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The Secret History of Sun County: Marital bliss

After the first few weeks of happiness, Vega and Invictus had problems. Of course, married life wasn't quite what Invictus was expecting. For one thing, he'd get home and she wouldn't be there. Mealtimes were never a family affair: look at the different food-related geases they've got between them! After a lot of playing with scheduling they managed to be together for one week a season. Then Vega went for another gift/geas and got a celibacy geas for that one week. Things degenerated to the point that Vega was avoiding going home to avoid the squabbles, and Invictus was spending most of his spare time hawking with Solanthos. Vega didn't really have anyone to turn to for support: her sister just told her to retire and have babies. Since Sun County had not quite progressed to the point of providing maternity leave and a crèche, babies did not form part of Vega's plans for her career.

Meanwhile, Penta and Solanthos had their own problems. She was relying on his making her pregnant to enable her to advance in her career (to become an Ernalda priestess, she has to give birth to a healthy child). Solanthos still had the "little problem" we mentioned earlier. Once Penta was an Ernalda acolyte, all his phobias were aroused - and, unfortunately, nothing else was. To start with he pleaded tiredness due to the pressures of work, but that excuse could only last so long. The situation threatened his own career, too: if he was proved incapable, he would have little chance of becoming Sun Count, since the River Ritual was an important part of the post.

In early 1613, they came up with a solution. His good friend Invictus, whose own marriage was becoming increasingly unhappy, could father a child on Penta for him. Invictus could be trusted not to tell anyone the truth. Invictus agreed with delight, and an elaborate subterfuge was invented, involving Penta's taking her sister's place and Invictus not noticing the change until too late. (This carefully overlooked the fact that while they may have been identical twins, the years in which Vega had been fighting and Penta had been saying prayers in a temple had wrought a few changes in their appearances!) But it meant that if they were found out, all the blame would fall on Penta. For reasons best known to herself, she accepted this. Quite how Solanthos reconciled this situation with his principles is an open question: perhaps he felt that all women were "guilty", by definition.

Meanwhile, the Lunar grip on Pavis and Sun County was becoming stronger, and the Count, Varthanis, was giving more and more ground to them. A Lunar Resident was stationed at the Sun Dome and Lunar missionaries had free reign to proselytise in the County. Imperial troops had right of passage through Sun Dome lands to and from Corflu; confrontations with the insular locals were frequent, particularly with auxiliary troops. Lunar backers financed the reopening of the Count's salt mines at Pent Ridge as a harsh penitentiary; it was soon full of hazia growers, smokers and smugglers, seduced by the illegal narcotic's easy money and mind-numbing potency. Both Vega and Solanthos were revolted by the decadent western influences, and the loss of Sun County's independence. Invictus preferred to turn a blind eye to anything that did not hinder his own career, and stayed friendly with the Lunars and the Count. He was becoming estranged from his former friend Solanthos: since he was spending as many nights as possible in bed with the older man's wife, he did not really care to face him during the day. Meanwhile Solanthos was reluctantly coming to respect Vega: she, at least, still innocent of her husband's actions, had retained her principles. She and Solanthos formed an alliance against the Lunars, Varthanis, and Invictus. Gaumata was also with them, and proved a useful ally. Belvani was most certainly not - at this stage in his career he was based in Pavis, negotiating with the Lunars there and adopting their ways.

Vega, disenchanted with married life and getting no support from her sister, turned to her old friends. She had had contact with the Pavis Vingans before, and, through them, got back in touch with Kallyr. They exchanged information on the Lunars: Vega, as their trusted ally, could come up with quite a lot of it, while Kallyr could give Vega a pretty good idea as to just when the Lunars were likely to have to move troops from Pavis to Sartar. The tentative plan of synchronised rebellions was brought up, as it was clear that the Lunars could not muster enough troops to control both areas at once.

Solanthos' plan to save his marriage succeeded - Penta found herself to be pregnant at last. A Divination to check revealed "healthy twins, the image of their father". Ooops.... And rumour had been getting out about how often she and Invictus had been seen together. A new song started circulating on the subject: Solanthos, with his usual sensitivity, banned it. But it was clearly only a matter of time before someone cottoned on.

The Lunars noticed a slight anti-Lunar sentiment in the air (though still didn't suspect Vega). They arranged for any noted ringleaders to be challenged to duels and thus put out of action. Solanthos, noticing this, started doing the same in reverse. (Vega, despite her previous success in duels, was of more use to the cause being an apparent Lunar sympathiser). Finally, and most famously, the Lunar Resident in Sun County (General Armemnon) was called back to Pavis and Solanthos removed him from the situation. The scene was set for the Coup....