Once upon a time there was a princess who had been turned out of her kingdom by an evil sorcerer...
But that was another story, now.
"Of Coutance, hmm?" replies Melia, taking note of that. "And what brings you to our doorstep, such as it is, Lady Liliana of Coutance?" Her tone is mostly just inquisitive, with a slight note of confusion.
"You didn't hear the story?" She sighs. She doesn't really want to go through telling it all again.
"My schemes blew up in all our faces, and... my rival's parents got my husband Duke Achard got imprisoned for sorcery. They would've probably grabbed me too, but I realized it - I'd done so much badness - and I left." She squeezes Selma's hand. "Selma pointed me here, and helped me get here. And now I want to rescue him, and make things better somehow, even for the people I overlooked as beneath me."
(Liliana would never have called people beneath her in her first life when she'd been Lila. She feels her only way to Virtue now has to involve turning back her perspective all the way there.)
"Those are some good Ambitions, alright," replies Melia, smiling and looking genuinely impressed. "Duke Achard on the outs too, huh?
Okay, so things we're generally interested in as an Empire - what's going on between the Confederacy and the Lasambrians, and the rest of the Jotun for that matter?
Whilst we're not best pleased with Kahraman being invaded, actually they might not be a bad thing for the north of the Confederacy - they tend to treat people who are happy to keep their heads down and farm and craft for them pretty well, as forces on the continent go.
Oh, and the Faraden, we can't imagine the Justice priests of Faraden are too happy with what passes for justice in the Confederacy, but they might be too busy licking their wounds from their last bout with the Jotun."
"The Faraden aren't happy with us, no. Not with our justice, but much less so with our border raids and how we've been bribing some of their lords and ladies - fewer of them than they think, but even the rumors have led to so many duels. I was working with Hoelun and Taichuud a few months ago -"
Her smile quivers, but stays. She can still be proud of that, after all; she was being honest herself, and the Faraden were slavers. "Anyway, we weren't trying for war; we were just trying to keep them unsettled and divided, but not so much that they couldn't fight the Jotun if need be. Or that was what my allies and I were trying for; there's always the chance that someone else was working at cross-purposes, but I don't think so."
"Oh good!" exclaims Melia happily, scribbling away. "It's refreshing to hear that at least one of our 'let's you and them fight' gambits is actually happening. What about the Lasambrians, we know Kalino - sorry, Arbonne - is safe enough to send caravans through, have they literally all run off to join the Jotun?"
Her face goes stiffer.
"Most of them got enslaved or killed. I know some of the rebels that used to be there ran off to the Jotun - I stopped some of them, but I didn't care to keep looking for all of them. You could say there're still rebels there, but we care to think of it as unruly slaves."
"Ah, right," replies Melia, with a bit of a wry smile as she takes that down. "And direct relations with the Jotun? There were rumours of some kind of treaty over Kalino?"
"Now? I don't know. We did have a treaty with them - Achard helped negotiate it - but the dukes who overthrew us are the same people who've been speaking against the treaty and reminding everyone how the Jotun shouldn't be trusted and they cheated us of the most important parts of Arbonne. Which they didn't; we got the most prosperous parts. Or they were the most prosperous before all the rebellions and slave revolts... but that's another issue."
"Ooh," replies Melia happily. "I mean, I'm sure it was terrible for you, sorry, but that sounds like an opportunity. Maybe we could even get the Imperial Orcs to do a Jotun false flag attack, make them look properly untrustworthy." She doesn't sound very sorry, more like she feels like that's what she ought to say but is enjoying herself too much to really consider anyone else's feelings.
"Oh yes! And there should be some way to motivate a slave revolt too... I'll need to think about that a bit. And it would help if we knew who got my old estates; when I left that was still up in the air."
"We've tried to do a slave revolt before, but it was too easy to put down - Janon keeps offering us boons in that area, but also nobody wants the Empire's hand in it to be too obvious, we even had to let slave hunters into Feroz." Malia's nose wrinkles in disgust, it's clear she doesn't think much of that. "I know what they're saying, Kahraman's a mess and we probably have the least bad front in the Empire, but still. It feels like we should be able to do better than that. If you can identify good ringleaders I think there's a couple of Eternals who would be overjoyed to bring them messages and a bit of aid, although the whole Hand of Dumon thing kind of complicates everything because the Eternals that are mixed up in that don't really get on with the ones who like slave revolts.
If you have some potential candidates, I guess the Ambassador could feel them out by sending ambiguous messages that might be congratulations or condolences, and see if they bite?"
"I'm afraid I don't know anyone who might lead a slave revolt - not anymore, at least. I made sure of that.
"And I don't want to work with the Hand of Dumon yet. Or at least, make sure no one gets the idea I'm working with them. At least not for now." Until Achard is free... or until she's tried to free him. At least she wants to try.
(Selma looks thoughtful for a moment when Liliana mentions a slave revolt.)
"That's just as well, as it's technically illegal," replies Malia, although the stress on 'technically' suggests she doesn't exactly agree with this. "The Senate really has been quite keen to keep the Confederacy sweet, so whatever you plan, probably best make it subtle and deniable."
"I don't have plans, yet. Just... well, I'm not even sure about most of my goals anymore. Should I be trying for revenge, or -" She throws up her hands. "Or just trying to help the people I was forgetting? What are your plans, or your goals?"
"I mean, personally, gathering information is just a sideline," replies Melia. "I'm mostly here for the courageous chasing off of bandits and rescue of refugees, ideally before anyone from the Confederacy notices and demands to be allowed to round them up again. If we can at least get them away from the border, it's less likely they get accused of border raiding.
I'm also keeping half an eye on Kahraman, the Jotun might be the better masters compared to the Confederacy but they're still a bit too into the 'thralls' thing for comfort, if things are going badly there I might try to encourage Yasmina to pack up here and go lend the army a hand for a while.
So I guess, in more general terms, go wherever my sword-arm is useful and keep people free?"
"Freedom. All right. And who'll you be telling this information to?"
"Do you know why the army's actually... fighting? the Jotuns, but there's just you here?"