Scope, scale, and escalation. I like making a story bigger by peeking into the personality and thinking of a character. Prince Kaustikos becomes Regent Cyanide and then the King of the Ruled. With names like those, he needs to be a real bastard. Here he is, and here are the links to the rest of the story.
Addy wrote Chapter 1 here:
I wrote Chapter 2 here:
He wrote Chapter 3 here:
I wrote Chapter 4 here:
Chapter 5 is here and introduces Pryderi, the forgotten son of the King and a captain of an Unruled warship:
Part 2 introduces Cyanide.
History tells us that almost everyone wants smaller government, and yet observation tells us almost everyone wants more politics. This incessant need to be right even, and especially, when you’re wrong leads to escalation and point-proving. Trying to prove a point by making the other person wrong, by escalating the simple into the absurd and beyond is the reason we need government. Left to themselves the politically immature would have war at their door in an hour.
Of course, the centralisation of power in the hands of a government means there must be government appointees and staff, most lovingly referred to as public serpents. They’ll spend all day telling you how hard they work, how vital they are, and how they are called to toil selflessly in the name of the faceless public. In fact, they’ll spend all day doing anything that furthers their own ends at the expense of a somnambulant public.
So, if you take away government you have anarchy. Bring it back and you have institutional laziness, stupidity, and wild self-interest. Which is best? That depends on the level of power you have.
I was born powerful. For generations my forebears amassed wealth, plotted, schemed, murdered, and stole until they had enough to become a minor force in the politics of the day. The next generations developed the skills of intrigue and cunning, knifing their way further up the political ladder while putting the boot into the faces of those below. Later generations manoeuvred even higher, marrying into strong bloodlines and forming alliances where the goal was to take what the ally had built. Finally, we became nobility and then royalty.
Royalty is wonderful. We own everything. That’s actually quite boring because you’re rarely surprised. There’s no such thing as a gift, because others are merely giving to us what we already own, but didn’t know we owned. So, how does one express their power? Life and death is all that’s left to us, so we build a little over there and tear down a little over here.
The problem with killing your subjects is that after a while the thrill wears off, and you need to find bigger and bigger targets if you’re to feel anything at all. In the early days of my reign I tinkered with killing the unimportant, and then I tried finding a thrill by mass executions. I even tried waging a war or two, before I got fed up with the whole thing. Being a Royal can be much more trying than people imagine.
Finally, after working through the Royal Court, where I punished those who I accused of intrigues I’d actually started, I found new and elevated pleasures. However, it all started from humble beginnings. I killed my mother, Branwen, after she gave birth to that little imposter, my brother Pryderi. It was fun, while it lasted, but it just didn’t last long enough. I realised this ipso facto but of course, after the fact is always too late.
Later, I killed my brother. So that was a bit of fun. I admit I was somewhat impetuous about it. I lost my legendary calmness and in a fit of pique I pushed him out of a high window. Imagine my surprise when he grabbed onto me and tried to take me with him! The little shit. How dare he try to kill a Prince! Fortunately, I had my sword with me. You can’t be too careful when you’re in a Castle full of intrigues, especially if you’re their engineer and everyone knows it. I took his arm off and let him and it fall into the moat below. I thought for a week that some enterprising fishing person might snag Pryderi’s body or limb and bring it, wailing and moaning, to the Castle in the hope of a reward, but no.
Pryderi was a nice little boy, everyone said so, and so he had to go. If I was interested in ‘nice’ I’d be it, but I’m not, so I’m not, if you see what I mean. I toyed with the idea of having “Died of Niceness” scratched into his tombstone, but then I decided there’d be no grave marker. He was never officially declared dead, you see? There being no reminder of his death, his life was simpler to erase, and after a time it was as if he had never existed. That kept me busy and entertained for a while but, again, the fun wore off.
Pryderi’s Folly, as I came to think of it, was that he intuited that I had killed our mother and was poisoning our father. Having intuited it, he came to suspect it, and then the little scamp set off looking for evidence of it. Not bad for a 10-year old, I admit, except that he was guileless and that made him clumsy. Not only did he find the Mystic who made the poison for me, he managed to put together some interesting facts.
