Thursday, July 9, 2009

Positively Despotic

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Had anyone told Kiana her pathway to being an international reporter was being assigned to the tiny Republic of Frumos, she would have laughed in their face. She had graduated at the top of her class at Columbia School of Journalism, she had interned at the New York Times bureau in London. She had written dozens of award winning small pieces on everything from the genocide in Sudan to the recent international economic collapse published in publications all over the world. So when she had landed a position as a foreign correspondent for a huge national network, she had been beyond ecstatic. That is, until she was handed her first assignment.

Who the hell had even heard of the Republic of Frumos, anyway? No one gave a damn about a tiny country nestled between Romania and Hungry. Yeah, it was beautiful in a wild, gothic kind of way, but really, who gave a damn about a tiny Republic ruled by two despotic brothers? It was just like any other Eastern Block country after the fall of the Soviet Union; chaotic, unstable and damn near broke.

Well, it had been chaotic after the death of its last leader, yet another despot, Andrei Alexandrescu. And surprise, surprise, who had brought order out of chaos? None other than the former leader’s two sons, Dragoş and Valentin. Kiana was here to report on the two brothers; how they ruled, how they oppressed, and more importantly, the rumored deal with the United States government to house some very serious weaponry a secret location in the Frumos Mountains. She wasn’t so sure how she felt about the last little tidbit she was supposed to be investigating. The release of that kind of information could cause some serious problems in the neighborhood, especially with Russia. Relations were already strained. She wasn’t really sure she would report on anything like that should she find out. Her job was to find and report news, not national security secrets.

Apparently, the last leader had been in Russia with his top general who also happened to his brother when his wife was kidnapped and killed, supposedly with the assistance of someone high up in the Russian government. Why anyone in the Russian government would assist in such an act made no sense, but it had been the beginning of the end of the last regime.

As for the rest, well she didn’t really give a shit. To be honest, she didn’t particularly care of this tiny country was ruled by despots. From what she had seen so far, the people were not only happy with the current rulers, they were downright fawning. Every one of the locals she attempted to lure into candid conversation spoke of both brothers with a weird kind of awe. Oh well, what was two more despots in this part of the world or in any other part of the world, really? Despite popular opinion back home, not everyone wanted democracy, such as it was.

So here she was, standing around among a multitude of reporters from across the globe, all low level nobodies like herself, waiting for a press conference to be given by the Brothers Alexandrescu. Kiana guessed she had to make her bones somehow, but she sincerely doubted it would be here. She would put together something sufficiently heart wrenching. Poor oppressed people, two brutal dictators, so on and so forth. Then she would get the hell out of dodge. It was freaking cold here. Kiana hated cold weather.


It was Dragoş’s job to notice things, therefore nothing escaped his notice. The sexy reporter he noticed before he and Valentin stepped out of the small room they used to view the assembled crowd. It was impossible not to notice her, she stood out like a brightly plumed song bird among a punch of crows. She wasn’t beautiful; the word was far too tame for a woman like her. She was captivating, infinitely alluring. She was the type of woman a man spent his life trying to know.

While most of the reporters dressed in drab clothing all covered up in tweed and corduroy, she had donned a form fitting skirt, thick but feminine, and a light peach silk shirt. The pastel color complimented the rich darkness of her skin. Her hair was cut in a bob, framing her pixie-like face. Her eyes darted around the room, taking in everything. She didn’t have a notebook, like the others, but stood rather impatiently, waiting for the press conference to start, her little booted foot tapping against the marbled floor. Because of her diminutive size, she had been placed up front near the podium. Good, it was easy access.

O vreau.” The sound of his own growl surprised him. He hadn’t meant to say it out loud.

Valentin peered over his shoulder. Dragoş knew the moment his brother spotted her. There was an infinitesimal stiffening of his body, a soft exhale. Yes, Valentin felt it too.

“Yes, I can see why you want,” his brother murmured. “And I agree. Exquisite.”

