Dealing with the senate was generally a headache and Argelian was relieved when their debate about the Federation’s request was over. He immediately ordered a flitter brought to him and journeyed to the Praetor’s palace in I’Ramnau. There was a lot he needed to discuss with AAnikh before dispatching vessels to assist. The trip was short and he wasted no time exiting the flitter. Argelian casually made his way up the spiraling steps that led from the front courtyard to the main entrance. However, before he reached the top of the steps he was intercepted by one of the servants “Greetings Galae EnRiov” the servant bowed deeply “forgive me, but are you here to see the Praetor?”
“Indeed, why else would I come here?’ Argelian was short with the servant. It was normally considered obscene to be questioned about one’s business by a simple house servant but he ignored the lack of regard since the Praetor held his servants in high esteem “is something wrong?”
“No, forgive me; however, lord AAnikh is not here. He left for his residence on Ch’Havran six hours ago.” The servant winced and looked away “you were not informed my lord?”
Ch’Havran? Argelian grimaced and looked up at the violet silhouette of ch’Havran floating in the sky. How troublesome, why is he on ch’Havran at such a time? “No, I was not informed.” Resisting the urge to curse he looked at his wrist communicator and activated the device “Shiarkek, I need a transport sent to the Praetor’s residence immediately.”
“Understood sir. May I ask why?”
“I am going to Latasalaem. Cancel the rest of my meetings this evening and reschedule them for later in the week.” Argelian couldn’t help but wonder what the fickle Praetor was thinking. If any of AAnikh’s opponents knew about his sudden departure from the capital there would no doubt be uproar.
Argelian decided to handle the matter on a personal basis to avoid any unnecessary conflicts. Instead of a full escort he contacted his mother’s estate and requested a flitter be brought to him. When it arrived he dismissed the driver and piloted the vehicle himself. As he brought the flitter into the local traffic network he felt a wave of nostalgia hit him. How long has it been? How many years have I avoided this place since S’Anra’s death- no, since her murder?
After spending so much time in the metropolises of ch’Rihan Argelian almost forgot the rural landscape of his home. Most Rihannsu valued nature and Latasalaem mirrored that ideal. The city wasn’t cluttered by skyscrapers or endless miles of paved walkways. Most of the buildings in the city were less then six stories tall and blended perfectly with the environment. While Latasalaem may have appeared to be a simple small town it actually stretched on for miles in every direction. Argelian remembered when he brought S’anra to his family estate- the first thing she commented on were all the trees.
“S’anra.” Argelian sighed and brought the flitter into the lower traffic network. He used the original driver’s piloting identity in place of his own. The fewer questions people had about his visit the better. The AAnikh estate, as one of the original houses to settle in Latasalaem, was located near the city’s core. However, it was surrounded by over ten thousand of acres of farmland and appeared to be isolated. As he pulled into the estate’s own traffic network he received a message.
“Flitter of house Ahaefvthe, we have not received notification of your visit. Please identify yourself and your purpose.”
Argelian activated the dashboard console and opened a secure, or as secure as one could get in a standard flitter, communication line “house AAnikh this is Galae En’Riov Argelian i-Ahaefvthe tr’Verelan. I wish to speak with the Praetor immediately. I will be landing in the front courtyard. Send escorts if necessary.”
“Forgive us Galae EnRiov! The hru'hfe (head of household) will be there to greet you.”
Bringing the flitter down in the main courtyard Argelian secured the controls and exited. Waiting for him was an elderly Rihannsu whom Argelian instantly recognized as L’Nun tr’Haerun. Haerun had been the head of household for AAnikh ever since Argelian could remember. The elderly hru'hfe bowed his head at Argelian “welcome Galae’EnRiov. It has been too long. Please, follow me.”
Argelian returned the nod and followed the hru'hfe. He was led inside the massive estate. The pair passed through several old hallways until they reached the large anteroom “please wait a moment. I will announce your arrival to lord AAnikh.” Haerun bowed again and then disappeared behind a large wooden door. A few minutes later Haerun returned and beckoned for Argelian to follow. Inside the large meeting chamber Haerun gestured to an empty seat and then departed closing the door behind him. Across the chamber a small fire crackled in the fire place. In the glow of the fire light Argelian could see the Praetor’s face. Heavy curtains were drawn over the windows so the only light came from the fire. “Praetor, what are you doing here?”
“What am I doing here?” AAnikh chuckled “sit down, please. Let’s talk as old friends for a moment, not as Chief Praetor and Galae’EnRiov.”
Sitting down in the empty chair Argelian frowned finding the request peculiar “Praetor-”
AAnikh interrupted him “please humor an old man.”