History teaches us everything worth knowing, if only we have the capacity to understand it. All of my best ideas come from comprehending the bastardry that others had developed over the generations. All I did was pick and choose. I found the Book Arcana and from it I gleaned the method to bind a Mystic to me. As long as I kept the index fingers of the Mystic he or she was ‘bound’ to do my bidding.
Of course, Mystics have a high vanity of themselves and so it was to be expected that my chosen one, Warina, would attempt to find her fingers and thus loose herself from my grip. Anticipating that, I made sure she disappeared and to be sure of her cooperation I killed one of her children and kept the other two as personal pets. Conditional loyalty is better than no loyalty at all, even though as Prince I shouldn’t have had to settle for any conditions at all. Good help is hard to find.
So, I had my Bound Wizard who developed a ready stash of slow-working poison. I had adapted my thinking and learned from my mistakes. Mother died quickly, and where’s the fun in that? Pryderi died after a cat-and-mouse game that involved him finding evidence of my intrigue and the poison pouches that powered it. He’d have told on me, the little snitch, so of course he had to go. Taking his arm off gave me cause to smile whenever the burden of my long-playing game with Father began to sour a little.
Once Pryderi was out of the way I had myself declared Regent, my poor father being somewhat indisposed, what with shitting his guts out and the dementia. The levels of threats I had to pose to his advisors were much less than it might otherwise have taken. With a new position comes new responsibilities, and so I thought the time apt to change my name upon my ascent to Regency. Forthwith and hereinafter, I was Cyanide.
In the fullness of time my father died, rot him. As Regent, I had control of his affairs and all dictum were enacted by me, but having him about was a blessing because I could push through unpopular and at times outrageous notions as the will of a sick but living Monarch, doted on by a concerned and loving son. History will judge him for the dupe he was. It would enshrine me as the brilliant tactician who had lopped the weak branches off the family tree and tilled the soil so that the roots plunged deeply into the earth and spread out. Of course, my testament would not be discovered until after I had died. I had no illusions about how the weak-minded and the non-students of history would view my contribution.
All this death and destruction at times placed me in a morbid mood. As fun as it had been, it wasn’t all tea on the lawn and crumpets for breakfast. Such is the pressure a Royal of Royals faces. Tedious, I know, but there’s the lay of the land. I thought of my own mortality, drat it. Looking ahead, I saw that time when my body would give out, the treacherous bastard, even though my mind would still be operating at its usual peak performance. I cursed the gods that offered so much but denied me immortality. The Unruled and their infernal machines could live for centuries, and that is when I hit on my greatest idea yet.
It had been a longstanding edict that any Unruled caught should be killed. One does not make a pet of a leech. Circumstances mellowed me. Over the next decade I had those captured Unruled quietly brought to me and at considerable trouble and expense I made secret premises where I could reverse engineer their technology and enhancements. I got in plenty of practice with amputations, controlling blood loss, and attaching new and improved apparatus. Indeed, I had a veritable small army of surgeons, engineers, tradesmen, and others who, after they’d come to terms with their permanent imprisonment were only too happy to have the diversions I offered them.
I was nervous, at first, of going under anaesthetic and being operated on even though I took the precautions of having my surgeons’ families dangling from a death that only I could stop. It was ingenious. If I didn’t wake in time and enter the codes to halt whatever process the family members were subject to, they’d die a slow and horrible death. Still, it only takes one madman who is prepared to kill his own family to further his goals. I will never understand that type of thinking.
We began with a few mild enhancements that would be fun to have but not critical to life. With success came boldness, and more adventurous engineering followed. Then I struck the motherlode. I read an entry that briefly spoke of the Silver Knights. I always thought they were a figment, a cautionary tale to be a do-gooder and not take what belonged to others. It was easy to dismiss because of that. Ultimately, I own everything.
I read much more deeply and avidly into the Silver Knights. All that ‘mists of time’ stuff usually bores me to tears but now I was seeing it all with new eyes. If I was understanding this correctly, they were technically immortal. I knew my destiny then. The Knights lived forever but ‘slept’ between gigs, awakening only when there was a threat to their kind.
I had no intention of ‘sleeping’. My goal was functional immortality.