This is a tale set in my own Universe. All characters, situations and locations are the property of the Author.

Hope you enjoy this, it's the first and 'Intro' Chapter of a tale I'm working on. Do please R&R..

Shari'na

The building stood out like a sore thumb against the sophistication and relative beauty of the castle. It was typically utilitarian for a prefab, a two story slab sided structure made of a duralumin sandwich. Designed to be temporary, it had been standing in this spot now for well over four years, somewhat a testament to its design and durability. The craft that now stood on the field next to it was almost as old but looked a whole lot sleeker. The transport had arrived less than 24 hours ago, its passengers and crew summoned by a message that had been sent four days earlier.

Admiral Francis Markham didn't know if he should be pleased or annoyed. He stood looking out as a ground crew bustled about the transport. Collecting his thoughts, he turned back to the group that sat around the conference table."So,' he said with a sigh of mild annoyance "Is the treaty ready to be signed or not?!"
"It is Francis," Anita Markham said, patiently hanging on to her patience at her brother-in-laws pedantic nature. She wondered for the sixth time since he arrived here just what God of Fates she had annoyed enough for her to have to deal with him. She supposed she could consider herself lucky though she thought with a sigh, while not quite as bad as his deceased brother, Francis had the Markham family trait of wanting, nay demanding all Ducks in a row and getting downright testy when they weren't!
"Then what is the problem?!"
"There isn't one! At least, not in the way you mean."
"I think you had best explain then Ambassador." Senator Josephine Caulder signaled for the Admiral to come back to the table. Reluctantly, and with some annoyance, he did. "And if you wouldn't mind," she continued, "Please bring the members of my somewhat cobbled together team up to speed."
"Certainly Senator," Anita said, grateful for the older woman's calmer nature. "To keep it brief, approximately five years ago a survey ship discovered this system. At the time, it first appeared to be your typical pre industrial society with a fairly stable culture until the ship ran an in depth scan of the planet. That's when the indications that this had once been a 'Great Empire' Colony were discovered. Both surface and subsurface scans showed indications of ancient sites, long collapsed tunnels and there were also surface indications of heavy bombardment. Further investigation by surface teams showed that many of these sites were several millennia old, and testing indicates that they date from around the 'War of the Collapse' nearly eight and a half thousand years ago. First Contact was accidental, as it appeared that the planets inhabitants had long ago lost all knowledge of their origins, and had descended to a pre industrial societal level. It came to a peaceful end thankfully as things go, but it was close. Negotiations for some form of mutual treaty were opened by my predecessor and superior four and a half years ago, and for the last three, I have been working towards completing his work.""Which your signal indicated had been done."
"Yes Senator."
"Yet now you tell us that there's a holdout?!"
"No Francis, not a holdout." She sighed. "The political situation here on Takari is somewhat complicated." The senator signaled she should continue. "Stable, united government under the currant royal family has only existed for just on a century. History here has been rough, all of what may have been known of their colonial past is gone, and considering the level of damage that was apparently done here all that time ago, it doesn't surprise me that they fell back into a pre industrial way of life. Approximately four millennia or so ago, and records are not entirely accurate on this, the first period of planetary unity came about under the House of Jihn'Shari. This lasted close to two and a half thousand years when internal strife, several bad seasons and a weak Emperor combined to throw the planet into a series of civil wars. The Imperial House did what it could, but the unity fractured badly, and House-to-House warfare ensued through a period known as The Years of Blood. By the end of it, though many professed loyalty to the Imperial House, they in fact barely controlled an area larger than Germany on Earth centring on the region around the old Imperial Palace. Eleven hundred years ago, the House of Gerrain, the now currant royal family, began the Unification Wars. Over the next three to four hundred years, through political and military actions, they consolidated their position to the point where they were in a position to challenge the old Imperial House. It was at this time, the head of the House of Gerrain and the then currant Empress met. It was a case of an astute Empress meeting a shrewd Emperor to be. By this stage, there were three factions – Those loyal to the old Imperial House, those loyal to House Gerrain and those who supported their own agendas and were working in a loose confederation."
"Sounds like a powder keg."
