I dood it!
I got the 50,000 word challenge for National Novel Writing Month! I was up late last night trying to get it done, but it is done and I am content. Technically, now, it was a continuation of my previous work on my existing novel-in-progress, First Empress, just a later part of the story that I hadn’t gotten to yet. The important thing is that it is that it was all new material to help me continue my tale.
One of the more interesting experiments was getting to deal more closely with Queen Viarraluca’s detractors, her political enemies. Though her majesty has overthrown and executed the Tetrarchy that previously ruled the Hegemony of Andivel and gotten the people and the army on her side, there still exists a Council of nobles that have a lot of political power, and who see this new tyrant queen as a threat to that power. And, to be fair, she is a threat as she refuses to play by their rules and steps around them in everything she does. So it was kind of fun to get a look into their minds and understand what motivates them, as well as their assumptions about Queen Viarra’s motivations.
Here’s an excerpt from an early scene where they meet to conspire against her majesty. At this point in the story, there has already been an assassination attempt on Queen Viarra, and the seven noblemen who financed the assassin have been tracked down and crucified. This scene takes place the evening after a Council meeting where Queen Viarra verbally bitch-slaps a group of her detractors, followed by a speech from General Etan voicing his support for her majesty and his derision for the council.
The twenty-six conspirators met at Councilman Evral’s country vineyard estate, the night lit by the near-full moon. Peron followed his father, Lord Amrel, through the gateway and into the main courtyard. It wasn’t enough that this fucking islander queen had hanged the tetrarchs and driven out their families—Peron’s fiancée, Iress, fleeing with them—the she-tyrant had crucified the father of two of the young nobleman’s closest friends and driven them from the city as well.
It was a classic take-over, the young nobleman reflected. New monarch gets the military and the people on her side, then tears down the previous ruling class to ensure her place as sole despot. She’d started by bribing the soldiers with money she’d stolen from the late tetrarchs—and possibly by sleeping with a general or two. Then she’d seduced the people by lowering taxes and spending coin generously among the craftsmen and merchants. It was no wonder the people loved their new queen: the bitch knew how to appeal to the greed of the soldiers and the nearsightedness of the commoners. Her methods were so… cliché that the council and nobles should have seen this coming.
This was why the people of Andivel had formed the tetrarchy in the first place, to maintain a balance of power and prevent such tyrants from taking root and exploiting the populace. Clearly the soldiers and lower classes had forgotten this.
“Of course we blamed them for incompetence,” Lord Unor was saying as Peron followed his father into the main sitting room. “How competent can they be: they got beaten to a standstill by a bunch of hairy, slobbering barbarian thugs who still think iron smelting is a radical invention? One decent hoplite ought to be worth any ten shirtless Gan.”
“Not that it makes a difference now,” another councilman pointed out. “General Etan’s little diatribe made clear that the arrogant bitch has most, if not all, of the army on her side now. How long do you think we have before she has the rest of us on the council hanged or crucified?”
“Or quartered or stoned or impaled or beheaded or torn apart by dogs?” Councilman Ordis added gloomily.
“Or what’s that quaint tradition among some of the eastern Tollesian colonies?” Lord Evral asked. “The one where they lock you in a box with just your head sticking out and give you plenty to eat until you rot to death in your own excrement?”
“That strikes me as unlikely,” Councilman Berol shook his head. “It’s kind of an inefficient way to kill someone, and this queen strikes me as nothing if not efficient.”
“After Etan’s little speech, Lord Onris told me that he’s leaving the city,” Peron’s father spoke up. “He said that he’s not going to wait for the bitch’s attack dogs to come after him, so he’s leaving to be with his wife’s family in Mertal.”
“That’s desperation,” Berol snorted. “Onris fucking hates his wife’s family.”
“Is that our only solution?” Peron found himself asking. “Leave Andival before the crazy bitch trumps up excuses to have the rest of us executed?”
“Well, she’s got the military and the idiot rabble on her side, so we can’t exactly raise a coup or a popular uprising,” Lord Evral pointed out. “And after that failed assassination attempt, she’ll probably be on alert for another knife in her window.”
“And it’s not like we can erode her authority with the council,” Lord Amrel added. “We are the fucking council, but she doesn’t seem to feel under any obligation to play by our rules. How do you attack someone who’s unassailable?”
“There’s a cute trick among the Venarri kingdoms in the west, as well as a few of the Gannic kingdoms, and even some of the western mainland and island Tollesian city-states,” Councilman Haret spoke up for the first time thus far. “When an enemy city seems too fortified and fully prepared for a siege, instead of surmounting the walls or sieging the city, they undermine the walls’ foundation. They have sappers dig under the walls, using gravity to cause the fortifications to crash in on themselves. For all intents and purposes, they attack the very foundation supporting their unmovable enemy, making him collapse under his own weight.”
“I get it,” Ordis smirked. “Instead of sending thugs or assassins after Queen Viarra, send them after her supporters. She can’t watch over all of her friends at once.”
“Exactly,” Haret nodded gravely. “Murder army officers who’ve pledged their allegiance, councilmen who’ve voiced support for her, merchants with whom she does frequent business, even her servants if we can catch them at the right moment. Collapse her foundations by killing her supports and making others afraid to keep holding her up.”