“Shall I have Nicu collect her after?” Dragoş was uncharacteristically impatient.

Their fathers had warned them of this. They were a people who believed in mysticism and things unseen larger than themselves. They had damn good cause. They were more than human. They were wolf shifters and wizards, bound to this land from the moment of their births.

The brothers shared far more than rule of a country. They shared everything. From the time they were old enough to understand anything, they had been taught to do everything together, to lean on one another for more than support. It had been decreed by the spirits long before historians kept time. They lived longer, shrouding the truth of what they were with magic. Each pair of brothers ruled for one century, then disappeared into the mists of the forests for the next pair to take over.

But there was one powerful element to their rule Dragoş and Valentin were missing. Their bride. Supposedly they would know her on sight, long for her scent, and love her until the end of time. It was this love that had destroyed their fathers, but not through any wrong doings of their own.

One of their fathers, Luca, had five brothers. After they fall of the Soviet Union, the brother with no true claim to power in Frumos had fought for power elsewhere using any and every treacherous means imaginable. Their uncles had been responsible for the death of their mother. But Luca had something none of the other brother had. He had the brother-bond, a brother-bond the others had been denied. There was only one bond per generation. Their uncles and cousins could scoff all they wanted, their combined power was too much to take them head on. Plus, having your bond-brother embedded as a top general had given Luca enormous leverage over the others. No coup could get past the planning stage, because their other father, Christi had eyes and ears everywhere. Dragoş and Valentin had been raised in a home with two fathers and one mother that were completely devoted to each other. It would have seemed odd to an outside observer, but it served its purpose. Only once had the arrangement failed to protect their family, with devastating consequences.

A message had been sent to their mother, claiming to be from her sons. Someone had claimed Valentin had been in a terrible accident and was not likely to survive. As any mother would do, she rushed off, determined to get to Scotland where they both had gone to college at St. Andrew’s while her husbands were away in Russia. It was rare they left her alone, but negotiations for peace had been fierce and both men had been determined to throw off the rule of their former Russian overlords. She had repeatedly tried to call both men, but a junior officer, part of the plot, had refused to let her speak to either Luca or Christi. Her plane crashed in the mountains without making it out of Frumos.

It was a tragic lesson, but Luca and Christi had taught their sons well. Never leave their woman unprotected. Always work as a unit. Never let anyone into their inner circle. It was the only way to preserve the Republic from those who would see it fall into the hands of their greedy, bigger neighbors, or take over for themselves, giving the land a true taste of tyranny. All of the Alexandrescu family had gifts of magic, though not all were shifters. With even a little knowledge of wizardry, usurpers who ran unchecked could devastate the natural balance and destroy the country.

Dragoş and Valentin had heard the rumors concerning them. They knew the reporters assembled were here to see the Frumosian Despots, as they were so affectionately called. While it was true they kept a tight rein on their country, it was out of necessity. Even now, the two uncles who yet live, as well as numerous cousins schemed and plotted to wrestle power away from them. Without completion of the triad, they were vulnerable and had not yet attained their full power. They could never let down their guard or show weakness. At the same time, they were not the monsters their kinsmen had whispered to the world they were. It smarted to be thought of as such. They were far from the monsters they were painted as being.

“Yes,” Valentin agreed after several moments of quiet contemplation. “Send Nicu to collect her. Tell him to find out where she is staying and collect her belongings. I think we should give the lovely reporter an exclusive, no?”

Dragoş had to restrain himself from clapping his hands and jumping up and down like a child. Oh yes, they needed to give this reporter an exclusive all right. Already the pull of their woman so strong it was almost a tangible thing.

“We must tread carefully, Dragoş,” his brother cautioned him. “While I, too, am excited, Western women don’t understand our…ways.”

“I will tread as carefully as I can,” he answered Valentin honestly. “But I cannot promise to wait long.”

As Valentin turned away, Dragoş distinctly heard his brother’s muttered, “Nor can I.”

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