Featured image art “At the Nokk Club” by PURY (@puryartist)
By Michael, Trade Minister
Before the hostilities of the Russo-Arendellian War, I had the chance to spend some time with Arendelle’s newest friend and ally, serakser Tileke of the Ottoman Empire. “Serakser” means “commander” – in other words, Tileke was to the Ottomans what General Mattias was to Arendelle.
This energetic fireball leader of the Ottoman forces came to help relieve and bolster the depleted Arendellian military before the final Battle of Arendelle. She presented herself with a swashbuckling flair and energy that is rare and amazing to see. With her invaluable assistance, we were able to stop Princess Katina Romanov from conquering Arendelle (yet at a price, I must say, was so terribly high for both sides, especially Katina.)
I had invited Tileke to dinner with me at the Nokk Club to get to know her better, and also discuss potential business. Her father is the Grand Vizier himself, Husrev Pasha, who’s like our own Prime Minister Countess Viola Mundilfari. Our kingdoms have a very good trade business going and I wanted to explore ways of making them better. Making friends like Tileke go very far in that endeavour… especially on a personal level outside of business where myself, Queen Anna, Snow Queen Elsa, Sir Alan, and the others are concerned.
We arrived at the Club and ordered our drinks before ordering dinner. I had pulled out a cigar to relax with. Tileke glanced at me from the corner of her eye, intrigued. She was curious, hungry to learn about everything that made Arendelle – especially things that looked wild and unusual. “That’s not how we usually inhale back on the Bosphorus,” she said, sitting back casually and rocking on her chair, much to the disapproval of the waiters around her. “What’s that stick?” Tileke asked me.
“A fine cigar.” I answered. “Hand rolled with aged tobaccos from places like Cuba, Connecticut River Valley in the States, and so forth.”
Tileke was piqued. “Mind if I try one? Such things are outlawed along with alcoholic beverages in my country.”
“Sure,” I said.
Tileke stared at it, chestnut eyes blinking. She nodded, allowing me to light her one, and tried inhaling. She winced and started coughing, sputtering as she handed back the cigar to Mike. “Ya take it. Not my kinda thing,” she laughed good-naturedly, taking a big gulp of water from the elegant glass cup.
“That’s okay, Tileke. I get it, it’s not for everyone. Most think it’s like those white coffin nails I call cigarettes. Now those will kill you! Nope, cigars are a slow draw into the mouth. You have to take your time to exhale the smoke and enjoy the flavors of the tobacco. No inhale, just draw in and exhale. It relaxes me. It’s a ‘when I feel like one’ thing, not a habit.”
“Whooo! I love some of the stuff ya’ll got here,” she declared loudly, although people usually spoke in respectful hushed murmurs in the Club. More thin gazes from the waiters, who were miles ahead in snobbishness than their down-to-earth queen. They clearly didn’t know who Tileke was, either, for she was of a senior military rank who, if it weren’t for her outlandish clothes, her childish pigtails, and her rocking attitude, would have had the waiters fawning over making her stay as comfortable as possible.
But I knew who she was, so I carefully “warned” them. “You boys better lower those noses a bit. You don’t want to judge this book by it’s cover!” I explained my Serakser friend and guest, “The Club has a lot of cool and not too cool stuff here. It’s a good place to relax over a drink, or have a good meal, smoke or just conversation. It’s also a great place to take my foreign trade partners to negotiate and chill out after a hard day’s deal makin’ or politicking in the Ministers’ House.”
She looked around, smiling. “Eh, I’ve been to better,” she said forthrightly. “I spent my life in the palace of the sultan back home. The pasha treated me well, but…” she giggled.
I replied, “The food here is pretty good and the drinks are as well. Beer, wine, even iced tea and the lemon soda water the chief at The Arendelle Guardian indulges in now and then. What’s your pleasure?” I asked.
“The pasha treated me well, but…” she giggled. “He never let me have any of those things ya just brought up. Our homeland is an Islamic one, so we can’t enjoy alcohol. She winked. “But I’m in Arendelle for now, so…”
We ordered two beers. “I dunno the first thing about economics, trade…” said Tileke, shrugging, “although ya can point me to any country’s good food and I’ll be fighting for them in no time.”
