Thursday, September 30, 2010

CC: Marika Rahna, Imperial Consort

also known as the Widow, the Uncrowned Empress, the Lady of Ashes

Imperial tradition has little in the way of provisions about whom an Emperor or Empress may marry, given that--at least in theory--titles of nobility are elected, not inherited. It came as a great surprise to the Congress of Peers and the people of Weirwane when Ignatius III courted a wife from the clergy. The Church of the Holy Saint had been one of Ignatius' earliest advocates, and their support was essential in the Act of Lesser Nobility. So strong was his connection to the Church that he established two cloisters, one on each of the Palace grounds--the brothers of St. Nicodemus became Ignatius' advisors in the winter, and summers were spent with the sisters of St. Rosalind.

Romantics have spent the past ten years writing and rewriting the late Emperor's courtship of Marika Rahna, an orphan abandoned to the mercy of the Church. In some accounts, Rahna, an admittedly skilled enchantress, vied for the Emperor's attentions. In another, Ignatius is befuddled by her serenity and spends a season dotting on her unsuccessfully before finally wooing her. The truth is no secret: already reaching enfeeblement, Ignatius selected a strong woman and prelate of the Saint of Fertility in the hopes of bearing heirs. Marika proved an intellectual equal and ally to the King, and while they enjoyed a cool friendship, neither suffered any illusions of love. She bore him two sons: Alexander and Jackelepski.

Liturgical law, rather than imperial, prevented Marika from ascending to the throne as his Empress, and so instead Ignatius named her Imperial Consort and granted her the title of Marchessa of the Summer Palace. While not part of the Congress of Peers, Marika proved a valuable political asset because if the people liked Ignatius, then they loved his wife with a fierce passion. Her grace and accessibility made her dangerously beloved among the common men, and her speeches often rallied the support of religious peers, even those who considered themselves Nobilist.

It was from one such trip that she was returning when flames consumed the Summer Palace, immolating her husband and two sons, countless friends and the majority of her sisterhood. She spent days among the ashes, silent and furious.

Since then, she has withdrawn from the public eye. She passes unseen from one house to the next, tarrying with Royalist supporters. She has appeared twice before the Congress of Peers: first to plea unsuccessfully for money to rebuild her cloister on the grounds of the Summer Palace, and then to rail against a bloc of Nobilists trying to undermine the Petty Nobility. Many have since sought Marika, knowing that the endorsement of the beloved Consort would be a powerful benediction to any Peer seeking the Imperial Throne. She has refused all such attempts.

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