Bad News Bears

Author’s Note: This post actually takes place before the one before, because my ability to plan is just that good. However, it has no effect on what went on in the post before — it just happened to occur before it.

“Ambrosius, my good … er, whatever you are exactly. How are you?”

“Very well, my prince,” replied the enchanted suit of armor. “And the wizard Merlin states that my kind are called ‘Servos.'”

“Ah, that’s why I can never remember that name. Too … servile.” Tom pulled away and patted Ambrosius on the back. The armor produced a hollow clang, but many years of hearing just that clang had immured Tom to the sound.

“And how are you, my prince?”

“In … a rather unique position, Ambrosius.” I have bad news for Dad, and for once he can’t possibly blame me for this! “I would say more, but until I talk to my father, well …”

“Is it Prince Kay, my prince?”

“What? Oh, no! Or at least — if he’s gotten into anything he shouldn’t have, he hasn’t informed me about it yet.” Tom did not elaborate on just what he thought “anything he shouldn’t have” should mean, since he knew from long experience that his definition of that particular term and his parents’ and Ambrosius’s definitions did not match. Still, as long as the worst Kay was getting into was drinking too much, skipping class (hung over) once or twice, flirting with inappropriate young ladies and a hit or two of the bubbles, Tom did not imagine that his parents needed to be informed.

“And of course,” Tom continued, “if Jess’s public behavior is anything less than immaculate, she’s too smart to let me know.”

“Immaculate, my prince?”

“You know Jess, she always puts on a good show for strangers. Never mind what her poor family has to put up with.” Tom managed a cheery smile, then the frown that Ambrosius’s greeting had chased away returned. “Ambrosius, I would love to chat more, but I do really need to speak to my father. He is in, isn’t he?”

“Aye, my lord. In the study.”

“Thank you.”

Tom turned down the familiar hallway, and as soon as the familiar clanking of Ambrosius’s footsteps echoed off into the distance, the concerned, manly frown morphed into an adolescent’s expression of nervousness.

Dad is not going to be happy once I tell him this …

But what else was Tom supposed to do, not tell him that Glasonland was boiling over like a pot left too long on the stove? Was he supposed to allow Arthur to be taken by surprise when a Glasonlander army marched through on its way to Reme? Even if he wasn’t the Crown Prince, it would be his duty, he thought, to let his king know the storm brewing over the eastern horizon.

But it doesn’t mean I have to like it!

The door to his father’s study was just ahead. Tom took a deep breath, rolled his shoulders and listened to the familiar, comforting sound of chain mail clinking into place. He might have reason to be thankful for that chain mail soon enough … he knocked.

“Enter!”

Tom poked his head in the door. “Really, Dad? You just say ‘enter’? What if I was an assassin?”

Arthur jumped. “Tom!”

“Aye, last I checked.”

“What — what are you doing here?”

“Really? Your son and heir comes home unexpectedly and you can’t even say, ‘Good to see you, son, glad you’re home!’?”

“You greeted me by bringing up the possibility of assassination — it’s called tit for tat, son.” Arthur got up and held out his arms. “But give your old man a hug and we’ll let bygones be bygones.”

“Not a bad idea,” Tom said as he accepted the hug.

Arthur pulled away, smiled and kept his hand on his son’s shoulder. “So what does bring here?”

“Well …” He would ease into it by way of the immediate explanation. “Well, Garnet wanted to get home, because …”

“Aye, because of Lord Lot. And you offered to escort her?”

“Aye. And then, of course, I had to come home, say hello to the parents … you’d never let me forget it if I was in the kingdom and didn’t at least drop by to say hello.”

“And ask for a bed for the next couple nights, and a few good meals, and someone to wash your small-clothes properly as well, I take it?”

“There is no place like home,” Tom said with a weak chuckle.

Arthur’s eyes narrowed. “Something wrong?”

Tom bit his lip. “Aye. But for once, I didn’t do it.”

“Kay?”

“No.”

“Not Jessie?”

“Not her, either!” Tom almost laughed, but sobered before he could quite get the sound out. “It’s — well, it’s worse.”

“Worse how?”

“You might want to sit down.”

Arthur narrowed his eyes, surveyed Tom, and sat. Tom sat across from him — and as quickly and concisely as he could, relayed all the news Milo had told him.

To say that it surprised Arthur would be quite the understatement.

When he was finally able to reattach his jaw, he muttered, “Son of a bitch.”

Well. Dad took that better than I did!

Arthur leaned his elbows on the table, rested his head in his hands, and took a deep breath. He closed his eyes.