“That’s good to hear!” I said. “Don’t judge this exterior to much as another politician. I ran a freight business here until Anna made me Trade Minister. I know what it’s like being in the elements with a wagonful of freight, cold camping or a fire with beans, bacon and coffee. Ask Vi, our PM and resident vampiress. I can be easy to get along with or call reindeershit when I see or hear it! And even here, they had an extra snooty waiter here who snooted a friend of mine too much during a dinner. I pulled him aside and with a wooden name plate in my right hand I angrily whispered: ‘If you ever do that again, my name will be on your lips. Forever!’ as I aimed it at him! Anyway, I spent some time in America too. Helped with the country’s first railroad, The Baltimore & Ohio, and I had a lot of money from home, yet I worked and learned a lot from life to help the girls and do my job.”
Tileke waved a waiter to her for the beer that Michael recommended her (beer was good for beginner or occasional drinkers). When the glasses arrived, Tileke took a deep swig of the drink. “Wooo!” she cried, licking her lips. “Now that froth ain’t somethin’ we got in our great empire!”
“I’m glad you like it!” I said.
“So ya were made trade minister by Anna?” she added in surprise. “We need to get ya to Constantinople to seal a trade deal with us!”
I added, “We’ve got some treaties in place, but I look forward to doing more with Husrev Pasha after this.”
Her face turned serious. “If ya are serious at all about an enduring friendship with the Sublime State, shared war objectives ain’t gonna be enough. We need mutual interests in peacetime too.” It wasn’t lost on me how smoothly Tileke could pivot from jovial and bubbly to astute and insightful, and then back again. Tileke may look devil-may-care, but she’s one smart lady. How do you think she got to where she’s at, dear reader?
“Don’t worry, I get it. Queen Anna and myself would rather do good business with friends than go to useless wars of conquest.” I said to her.
I did notice her pistols and I know she knows how to draw them fast. “I carry one as well.” I told her. “One tip to make it a bit faster.”
“What’s that?” Tileke asked.
“A drop of oil in your holster. Learned that from a man named Paladin in America.”
“I hear ya, Uncle Mike. I learned that from a man who called himself Smoke. Maybe he taught Paladin?”
“Maybe so,” I said.
“World is changing fast,” said Tileke, taking a swig from the beer glass again. “That’s why I was brought on in the first place. The Janissaries weren’t fit for purpose and I needed to restore my country’s hopes.” She leaned back. “Daddy Pasha – erm, I mean, Husrev Pasha knows more about all that fancy schmancy politics than me. Maybe one day, he’ll visit y’all here, or you’ll see him in Constantinople, and ya might find some common ground with him.”
She leaned back, her youthful face belying an awareness that was years ahead for her age. “I hear Northuldra is slowly changing, thanks to Anna. Even our empire is slowly changing, too. Who knows what’ll happen? I sure don’t.” She looked around. “Where else in the beautiful kingdom do ya recommend us visit?”
I figured that there were two food stops we could make, for starters. “If it’s food you want to try, The Waffle Bros. Bakery is worth a go. As long as they’re working together and not arguing over who’s best at what! Also Florian’s Bakery, famous for it’s flangendorfer. You can tell how I got my figure – as round as it is! Ha haha! And I think it would be an honour if we stopped at the statues Queen Anna had placed in the square of her mum and dad, King Agnarr and Queen Iduna. A symbol of Arendelle’s and Northuldra’s peaceful friendship. Queen Iduna was originally from Northuldra, and Agnarr was from Arendelle.”
“Ha! So when are ya goin’ to take me to Northuldra, this scenic forest of spirits that everyone talks about?” Tileke waved a waiter to her for another beer. I also ordered dinner when he came over.
“Speaking of Northuldra, The food here at the club and the castle is very good. I recommend the salmon, but it’ll never beat freshly caught and baked over a fire salmon in Northuldra, believe me!” I said.
Tileke put two slender hands and her black ringed-fingers on her slender tummy. “Your restaurant recommendations sound absolutely magical. But it almost sounds… I dunno… bad? – if we don’t head to Iduna and Agnarr’s statues first.” She said as her warm brown eyes peered at me. “Ya speak of them very fondly. They must’ve been very important to ya.”
“They are to me,” I answered. “But especially to Anna and Elsa. Iduna met Agnarr when they were ‘tweens’ and hit it off splendidly. When the sisters’ grandpa, King Runeard, built a dam that did more harm than good to the Northuldra and murdered their chief in cold blood, there was a fight that upset the spirits. Agnarr got knocked out cold during the fight. Iduna found him and got him into a wagon with Gale’s help. Iduna covered themselves up and got out of Northuldra before the spirits locked them in the forest for the next thirty four years. Runeard was killed during the fight. Elsa’s birth was a blessing from the spirits with her ice and snow powers because of Iduna’s selfless actions.”
