his lute.
She held up her hand. “Don’t even think about it.”
Arora frowned. “You’ll play the lute and do that thing you do, and it’ll make me change my mind.”
“That thing I do? Why your majesty I don’t know what you’re talking about.” The bard grinned a little as he returned to his goblet. “A good musician simply reaches the heart when the mind refuses to listen.”
Arora turned back to the fire. After a long pause, she sighed. “...Fine.”
Cucio looked at her with a glimmer of hope in his eyes. “Your highness?”
“You can have one ballad. ONE.” She held up a finger sternly.
A huge smile appeared on Cucio’s face. “It will be the most spectacular moment in theater history! Men will weep! Women will swoon! It will be so passionate the stage will have to be enchanted with an anti-conflagration spell! You won’t regret it!”
Arora sighed. “I think I’m already regretting it.”
She finished her ale in one long swing.
Perhaps pomp and ceremony had their place in politics, after all.