An Excerpt from the Journal of Lord Rand Telmyr

Lord Ember has fallen.

Perhaps that sounds overly dramatic, given that the man still lives, but I can’t seem to think of it any other way. He gave Emberhold over to Lora Drois. She’s now the ruler of his people, not him.

How could he have done this? I’ve known Ember since we were boys. Our fathers had a good relationship, which meant our Holds had a good relationship, so it only made sense to follow in their footsteps. He felt, as I do, that prosperity followed from good relations.

I suppose that should be an argument for me giving way to Minasora as well. After all, Emberhold is not the first to come into her fold. It seems that everything on which she sets her gaze becomes hers. Now she has turned her eyes toward Telmyrhold.

I fear that her current strategy will only last for so long. Lora has been peaceful, thus far. Every Hold that she has converted has come to her without bloodshed. They have been convinced by other means, like her claim to the throne, or her amorphous threats of a great evil in the future, or her religious claims, or, in Lord Ember’s case, the promise that his Hold will be even more prosperous and influential.

Whether I believe any of that doesn’t even matter. I must concern myself with doing what is right for my people. To some extent, that means I must keep our current allies satisfied. It also means keeping them safe. I must weigh whether it would be safer to allow Lora to have her way or whether they are better off under my continued rule.

I will not subject my people to the horrors of physical conflict. As of yet, Lora has shown no inclination to force the Holds under her power this way, but history has shown me that conquerors, no matter how peaceful they may proclaim to be, prefer the sword to words and documents. If Lora does threaten violence — and the growth of her armed forces, as well these Guardians about whom I’ve heard so much, says that she intends to do so someday — I fear that I will fold to her whims rather than let my people die for my pride.

Yet the greatest likelihood of violence comes not from Lora, but from one of my own allies. Lord Cavan has made his displeasure at the Queen’s rapid ascent to power quite clear. The bloodline of Minashold had, apparently, come to an end before the Queen appeared, and Lord Cavan’s son would have been next in line to inherit the Hold.

Minashold is small, physically, and since the breaking of Minasora into the Holds, it has held little influence in the politics of the holds. Nevertheless, if Lord Cavan had been able to put his son on the throne, he may have been able to legally unify the two Holds into one. He would have been one of the first Lords to do so in over a century.

I suspect that a great deal of Lord Cavan’s anger comes from jealousy, though I would never tell him that to his face. Given his general demeanor, I would not be surprised if Lord Cavan had designs similar to Lora’s own. He has always been a man who enjoyed the power granted to him by his position. Perhaps he had hoped that he, or his son, could one day be called King.

I have no such designs, myself. I enjoy being Lord only insomuch as it allows me to be of benefit to my people. That is why, under the suggestion of my orosian allies, I have implemented a system of voting, and allowed the people of my Hold to elect their own representatives to held me decide what is in the people’s best interest. I know that, benevolent as I may intend to me, every man is fallible.

More than losing any of my allies, I fear that the advent of Lora’s reign over my Hold will spell the end of the popular vote. I have given a gift to my people that the inhabitants of none of the other Holds possess. The Lords of the other Holds are loathe to give up their power. Some believe that the people aren’t informed enough to make their own decisions.

I think that, so long as the whims of the masses are filtered through myself and others who have been educated in the rule and needs of the Hold, there can be no harm in giving my people the sense that they have some impact on the way their home is run.

Lora calls herself Queen. She has made it abundantly clear that she wishes to unify the Holds under her rule. Her message, to me, is not one that speaks positively of the idea of autonomy for those beneath her, especially when one considers the rhetoric she has propagated regarding herself and her Guardians as having been chosen by the Gods themselves.

I don’t know whether to believe this claim or not, though I lean, as any sensible man would, toward doubt. After all, I have seen no proof that Lora has received the Holy One’s favor. I have heard stories of her knowledge, and the eerie way she seems to know things she shouldn’t. I even received a letter from Lord Ember saying that the entire reason he decided to allow her to annex his Hold was that he finally believed her claims, for he had seen proof of Maela’s blessing with his own eyes.

I suppose I have no reason to disbelieve the word of Lord Ember. I’ve always trusted him and his judgment in the past. From two sides, though, I’m hearing that the Queen’s divine favor is manufactured and impossible. Ambassador Fé tells me that the Church of Iff has a decidedly poor opinion of Queen Lora, and that, as a result, the whole of Orosia denies her religious claims.

Resistance to change and upsets to what has been the order of the world never surprise me, though, when coming from the orose. Their commitment to order and routine, at which they’ve arrived because they believe it’s the best way to serve Iff’s ideal of balance, means that they don’t often like when things change in a way that alters the balance of the world. The Holds have been in relative harmony for quite some time. It is easy to see why the orosian Church would see Lora’s rise as distasteful, whether or not her claims are true.

Whether I see through their reasons for denying Lora or not, I do not with to lose the orose as allies. I do not with to lose any of my allies, particularly not in a fashion that turns them into my enemies. To acquiesce to Lora’s rule would mean to lose three allies in exchange for one. At least one of those allies, Lord Cavan, would become my foe. I would also be likely to lose trade between my Hold and both Orosia and Isurine.

Lady Cerinala tells me that Isurine, like Orosia, puts no stock in Lora’s religious claims, but I have a harder time believing her. I am sure she speaks the truth in regards to her own House, but the Houses of Isurine are nearly as diverse in leadership and culture as our own Holds, and the Wandering King is notoriously enigmatic and of a questionable level of respect. Even if he were to issue a declaration regarding his opinion of Lora as Queen, I have no doubt that there would be Houses who acted according to their own whims rather than in alignment with his decrees.

Regardless, my closest tie to Isurine is to the House of Living Light, and Cerinala represents their interests in Nerrona. Whether or not Isurine as a whole views Lora disfavorably is not as important as the opinions of Cerinala and Aesthenilan, and there are certain commodities provided by my trade agreements with them to which my people would be unhappy to lose access.

I’ve said all of this, but none of it is new to me. I feel that I wrote this exact same entry in a different order four times in the last three days. In the past, writing out my thoughts has helped me to clarify them. I’m sure the answer lies somewhere in these paragraphs, yet still my mind refuses to see it.

All I can see is that, regardless of what decision I make, I will not feel as though I have one. On either side of the decision which faces me lies a loss. I don’t like to lose, but this isn’t a matter of pride. I don’t want my people to lose because of a decision that I am being forced to make.

Tomorrow, an ambassador from Lora is set to arrive. Lord Ember forewarned me of his coming. He is the same man who helped to convince Lord Ember to give his allegiance to Lora. I am anxious, though I would not admit that aloud to anyone. I am also hopeful, in a way which disconcerts me, that he will help me arrive at a decision.

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