• March 3, 2012 /  Uncategorized

    All men can see these tactics whereby I conquer, but what none can see is the strategy out of which victory is evolved. ~Sun Tzu


    “And so the game moves forward.” I told him beforehand. It was a literal promise, in a sense. In front of me, now, I have it all laid out. The pawns, rooks, bishops and knights all arrayed in their proper positions. King and Queen of each side watching stoically for their presence to be required. I moved the King back a square, noticing he was dangerously close to some of the opposing side’s.

    With the brush of a careful hand, I tipped over a pawn on my side-It would not be playing, anymore, captured by the opposing bishop on their turn. “Well played, black bishop.” I mused quietly to myself. Losses were an inevitable part of the game, really, though I’d always fancied myself able to look beyond the pieces on the board, to survey the entire field at once. In a way, I had to admire the bold moves of those against me. They can be learned from.

    It was not one-sided, however. Said opposing bishop became trapped between a rook, knight and bishop, due to its move to take out that pawn. How vital was that pawn, I wonder, that the opposing bishop sacrificed their position of strength, to remove it from the game?

    It all comes down to strategy, in the end. Often a vague, intangible thing referenced by the seemingly wise, it takes a true strategist to break it down into its parts and execute it properly. Someone capable of seeing the board as it plays out each day.

    —Amdair’s Advice For Future Counts Casterlay—

    Grand Strategy – The overall plan, whether we speak of war or politics, needs to be defined clearly as a set of objectives. Crush the opposition? Seize control of important resources? Secure one’s political or military position? Regardless of what the Grand Strategy is, it can be summed up in three words. “What is victory?” Always know the answer.

    Strategy – Having decided what victory is, one must then decide how to accomplish that victory. Capturing an enemy territory may require sequentially capturing fortresses and cities. There may be multiple levels of engagement, such as wading through deceptions and lies to find the true enemy, before moving. Strategy is the difference between ideals and successes. Even though strategies adapt, always have three plans prepared. An active strategy, a back up, and a worst case scenario.

    Tactics – Now aware of what strategy you are going to implement to achieve victory, the careful planner must now decide on his kit of tools, his individual tactics and ways of handling minute situations that can eventually result in the various outlined goals which accomplish victory. Tactics can be anything; compliments to one person, threats to another. An army, a gold piece, or a well-written document. Take stock of your skills, to know your potential tools. The more you have, the better your adaptability.

    —Conclude Advice—

    The mistake many have made, make now, and will continue to make is that sometimes, achieving victory requires losses which are accrued in very specific manners. The death of a pawn may eventually lead to the capture of a rook or bishop, which, in turn, removes a threat to the King, Queen and other high value pieces.

    I stare at the board laid out in my study, each piece carefully labeled and studied, and wonder what my next move should be. The world won’t wait forever, but a well-planned move is better than a hasty move, in almost all circumstances.

    Amdair, Q 5th 353

  • February 28, 2012 /  Uncategorized

    In the absence of justice, what is sovereignty but organized robbery? ~Saint Augustine


    The bells tolled Prime as I stepped into the office, which smelled curiously of flowers – I blame the previous occupants. It was nothing that wasn’t fixed with a bit of ingenuity. From the tiny window, high up on the western wall, sunlight streamed down between the steel bars. The room filled me with nostalgia, as I reclaimed it for my own.

    The cherrywood desk still held up, under the tremendous weight of the law placed on it. I ran my fingers along one of the ornate engravings that made it so unique. How often had I sat there, at that desk, pondering matters high and low? How often had I sat there, finding things to occupy my time, while my wife waited for me? Perhaps, had I known everything that would transpire, I’d have picked differently.

    I was the consummate Proconsul of Lithmore, once more. Even-handed, intelligent, determined. Willing to sacrifice long hours and miss parties, so that the law may be upheld. It was a choice I made, but a choice that, in some ways, was always going to be made, whether I wanted it or not.

    My man-at-arms entered with the paintings; one of the Battle of Queen’s Landing, the other of Tobin ab Samael. Fine paintings, both, and I thought they nicely rounded out the office. Perhaps I thought His Painted Majesty would keep me company, the first time Complina rang and I was still slaving over evidence. Perhaps I wanted a constant reminder of the new Sovereign, the man who was, effectively, at the top of the chain, when it came to law. It would be his decisions that shaped the realm, not mine as Proconsul.

    I had my man go for whiskey, next. The administrative offices were well stocked, in those days, and for good reason. I had work to do, letters to write and people to see. As I sat down in that monstrous chair, once more, and set my case files down in front of me, I was reminded that most of my old problems were gone, by one way or another: Amethyst Beadle slain, my brother-in-law reported to be inhabiting the bottom of the sea and the Daravi war now in the hands of others.

    If only I’d seen, in advance, the new ones I would encounter.

    -Lord Amdair ab Lassider, Sixteenth Baron and First Count of Casterlay, son of Baron Erick ab Lassider, Fifteenth Baron of Casterlay

  • February 22, 2012 /  Uncategorized

    “All great changes are preceded by chaos.” -Deepak Chopra

    The rain preceded my arrival like an ill portent; in the north, in Casterlay, we’ve always called such weather Omen Rains. Of course, in the north, it was usually snow, not the warm rain that falls in Lithmore in the Spring.

