Here's more aimless fiction that I wrote for the campaign I run.
In my game Ledaal Kes managed to win the Realm Civil War, after a fashion, but now he's run into some difficulties, as we can see below. Still, he's one cool cat and it will take more than a couple of jive turkeys to harsh on his groove.
“This isn’t going well,” Nellens Verin whispered. “I am getting worried.”
“What are you worried about?” Ledaal Kes whispered back. “The fact that our so-called allies have yet to speak up? Or that so many fools are jumping over to Mnemon?”
“Both,” Verin said. The Wood-aspected sorceress frowned and looked down from the balcony, down at the floor of the Chamber of the Realm Deliberative. “You should be out there.”
Kes arched an eyebrow. “That would hardly be proper. The whole point of this…setup…is that I stay in the background. That way the specter of direct rule can be avoided and everyone’s ego can be safe and sound. If I act directly, I’ll lose more friends than I gain.”
“Every fool in the Realm knows you are the one who tells the Deliberative what to do - though there may be some fools in the Deliberative who don’t know. You’re the one who beat of the Bull of the North, you’re the one you staved off the civil war, you’re the one who maintained peace with Lookshy. You might offend some people if you speak out, but you’re certain to lose everything if you do nothing. That would be a disaster.”
“For me? Or for the Realm?”
“Both,” Verin said firmly. “I don’t approve of everything you’ve done, Kes, like deal with those Anathema –”
“A base lie,” Kes interrupted. “Right? After all, it wouldn’t do for my allies to be spreading the vicious slander of my enemies.”
“Obviously,” Verin said with a little smile. “I am certain my spies don’t know what they saw. And I am certain that Mnemon would be a disaster. She would tear the Realm apart, trying to hunt down Tepet Ejava and all of her allies, real and imagined. Not to mention what she would do to you and your allies. You have to stop her.”
“And the best way to do that is to present a viable alternative for our peers to rally to. An essential part of that alternative is my hands-off approach.” Kes paused for a moment. “Though it hardly seems fair that I rule from the background and I still get blamed for everything that happens. You would think that the one would insulate me from the other.”
“Mnemon doesn’t fight fair. Though I wonder…”
“What?” Kes asked.
Verin frowned. “Why is Mnemon making such a fuss all of the sudden? What has changed to cause her to recalculate the balance of power? After you out-maneuvered her a few years ago in the Deliberative she gave up and all but retired to her estate. She hasn’t been involved in any official business, she hardly attends any social functions, she has been all but cut off from Dynastic society. And then, out of nowhere, she shows up and starts to wave her standard again. What changed?”
“And why can’t we see it? Something has to be bringing all of these fools –” Verin waved contemptuously at the Deliberative chamber “– over to her side. It can’t just be discontent with the failure of the Greyfalls operation, or lingering support for Ejava’s banditry in the South. There’s something else at work here. Maybe…”
Kes raised a hand to silence Verin. Nellens Rombulac was beginning his speech and Kes wanted to listen. Verin politely stopped, and settled back into her chair.
House Nellens was one of the few great houses that energetically supported Kes, so what they had to say was of particular importance to him, not so much for what it said about House Nellens than what it might do to sway those houses that wavered. Fortunately, most of the houses were wavering rather than jumping over to other contenders. Mnemon only had her own house and House Sesus in her camp, while Tepet Ejava could only call upon half of House Tepet and the tiny House V’neef.
Or perhaps V’neef wasn’t so tiny. The Empress’s youngest daughter only had half a dozen children in her family, but her Threshold estates, in addition to being directly adjacent to the area under Ejava’s control, were extremely wealthy and contained sufficient anchorage to house most of the Realm’s merchant marine. If Kes had access to ships the strategic reach of the legions would be doubled, and he wouldn’t be restricted to running one half-crippled operation in Calin. But so far his plans to be patient and win V’neef over with honey rather than vinegar hadn’t paid off, and, Kes thought bitterly, they might never get the opportunity to do so.
Nellens Rombulac’s speech was thoughtful and well measured rather than inspiring, but it did do a good job at laying out the dangers posed by the Realm switching leadership at such a sensitive time. It was an interesting speech, since Rombulac shied away from stating the obvious: that the members of the Deliberative had a clear choice before them, and that they had to pick either Kes or Mnemon. Everyone knew that was what the Deliberative was really debating, but no one could say so directly. It was a power struggle being fought by proxy and words, not direct confrontation. Metaphor and subtlety were the order of the day.
Ordinarily, Kes would have been delighted by such a state of affairs. Not only was he a master at subtle manipulation, as proven by his diplomatic defeat of Mnemon four years earlier, if the battle for the Realm was being fought in the chambers of the Deliberative that meant it wasn’t being fought in the fields and cities of the Blessed Isle. That was good for the Realm, and it was good for Kes. He wasn’t sure if he could be Mnemon in an open war, but he was certain he could beat her at diplomacy.
At least, he had been sure. As Verin noted, something had changed. What she didn’t know, couldn’t know, was that Kes had access to information that he kept secret even from her, his spymaster. Kes had a very good idea why Mnemon had regained her confidence and why she was currently tearing his carefully constructed regime apart. Whether he could do anything about it was another issue entirely.
Kes turned his head slightly. Someone else had entered his balcony.
“Good afternoon, Kes,” Menmon said, politely inclining her head. “Verin.”
“Aunt Mnemon,” Kes said, equally polite, though Mnemon frowned. She didn’t seem to appreciate the honorific.