"It was Senator. At least, it was until the two heads of House met. No-one, and I mean no-one knows what was actually said in the three hour meeting between them, but the result of it was quite astounding. To put it simply, in return for the old Imperial House renouncing it's claim on the Takari throne and throwing itself behind the Gerrain, the Gerrain swore that, if and when they succeeded in unifying the whole of the Takar, the old Imperial House would be granted the status of a freestate outside the empire, with the valley that the old palace sat in, an area about the size of Madagascar. After the Wars ended a decade later, in a public validation of the agreement, and in front of all the Lords, the then head of the Imperial House took her own sword to the old Imperial Throne, smashing it and the old crown while formally renouncing her lines claim to the throne. The then head of House Gerrain, now confirmed as Emperor, granted her the title of the White Lady, and placed her and her lands as outside, yet part of, the new Empire."
"THAT is one piece of astute political theatre!"
"It was Senator." She sighed "It didn't completely end all strife, and there were to be problems and minor uprisings for the next few centuries, but it has held things together now for several centuries, with the last real serious threat coming around a century ago. Since then, there has been relative stability in the government with the balance maintained by the now Imperial House, the Lords and the old Imperial Line acting as a somewhat unifying force."
"And with the old line outside the currant political setup?"
"That's right Senator. The White Lady's position is basically sacrosanct. Her House forces are outside the control of the Emperor, and she rules her lands completely independently, yet part of, the currant empire."
"What does that mean for us then?"
"Basically Francis, it means that though Emperor Shaldain could sign the Treaty without actually bringing The White Lady to the table with the other House Leaders, to do so would be politically dangerous. There are still many Lords who are loyal to the old line, and were she to not place her support behind it, they could follow suit."
"Splitting the government" said Francis, getting an idea of just where that that might lead to. "So she has been the one has made negotiations ….. difficult?"
"Yes. I don't think it's out of any sense of perversity Francis, I've gotten hints from her representatives that she herself can see the benefits of what we have so far negotiated for both sides." Anita sighed. "I think her position has given her a unique view, and I also think she sees that this will alter life here on Takari in ways that even she cannot fathom. What I think she has been doing is making sure that that change doesn't tear the hard won stability of the last century to shreds."
"So, you're saying she is now in a position where she will throw her weight behind it?"
"Yes Senator. But before she does, she wants a face to face meeting with someone like you." She raised her hand to forestall her. "No Senator, I don't know why, but if this gets the work of the last four or more years to a point of finality ….." The Senator nodded, seeing Anita's point.
"All right then, what do we have to do?"
"Fairly straightforward Senator, The White Lady has extended an invitation to a 'Senior Alliance Representative' and a small entourage to visit her at her palace so that she may see for herself 'The truth and honesty of our visitors from beyond our world' as the official wording goes."
"And I take it we'll be travelling by 'Local Transport'?"
"'Fraid so Senator" she said with an apologetic smile. "Part of the way we've managed to avoid serious cultural clashes here is for us here to blend in as much as possible."
"Good idea I suppose. Alright, how long will this trip take." Senator Caulder shifted in her seat. "Though I will admit, it's been a few years since I used transport of the four legged kind, I'm willing to dust off my rusty knowledge."
Anita smiled. "The Valley of The Star is seven days travel to the north from here Senator. As for our escort, we'll have six Imperial Guards and I've picked six Marines from our garrison here to go with us. That leaves just me, you and your Aide Francis, and you and yours Senator."
"I'd like to add two more to that if I may" interjected Francis. "We have been joined by Professor Shimata. He's a Cultural Studies expert, and I think he would find this interesting, and I would be interested in his insights to things here."
Anita sighed. "If it'll help you Francis, I have no objection." She managed to keep her annoyance out of her voice. "Who else?"
"A young Lieutenant, Julie Frazier. She knows the Professor, and I think she'll be an ideal individual to act as his Aide…"
"And keep him out of trouble huh?" She smiled. "Good idea Francis. Undoubtedly the good Professor is a brilliant man, but liable like most civilian scientists, to be somewhat single minded on occasion." There was a dry chuckle from them all.
"Alright, when do we leave?"
"Three days Senator. I will see that a message is sent to The White Lady informing her of our acceptance of her invitation, and who will be in our party."
"Well! This should prove interesting anyway!" said the Senator.
Anita's answer was a small smile.