“Dad?”

“Yes?”

“… Any bright ideas?”

Arthur snorted. “Not yet.” He took another deep breath and Tom let him think.

“Tom?”

“Yes?”

“Will you go to the door, call for a page, and ask him to send for your mother?” After a split-second’s hesitation, during which Tom had already stood up, “Tell the page to let her know you’re here too; there’s going to be enough to upset her without her getting the shock you gave me.”

“Aye, Dad.”

Tom got the page, the message was sent, and he sat down with his father to wait.

Alison let herself in without knocking. “Tommy! How wonderful to see you home!”

“Hello, Mum.” He decided he would give her a proper greeting before spoiling her day … her week, probably.

When Alison had been ushered into the other seat, Arthur took a deep breath. “I called you hear because Tom came home with … bad news.”

“What kind of bad news?”

“The kind that isn’t my fault, or Jess’s fault, or Kay’s fault.”

“You’re all all right? All safe? Not sick?”

“They’re fine, Allie,” Arthur answered. “It’s Glasonland.” Without further ado, he repeated Tom’s story to Alison.

She sat back, her eyes very wide, making the sign of the plumbob. “Oh my Lord.”

“I know, Allie.”

“What … what can we do?”

“I don’t know yet. That’s why I asked you here.”

“Arthur, I know nothing about armies, you know that.”

“But you know people,” Arthur replied, “and, Wright Willing, if we manage the people, we shan’t have to manage the army.”

Alison swallowed before she nodded, but she did nod.

“So … what would we do? Fund one of the bastards?” Tom asked.

“At this juncture, too risky,” Arthur answered. “Lords Lucinius, Septimus and Antonius are too close to the throne. They probably already have a certain amount of access to the army, navy … and I doubt Vortigern would appreciate one of his bastards making a move for the throne while he was still on it. No, we don’t want to be giving them a reason to invade Albion.”

“But Dad, if the Reman uncles come to the throne — we’re toast.”

“Not necessarily. Those are merely rumors, Tommy,” replied Alison. “I don’t — I don’t want to insult your source, but rumors can be as much of a reflection of what the ones spreading them fear as what they know.”

“Fear? Why would the Glasonlanders fear war with Reme? We’d be the ones taking the brunt of the battles!”

“You’re too young to remember this, Tom, but — every Glasonlander, from the time they’re in their cradle, is given a fear of Reme.” Arthur sighed. “I remember the old men talking about the wars between Glasonland and Reme in their generation … they were … well, let me put it like this — the Remans never had any compunction about wiping out hold villages.”

“Women, children, the old men — everyone, Tommy,” Alison put in.

“If that was meant to be reassuring, Mum, it did not work out as intended.”

“It was meant to show that the main Glasonlander population would not be in favor of war, and that their fears are exaggerating their sense of what is possible and likely,” replied Arthur.

“All right. Well, what’s your sense of what’s possible and likely?”

Arthur bit his lip. “I haven’t seen these men in twenty years, Tom.”

“Arthur, you have spies. What do they say?”

Arthur shook his head. “I knew instability was bound to come — they know it, too, they’ve been writing of nothing else than the pressure poor Princess Viviette is to produce an heir …”

“They’re trying to get an heir out of …?”

“Vortimer.”

“But I thought …” Tom said.

“If certain — er — parts are working, it doesn’t matter what’s wrong with his head. Vortigern wants an heir out of him.”

“Your spies said that there was talk of passing over Prince Vortimer in favor of a young male heir — assuming they got one before King Vortigern died, isn’t that right?” asked Alison.

“Wright Almighty. They’d put an infant on the throne? That’s even worse!” Tom protested.

“An infant would have a limited time of minority, though,” Arthur mused. “Better than Prince Vortimer, who could easily live a long and healthy life, spewing instability in his wake.”

“Aye, but who’d be the regent? The Reman uncles? Then we’re in the same position we were in already,” Tom replied.

“Perhaps not the Reman uncles. Princess Viviette has some cousins who are Glasonlanders, does she not? They might be the best choice for a regent, in the event that she had a son and his father was passed over in his favor.”

“Or if the boy’s father was murdered rather than give the Lords Lucinius, Septimus and Antonius an excuse to mount a rebellion,” Arthur muttered.

Alison’s eyebrow lifted. “You think that likely?”

“I wouldn’t put anything past Vortigern.”

“Oh, bloody hell, it just keeps getting …” Tom hesitated. “Dad?”

“Yes?”

“Tell me if I’m wrong, but … is it just me, or does it seem like the worse things look for Glasonland, the better they look for us?”