“Now that’s a story to write home about, that’s what it is!” cried Tileke, slamming her beer glass on the table, which made the nearby waiters jump. “I never had a bond like Anna had with her parents, or with her sister. I don’t even know my blood family. Not that it matters,” she added (completely glibly), “because from early on, I’d only known the Pasha as my father. He’s the Grand Vizier, ya know?” She smiled. “He’s like… ya know, our prime minister.”
I bolted a bit in my chair at Tileke’s outburst. “Take it easy there, Tileke! You’ll give us all coronaries! Hahaha!” I said to my guest. I then explained to Tileke about Elsa’s and Anna’s hardships after the accidental freezing of Anna by Elsa, their separation and parent’s deaths, the fjord reunion, and the Northuldra and Ahtohallan adventure. We shared an understanding smile before the dinners came.
“What do we have here?” she asked in wonder. I ordered some of Arendelle’s fresh seafood for her. Grilled salmon and pickled herring were the picks of the day, while there were brown cheese, brutnost and crackers for appetizers, and mutton stew for the main course.
“No pigs, right?” laughed Tileke.
“Nope, no sausage, bacon or pork chops here!” I joked.
“Perfect!” Tileke said. She grabbed her knife and fork, but I did ask her kindly to refrain as we bowed our heads and I asked the Lord’s blessing over the meal. Then, we dug in, and as we’d hoped, it was delicious. Tileke was enchanted by the seafood presented before her, as she really enjoyed the fresh bass that could be fished from the Mediterranean waters of the Ottoman domains. She gulped down the pickled herring, while the mutton reminded her of the lamb kebabs she loved to share with her troops.
As we ate, I said, “After the war. I think you’ll like it up in Northuldra. Good people, the Northuldrans. Elsa will probably be back up there too. You can see her in some peaceable action instead of her war footing. I am so proud of my nieces.”
Tileke’s jovial and joking countenance masked a sensitive and thoughtful personality, and she genuinely looked sad for Elsa and Anna. “Hey,” she wondered aloud, “does it hurt more to have never known a kind of love, or to have known and lost that love? I just dunno. I can’t imagine what I’d do when I lose Daddy Pasha.”
I answered, “I’d say the latter. I’ve felt the former in not finding love with a woman. I’m a bachelor, and that’s come with the freedom and solitude that are just two sides of the same coin. I think the first kind of hurt is better, because you do get used to it as a way of life and treasure who you love now.”
I steepled my fingers, leaning back against my chair. “It especially hurt Anna and Elsa when their parents died in the shipwreck, because of the separation they were forced into. It lasted for so many years until Elsa had to face her sister’s near-death at Arenfjord from the second ice blast that Elsa accidentally hit Anna with. Once Elsa realized that Anna had given her life to rescue her from her own fears, she learned that love was the key to controlling her powers. The sisters have been closer than close since then.”
I sighed, but felt comfortable sharing my heart’s ruminations with Tileke, her warm brown eyes shining sympathetically. “I’ve lost both of my parents and, yes, it leaves a big hole in your heart. You still love them, forgive them of any errors or wrongdoing, and carry on from there and do better than them with your own life. You’re fortunate to still have Daddy Pasha. My advice to you is to love and understand each other and enjoy each other day by day.”
As I write this, I still have Katina and the late Grand Duke Sora fresh in my memory.
Tileke then asked me, “Have ya travelled anywhere near our home? Or maybe ya already have made a trip in our country.”
I answered, “Not yet, but after this war, I plan to and I hope to meet your Daddy Pasha. I’d be glad to come south to see him and talk some ‘turkey’ in Turkey! We’re in a new era where it’s better to be friends, allies and good business partners than a bunch of power hungry, dictatorial, conquest mad fools making slaves of each conquered land. Not acceptable at all.”
Dinner was delicious, the beer very good and the company was fantastic. Next morning was a visit to Waffle Bros. for breakfast with Tileke, Anna, and Kristoff. Even Elsa was hankering for a waffle! Tileke, myself, Elsa, and Anna then had a tour of Arendelle. The ladies hit the stores and had a great time. We also visited the statue of Agnarr and Iduna.
Tileke’s time with us over several days was cut short when the Russian angel Sora arrived and our battle plans were put into motion. Tileke boarded her vessel to meet Katina’s fleet head on. After the war was over, Tileke was also key in rescuing Colisa, Hans, and the Duke of Weselton. My thanks to her, and there’s so much more she wants to do in Arendelle.
Northuldra and Turkey. Yes… I think that’ll be Musings to come, dear reader.
From your Trade Minister,