Olivia was returning from a month-long trip to Kuu, where she had been commissioned to outfit the Royal Players of the Underground Opera House. It had been a challenging but rewarding project, though now it felt nice to return to Titania.
She had just put down her luggage and was considering running a bath when a sharp knock came from the front door, followed by her mother bursting into the house.
“I thought you were due back yesterday,” she exclaimed, while waving a letter in the air. “No matter, just wait until you hear the news.”
Olivia’s father walked in, coming over to give Olivia a quick hug, and a warning smile. “Glad you’re back, dear, how was the trip?”
“Not now, Daniel. Olivia - Antiford has a Prime Minister. One of the technocratic council revealed himself and is acting as the voice of the country!”
“What?!” Olivia was shocked. The technocratic council operated on the secrecy of their members. This was unprecedented. Unsure of what to think of the situation, and what it would mean for her and her family, Olivia wondered at her mother’s seeming joy.
“They announced it on Discovery Day – Mordecai Marigold. He’s supposed to be rather intelligent and charming. And of course his family is quite well known.”
“Mother, what do you think this means for us?”
“Well that’s the thing dear, I was chatting with Caroline before she left on her trip to Mont Diamont – she was so sad to have missed you –” Olivia had purposely planned to return after Caroline left “– and apparently this Mordecai is quite ambitious. The word among the to do is that he is interested in courting a princess!”
Olivia didn’t think she could feel any more shocked.
“And of course, the match between Caroline and Prince Euberr of Kantebury did not end up working, so now she is thinking of being courted by this Mordecai. Just think of it, if we were able to broker a marriage between Caroline and the new Prime Minister, we could end our exile. Caroline has been having a rough time traveling between courts, and it would be so nice for her to be acknowledged and able to live in Antiford again...”
Her mother prattled on for a few more minutes as Olivia processed this information. Her first reactions to it were all negative – the Technocrats would never allow the royal family to be reinstated, even if it were through marriage or as figureheads, and trying to bring this idea to them could be suicide. Olivia looked to her father to see what he was thinking. He had a bit of an exasperated smile.
Even though her mother had left the royal family to marry her father, the brutal assassination of the majority of her family 14 years ago had destroyed her mother. Her parents had been living a quiet life in Titania running a textile shop, but her mother had always been resentful of what had happened.
“…And of course, if Caroline and Mordecai do not match well – well you haven’t settled down with anyone yet. Perhaps you might be a more intriguing prospect.”
“Just a thought, dear.” She had a bit of a devious smile, knowing she had pushed Olivia’s buttons.
Olivia’s father interjected, “Well, perhaps we should leave you to unpack, but you should join us for dinner and we can hear about your trip.”
After her parents left, Olivia felt that bath was truly necessary. Lying in the rose-scented water, she considered the implications of an open Prime Minister for Antiford, but it was difficult to draw conclusions without more information, especially about any possibility of reconciling the monarchy and technocracy, even through marriage. She knew Caroline was ambitious enough to try for her own benefit, but it seemed more likely to Olivia that such an approach could result in the destruction of their family. While the surviving members of the monarchy stayed far away from Antiford they were safe. And Olivia herself had relied on the secrecy of her identity for so long that the very idea of anyone in power knowing her connections immediately brought back a paralyzing fear she had not felt since leaving Antiford on that fateful day a year and a half ago.
She quickly pushed herself out of her bath – that line of thought would get her nowhere. What she needed now was to figure out more about this new Prime Minister and how to mitigate any issues that Caroline’s interference might cause. But as she stared at herself in the looking glass, her mother’s comment surfaced, “Perhaps you might be a more intriguing prospect.”