“The best thing that could possibly happen, for us and for Glasonland, is for Princess Viviette to give birth to a son, for King Vortigern to name that son his heir without opposition from Prince Vortimer’s partisans, and for a responsible regent to be appointed for the child’s minority.”

“Aye, but what are the odds of that happening?”

“Slim to none,” Arthur admitted.

“So then, the less stable Glasonland is — the better it is for us, really. If the Reman uncles are up to their bushy Reman eyebrows in plots, war and intrigue, they won’t have the time or the resources to be mounting an invasion of Reme through Albion.”

Arthur said nothing, but Tom could feel his mother turn a half-appraising, half-encouraging glance on him.

Tom took a deep breath. “Look, Dad, I understand that we can’t get involved right now. And we can’t get involved directly, unless we know we’re backing the winning side, because otherwise the side that wins will be going after us next. But there has to be something we can do in the meantime.”

“Such as?”

Tom bit his lip. “I’ve been talking to Rob and Freddy — er, Robert Wesleyan and Frederick Ferreira. They said they’ve heard through the grapevine that life is getting harder on merchants in Glasonland.”

“Vortigern’s raised their taxes three times in the past five years, and he hasn’t asked for a farthing more from the nobles,” Alison agreed.

“But our merchants might pay import duties, but they won’t be paying those kinds of taxes — they might be able to undercut Glasonlander merchants on some things.”

“Namely?” Arthur asked.

“Weapons.”

“Tom, I assure you, Glasonland has an excellent homegrown supply of weapons.”

“But you can — at least, this is what Rob and Freddy told me — pick up used weapons cheap from the Remans. They’re not much good for a knight, but for your average foot-soldier, they’re perfectly serviceable. If different factions need to arm quickly, then they might turn to our merchants, instead of waiting for their own smiths to make new ones.”

“Indeed — but aside from making more money for our merchants, I fail to see what this would accomplish in the long run.”

“Well,” Tom said, swallowing, “if — our merchants were to flood the market with cheap Reman weapons, or just cheap weapons, before things start up … somebody might decide to take advantage of the low prices and arm up in advance.”

“Oh?” Arthur asked.

“And if somebody did … well, the Glasonlander authorities might not like that. It could be the spark that sets off the brush fire.”

“If someone bought the weapons. They might not. The Glasonlander crown might pick them all up to avoid that happening. And where, by the way, would our merchants get these cheap Reman weapons?”

Tom grinned. “The Remans just abandoned an old fort about ten miles from the border, didn’t they? Might they have left a storehouse of weapons behind?”

“They didn’t. We checked.”

“But there’s extra money sitting in the treasury for … emergencies such as this, isn’t there? The weapons don’t have to be cheap Reman ones … they just have to seem like they could be.”

“Perhaps,” Arthur murmured. He drummed his fingers on the table.

“Well, it’s a thought,” he said finally. “But I should send for the Council … figures my best general is down with a brainstorm right when we’re facing a military crisis …” Arthur sighed. “I’d best see to that … thank you, both of you, for your help.”

As soon as Arthur left the room, Tom’s shoulders slumped. But he got up, hoping against hope that his father would at least include him in the Council meeting, even if his ideas weren’t worth much …

“Tommy?”

He turned around to find his mother smiling at him, and before he knew it, her arms were around him.

“That was a wonderful idea,” she said. “And if I know your father … he’s off to get his Council to help him pick it apart, look at the undersides, and figure out the best way to work it before he acts.” She patted his back. “And tell him you want in to that meeting. I think you’ve earned it.”

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11 thoughts on “Bad News Bears

  1. It’s still hard to picture Tom as king. I’m sorry he’s just so… so… Tommy. But I think we have a good glimpse at the sort of king that Tommy will eventually be and I think it’ll be a good one. 🙂

    Well, you never know, maybe things will go well in Glasonland and… Um, what am I saying, you wouldn’t have gone through the effort to introduce Glasonland’s troubles if there weren’t some reason behind them.

    I like Alison at the end too. I think it’s only fair that Tom be included, I mean he is the heir to the throne and he should probably have a place at the counsel sometime soon anyway.

    Shall be interesting to see what all comes out of this though.

    • I know. I can’t imagine what Tommy will be like when he’s … you know, old. Luckily, he won’t be old for a while, so hopefully I can figure out how to grow him into the role.

      You show a great deal of confidence in my ability to plan things out, Andavri. 😉 But yeah, I DO have some plans.