Kes’s aunt looked like a woman just on the edge of maturity, with skin as smooth and pale as marble, eyes as cold as granite, and a bearing a regal and inflexible as the mountains. Only her long brown hair suggested that she was something fragile and alive and not carved from the earth itself.
“An interesting speech, don’t you think?” Mnemon stepped onto the balcony and peered down.
“Very,” Kes replied. “Rombulac makes and very good case for the Scarlet Dynasty to resolve its issues peacefully.”
“We all want a peaceful resolution,” Mnemon agreed. “But we also want to see the Realm succeed, don’t we?”
“Then perhaps it would be best if we tried a new course. Certainly the members of the Deliberative think it is time to change our policy.”
“Perhaps,” Kes said carefully, “but that sentiment seems to be far from universal. I for one think we need to carefully consider all of our options before we make a final decision.”
“Of course. No one wants to be hasty. But House Ragara, for one, seems to be ready to take a more active stance.”
“Yes, I’d heard that,” Kes lied. In fact, he had heard no such thing. House Ragara was his wife’s house and, more importantly, far and away the richest of the great houses. Losing them to Mnemon would be a disaster to his cause.
“Perhaps that’s an indication of things to come,” Mnemon said pleasantly. “But the course of the future remains to be seen.”
Mnemon frowned. “Perhaps you would like to continue this conversation later? I would very much like to plot out the shape of the future. Hypothetically, of course.”
“Naturally,” Kes said, smiling. “Shall I see you in my office after the current round of debate ends?”
She returned the smile. “Excellent. I will see you there.”
As Mnemon left, Verin grabbed Kes by the arm.
“What are you doing?” she hissed. “You’re not thinking of giving up, are you?”
Kes shrugged. “If Mnemon gets House Ragara, then it’s all over in the Deliberative. I need to see if that is true, and if it is, I need to try to shape a settlement that’s as beneficial to us as possible.”
“You’re not serious.”
“I don’t like it, but if Mnemon is willing to be reasonable then I think it’s wise to try to accommodate her as much as possible. Maybe I can guide her to be wise ruler.”
“And if you can’t?”
“Then we have to look at solutions from outside of the Deliberative.”
Verin seemed to be only partially mollified.
Kes left the balcony soon after that. He had few things to take care of, and he wanted to be ready and waiting for Mnemon.
He was sitting behind his desk when Mnemon came into his office without knocking. She closed the door with a self-assured swing, and looked at Kes with a satisfied smirk on her face.
“A very interesting round of debate, don’t you think?” she said, taking a seat.
“Yes,” Kes said, “if a bit unfair. Some of the accusations against the current leadership were a bit overboard, though, don’t you think?”
“Do you mean the allegations of incompetence? They were harshly worded, but hardly unfair. We have, after all, lost several legions of troops in combat with the Anathema. And then there’s the matter of the collusion with Lookshy. No one seems to be happy with that.”
“I am sure that, if they paused to consider the alternatives, they would see the merit in that agreement.”
“Really? And what merit is there in our cooperation with the Anathema?”
Kes waved a hand dismissively. “Now that is baseless. Nothing more than fear-mongering by some especially paranoid souls.”
“I’m sure.” Mnemon squinted. “All of this is very interesting, but I think it’s distracting us from our true purpose here.”
“And what would that be?”
“Your terms of surrender,” Mnemon said bluntly. “I want you to convince House Ledaal and House Nellens to come over to my side. Immediately. That should bring the other houses into line as quickly as possible, and then we can start to fix the problems facing the Realm.”
Kes thought for a moment. “I am not sure that you are correct. I think that rumor is our true purpose here.”
“Yes. Rumors of my incompetence, of the intentions of House Ragara, of the cooperation with Anathema.”
“I thought you said that was nothing but fear-mongering.”
“I wasn’t talking about the accusations against me. I was talking about your deathknight friends.”
The room got very quiet.
“What do you mean, Kes?” Mnemon asked after a long silence.
“I have information that you have invited deathknights onto the Blessed Isle. I have information that they are aiding you at this very moment. Don’t you think the rest of the Deliberative would be interested to hear about that?”
“That’s…that’s insane. I would never do such a thing.”
“Of course not,” Kes replied airily. “But you have. Which creates what the philosophers call a paradox. So how do you propose we resolve this paradox?”
“What proof do you have?”
Mnemon narrowed her eyes. “I don’t think it is. If you have evidence you were confident in, you would have brought it before the Deliberative. You wouldn’t miss an opportunity like that.”
“Perhaps I believe in the spirit of cooperation.”
“I don’t think so. You made a mistake, and I don’t intend to give you the opportunity to rectify it.”
Mnemon made a little gesture with her hand. Kes never saw the deathknight step out of the shadows at the back of his office, never heard her step up to his chair, never felt the daiklave slide through his chest.
“Oh my,” Kes said, looking down at the daiklave sticking out of his body. There wasn’t any blood, and the chair seemed to have come off much worse than him.
To her credit, the Maiden of the Mirthless Smile caught on quicker than Mnemon. The Abyssal waved her hand through Kes’s head, the image flickering at its passing.
“It’s an illusion,” the Maiden said. “He’s not here.”
“I can see that!” Mnemon said. “Leave! Find him! Kill him!”
Kes sighed, and the projected illusion mimicked his motion. “I thought we could solve this peacefully, Mnemon. I thought that, just maybe, you weren’t as mad as I had feared. But…ah, well. I do hate being wrong.”
“You’re finished, Kes,” Mnemon snarled. “I am going win. Nothing will keep me off the throne.”
Kes sighed again, and the illusion vanished.