Greater of Two Evils, Reprise
Monday, August 31, 2009 - 10:09 PM
Closing the heavy cover of the Book of Lies, Lord Endelcar took his seat at the wide, mirror-polished black table. There were nine seats; the one at the head of the table was empty.
“This Convocation has begun,” he announced after a sip of wine. “We have had time to consider our courses of action, given what information we have brought to each other. There are a few decisions we must now resolve.”
“Indeed,” said the Advocate in his mellifluous voice. The voice did not match the seamed, scarred and craggy face it slid out of, nor did it match his hard eyes, which were like black stones. “And I for one am anxious to begin our work in earnest this year.”
“Our work is always earnest,” replied the Pander smoothly, narrow chin resting on the slender knuckles of one hand. Her smile made her rebuke an gift, and the Advocate merely nodded in acceptance.
“Don't mince words,” said the Reeve, eyes sliding like razors over the Pander's bare shoulders.
“Indeed not,” broke in Lord Endelcar. “We have a good many choices to deliberate over, and the sooner we bring our counsel to the Monarch, the better. Shall we begin?”
As he began to lead them down the list, he silently admitted that he too shared the Advocate's feelings. With a Monarch in the council at last, Lord Endelcar felt like a young man again. The bleak coals of his hard-won wisdom were afire with the subtle knowledge that now, just as the Advocate said, their work could truly proceed.
As they voted to collapse the economy of the port city Dardantus, he considered that all of the other Kingmakers were feeling the same elation in some way, even if they did not openly show it. The Manciple's debaucheries last night had been extreme, even for her. Even the normally austere and reserved Sacristan had exhibited more pomp and circumstance than usual when they'd met earlier in the evening. Indeed, the decision to have the Convocation at the mercenary pleasure-city of Arn was just as much a chance to celebrate as it was a safe place for them to meet.
“Do we remove Caradoc Manzoran?”
“He is troublesome, but he does not directly oppose us,” murmured the Pander, two fingers on her cheek in thought. “He cannot reach us readily, he knows it.. and neither can we remove him easily.”
“Further, he provides a hub of political and financial influence that is useful to us in the long term,” added the Voltigeur as he regarded his wineglass.
“The council therefore says no.”
Marking yet another decision voted upon, Lord Endelcar saw the differences in this Convocation. They were all ready to push, to drive forward and see bounds of progress instead of the small, careful steps they were prone to. All of them were people of great influence and power, and none of them ever made foolish mistakes. But now, they felt aggressive.
Changes are coming, though Lord Endelcar with satisfaction.
The questions moved on, and the Kingmakers chose.
“The Canon of Doctrine in Yhelm is proving problematic. Do we bring another church investigation forward to distract her?”
The wild-eyed Imprecator sneers at the Sacristan's conservative opinion. The Sacristan is unmoved by the Imprecator's scorn, and his deadly quiet voice continues to levelly defend his view against the precise arguments of the Advocate.
“Betrani trade embargoes against the Purayu islands continue. Do we break them?”
The Pander sways the Advocate again with nothing but a glance, and the Reeve notices. He folds his deadly hands in envy, perhaps. The Pander smiles warmly at the Advocate for everyone else's benefit.
“The House of the Sun has taken a passive stance on their border conflicts with Jashapur; is it in our best interests to foment conflict between them again?”
Laughing with a mouth that is not even his, the Voltigeur comments about the Manciple's expensive tastes. She watches him with pale eyes, and wonders things he might be able to imagine. The Sacristan folds his arms, shuts his brooding eyes and considers.
Finally, as he finished tallying the last vote, Lord Endelcar looked at the empty chair where Tristan would be seated, and then panned his gaze around at the other Kingmakers.
“Lastly... as you know, Prince Beckhardt Naseran Winthelgrim informally abdicated to Lady Angharad, and yet rather than formally abdicate, he has sent a huge tribute to the ones who slew Hope and preserved his province. We know that he shows no signs of relinquishing, and we know that Lady Angharad feels that the province should be hers. So... who shall we have as ruler there?”