    The man in front of me stood at equal height, was far more muscular and looked as if he had been born in a furnace–when I knew him, he was a fair young lad that played with sticks and hated eating vegetables. Now, he was a grown man who had led armies, plotted in the highest courts of nobility and seen lands only the bold venture to.

    “It’s been a while, Ammy.” I greeted. An understatement. He had been six, when I saw him last. Over two decades had passed, and ‘Ammy’ had grown into the fullness of his father’s power, and then found more to add to it. Suffice it to say, I was impressed.

    He said nothing, but we embraced in that brotherly manner. Since the death of his father, I hadn’t even written to him, but the tales had reached me. His nearly being charged with heresy. Assigned as Admiral of the Fleet. Found dead–and found mysteriously alive, two years after. When they thought he had been found, I knew my chance to see him again had passed. Only, now he was alive and staring right back at me.

    “I missed you, Uncle Darin.” were the words that came from him, as he stepped back. Little else needed saying, between men such as us. I had been pursuing my own livelihood for half of this man’s life, but it did not mean we weren’t family. In fact, we were almost the only family left, other than estranged relations flung far across the realm.

    The rain kept falling, of course; weather never cooperated with Lassider men. It was a known fact, and it hadn’t stopped us once in the history of our House. I wiped my greasy bangs from my eyes and smiled. It had been a long, hard road to reach Lithmore, but well worth it, seeing my nephew here, before me.

    ‘Ammy’ beckoned me inside the House estate. “Come inside, Uncle. It’s high time we spoke, I think.” he said. Other than my shock that the little boy I knew from so long ago was now directing me as head of the House, requesting my input on serious matters, I also wanted to hear what my nephew might say, learn what kind of man he had become.

    I heard it with my own ears. Saw it with my own eyes–we talked for hours, from everything from the Daravi war to the Knights Lithmorran, the Reeves and the Merchants to the affairs of Vandagan nobles. Slowly, but surely, the little boy who never wanted to grow up did just that, in my eyes. He became a competent leader, a skilled diplomat and a fair hand in combat, all in the span of a few hours.

    And most of all, he became frightening. His father, my brother Erick, had never been this careful a planner, this skilled a player at the game of courts. I had to admit, the plans my nephew laid out were like none I’d heard in a long, long time. By the time we were through, I was glad he was on my side, for most certainly, I did not think I would last long against him in a battle of wits.

    It was on that rainy afternoon that I realized just how much my nephew had changed. I’ve oft heard it said that there are no good changes, nor bad changes, only new changes–With that little boy we nicknamed ‘Ammy’, I’m not so sure I agree.

  • February 20, 2012 /  Uncategorized

    It is not death that a man should fear, but he should fear never beginning to live.

    ~Marcus Aurelius


    He sat at his desk for some time- four hours, to be specific. The candles burned nearly to the end of their wicks, before he moved. “Are you well, m’lord?” I asked him, when I was sure he had gone the way of his lady wife. Quite mad, she was, quite mad. He seemed quite nearly on the brink of it, himself, as he stared at the papers unceasingly.

    His answer was calm, as smooth as the silk on a Tubori dress–not nearly as transparent, however. “Quite fine, Reed, thank you,” he told me. “I just can’t stop wondering why things happen as they do. The Lord of the Springs guides us, and yet it seems we make some awfully big mistakes, sometimes.”

    But a simple servant, at the time, I really didn’t know how to answer him. Lord Amdair had always been the sort of man prone to deep discussion, if given opportunity. I, however, preferred to keep my head down and away from any such matters. Easier not to offend, that way.

    “I could’ve been King, I suppose, if things had gone differently,” he went on. With a hefty sigh, he consigned his documents to the flame. “Not that I’m complaining, mind you. I’ve no wish to sit that throne. It may as well be made of spikes.”

    At this, I offered a question of my own. “M’Lord, isn’t His Majesty a friend of yours?” I inquired lightly. Ever helpful to know one’s master’s allegiances, I’ve always said.

    Lord Amdair turned to face me, his face half-lit by the waning light from his desk. “He is, and yet he will be chiefly in my prayers, since he was unfortunate enough to -win- that throne.” he told me solemnly. “No easy job, that.”

    I cleared my throat softly, committing that answer to memory–as one of Lord Amdair’s few servants in the city, at that time, it was my duty to assist him wherever called, not simply as housekeeper and butler.

    My lord was not finished, though: “I’m almost confident I’ve made mistakes, Reed. Before, when I was at court. Perhaps even now.” he told me. The last paper of his nightly reading was gently picked up and held out to the candle. “I suppose this is a new beginning, of sorts, isn’t it? One without the elegance and grace of Charmaine’s court, and with more… gritty duty. There’s a lot of wounds to heal.”

    The paper burned up quickly, once left alone; the ashes were swept aside into a disorganized pile on the floor, joining months-old dust and torn scraps of mail that hadn’t moved since the Lady stopped coming by.

    “Reed?” my Lord Amdair called, as he rose to his feet and prepared to depart. “Send for a historian, if you would.” he requested. “Someone with credentials. I need to do some digging.”