Argelian sighed “if you insist lord but at least answer my first question. What are you doing here?”
AAnikh smiled. Argelian could barely make it out in the dim glow but he knew instantly that the old man was smiling by the warm tone of his voice “I wanted to see my orchards one last time. They are in bloom and soon will bear fruit. The harvest looks to be good.”
“Last time?” Argelian asked feeling concerned “what do you mean by that?”
“I sold them.” AAnikh chuckled slightly.
“You sold your orchards?” The news stunned Argelian. AAnikh together with his wife built those orchards after his retirement from the Galae. Over a century later it was well known for producing the almost legendary Latasalaem rhennish (romulan wine). “Why did you sell your orchards and who did you sell them to?”
“Why?” AAnikh laughed “I am old, too old to work in fields, and much too old to properly manage such a business. I am also busy watching over the children in the Praetorate and Senate!” He chuckled and then coughed “what can I do with these orchards when I die? Can I take them to the grave with me?” He shook his head “no, I decided to sell them to someone I trust. So I sold them to your sister.”
“You sold your orchards to Arrenhe?” Argelian smiled wryly recalling his sister’s love of the wine, it should have been obvious to him “and you shouldn’t speak in such a manner, you are still healthy my lord.”
“Speak in what manner? About my death?” AAnikh scoffed “why should not the old speak of their death? Do you think I will live forever? Do you think I want to live forever? How selfish the young are.” He slammed his cane into the floor “we begin walking towards our death the day we are born. I will speak of it if I wish, do not patronize me boy.”
Boy? Argelian almost laughed but he caught himself “if that is your wish then I will speak of it no more. But you have me curious. Why sell your orchards? You could have just left them to Arrenhe in your will. As you said, you cannot take them to the grave, but I did not know one could take money?”
“When did you get a clever tongue?” AAnikh grumbled “you have been spending too much time in the senate!” He sighed and adjusted his posture “so nosy but I will answer you. Arrenhe is not paying me. She is paying the boy, with millions in gold pressed latinum.”
“What? Do you honestly think he will accept such a gift?” Argelian easily guessed that ‘boy’ meant Khiy Kanryth.
“Likely not, but it will not be forced upon him. Arrenhe will hold it until he is ready.” AAnikh stood up, slowly, using his cane to hold his weight “I want to apologize Argelian. Before it’s too late, I want to say I’m sorry.”
“Apologize? For what?” Argelian pushed himself out of the chair and moved to the Praetor’s side to help steady him.
“You have been loyal to me ever since you were a boy.” AAnikh sighed “I still remember when your father would bring you to see me; you were always this bright eyed child who followed his father around always clinging to his shirt sleeve, so afraid of the world.” He chuckled lightly “when I learned about your father’s injury it pained me to see him waste away and then die. I felt as though I had lost another son.” He paused “but it truly honored me when you asked me to host your wedding. You were so happy and I was happy for you. You married a good and beautiful woman.”
“No, let me finish.” AAnikh’s voice cracked “I have many regrets in life. Every time I lost a son it felt as though someone had reached into my chest, ripped out my heart, and sliced it apart in front of my eyes. I was happy for you and S’anra. I should have never insisted you become Galae’EnRiov. I should have never asked you to support me so much. Because of my sins your beautiful wife was taken from you and your children.” Pushing Argelian from his grasp AAnikh collapsed onto his knees “I am sorry for the pain I have caused.”
“Please stop, it was not your fault.” Argelian leaned over and wrapped an arm around the elderly Praetor to pull him to his feet “if the servants saw you now what would they think? You must compose yourself my lord. You are not dead yet.”
AAnikh returned to his feet “it has been a tremendous weight. I feel as though the elements are giving me one last mission to complete before they call me to my grave. I will finish what I am doing and look forward to the end. My life has been too long.” AAnikh allowed Argelian to help him back into his seat. “What business did you come here for?”
“The Senate has accepted the Federation’s proposal. I wanted to inform you that I will be forming a task force to fight the Borg.”
“Good.” AAnikh said “who will lead it?”
“What?” AAnikh was surprised “why you?”
“I have never fought the borg. It will be more entertaining then dealing with sniveling senators.” Argelian answered.
“Do as you please.” AAnikh slowly stood up again “I am feeling tired. I am going to lay down before I return to ch’Rihan.”
“I think that would be wise.” Argelian agreed.
“tr’Haerun! Tend me!” AAnikh shouted. The doors boomed open and the servant rushed in to aid his lord. Argelian gave AAnikh a parting bow before leaving. The recent meeting left him a bit shaken. What will we ever do without you my lord? He wondered.