      He’ll definitely have a place at the council when he graduates. Right now, though, it seems a bit silly to be calling him home from Camford for every little thing. Though this is not by any means a “little” thing.

      And hopefully it will be interesting! 😉

  2. Yay, I’ve been waiting on this particular update (since I was really curious to see how Arthur would take the news). I think, when the time comes, Tom will actually make a good king. And it would just be fair to let him join the council. He’s going to be king one day and needs to get a feel for all that stuff, even if Arthur still has many years to live. What will happen to Lot’s position? Will they just wait to see how he progresses or is this position going to go to someone else? Well, anyway… great Chapter and I can’t wait for the next one! 🙂

    • Aww, thanks, Saquina! I’m glad you liked it!!

      The Council, as of now, is a rather informal body — so far, it’s basically made up of every of-age, out-of-Camford noble male in the kingdom, plus a seat for the Church which is currently filled by Father Hugh, because there are, after all, only five of-age, out-of-Camford noble males in the kingdom. I imagine every heir will have a place on the Council once they graduate, if only so they can learn the business and the procedures. Non-heirs will probably have to earn a seat by actually doing something useful with their lives, but heirs and heads-of-families will have seats automatically because of the amount of land, wealth and power they hold.

      Of course, a seat on the Council does not necessarily equal a huge amount of influence on the King. Arthur leans mostly on Pellinore and Lancelot for advice and help, I would think — Pellinore for advice on the practical and the feasible, and for making laws, and Lancelot as kind of a moral compass. Lot and Bors get deference when it comes to army matters, because they’re the acknowledged experts, but necessarily too much influence outside of that. Mordred is rather young, so he’s mostly expected to watch and listen, though with his father out of commision for the time being he’ll be doing his best to represent the Orkney family interests. Father Hugh has the least influence over most events, but that’s because he feels he’s out of his depth on Council issues and mostly keeps his mouth shut. If he really needs something from Arthur, though, or if he thinks he must speak, he will, and Arthur will certainly take his ideas under consideration because he knows how hard that is for Father Hugh.

      I hope that helped clear things up. Oh, and about your messages, they got dumped into the “pending” bin because with my security settings, I like to approve all new posters first. Obviously, as you can see now, they were approved as soon as I woke up and checked the messages. 😉

  3. This is certainly the kind of plot that could touch everybody. And that’s an interesting ploy on Tommy’s part– destabilize Glasonland further so as to boost Albion’s safety, considering Albion is… something of a small town at the moment.

    • A VERY small town at the moment. 😉

      And yeah, the longer Glasonland is unstable, the better things look for Albion — if nothing else, they have time to get an army organized, improve their fortifications, and maybe make overtures to Reme for protection/give them fair warning that the Reman uncles are after the laurel-crown.

      And who knows, if civil war does erupt in Glasonland, maybe somebody who’s not the Reman uncles will win and Albion will be safe for the time being.

  4. Okay, I will admit to having to read the thing about the weapons twice, and I still only get it in a would-probably-have-to-see-it-play-out-in-order-to-confirm-my-understanding sort of way. I’m a horrible strategist–seriously, the only way I can win a chess game is by cheating 😛

    But I think I understand enough to realize it’s a good plan. Tommy, for all his youthful antics, does have a good head on him. I’m sure he’ll make a good king one day (but please don’t kill Arthur any time soon).

    Meanwhile, here’s hoping Princess Viviette has that son before Vortigern kicks the bucket, as unlikely as it seems at this point.

    • You say that as if there was something wrong at cheating at strategy-type games in order to win … *shifty eyes*

      Well, the basic idea behind Tommy’s scheme is to buy Albion time. The worst thing that could happen, from their point of view, would be for the Reman uncles to take power quickly and peacefully, and then instantly arm up for a war against Reme that could very well take place on Albion’s turf. If, however, Glasonland gets drawn into a series of rebellions or even a civil war, it’ll take that much longer for the Reman uncles to gain power — and once they do (if they do!), the country might be too exhausted or underfunded to mount an invasion of Reme. Which will, again, buy Albion more time to build up their army, fortify the borders, etc.

      I’ve also got another idea cooking by which Albion might begin to save itself, but to tell you would be … telling … 😈

      And hey, even if Princess Viviette does have that son, there’s no guarantee that the kid or his regents will take power peacefully. 😉

    • Kind of like the sign of the cross, only where the cross goes forehead-heart-left shoulder-right shoulder, the plumbbob goes forehead-right shoulder-chest-left shoulder-forehead. (So it makes a plumbbob!) Oh, and both are done with the right hand.

      … I can’t believe I knew that right off the top of my head …

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