A local Regent had angered Cynis. Enough to warrant my intervention. Not enough to warrant my direct intervention. Apparently they wanted something a bit more subtle. I was told to be flexible in my execution. Fair enough. Not a soul existed in creation that didn’t trudge through the mud and dirty their feet.
I arrived at the town on a quiet, non-particular day and made my to the inn. Paid for a month’s stay in advance. Set up my desk. Got to work.
Hang around old spymasters enough, manage to loosen their tongues a bit, they’ll be quick to brag about how boring their job is. It’s a funny thing to brag about. They are right though. My first several days are spent listening to, waiting for, and spending good coin on nothing.
Eventually, a name falls into my lap. One belonging to former advisor Yin Medas. The formerly alive, dead for two years, family dispossessed and scattered Yin Medas. I plucked the thread; delicate, fragile, but leading to something.
It was clear after a brief round of questioning that it was a sensitive matter to the Regent. To have his associates tell it, he and Medas had been good friends at one point. Which is why it came as such a shock to the uppercrust when it came out that Medas had plotted with foreign conspirators to corrupt the city and drive the Regent out, all on the cusp of a city wide reinvigoration effort.
Apparently, the city had received an infusion of currency from the local powers that be, in order to upgrade the roads, aqueducts, bridges, municipal buildings, and modernize a local quarry that had recently become strategically important due to shifting regional needs. And lots of parties wanted a slice of that pie.
I tugged on the thread a little more. Word had it Medas had come to the regent earlier at one point and sought to divert the incoming funds to certain guild contacts that would guarantee the usual assortment of kickbacks and favors, at the price of shoddy workmanship and inflated wages. A bargain was struck, and work began. Everything was going swell for them when the regent suddenly developed a conscience. Or maybe he wanted a bigger piece and his play for it fell apart. I wondered what changed? They’d known each other for decades. I suppose Medas made a miscalculation in who he could trust somewhere along the way.
But the regent made a miscalculation of his own. When he tried to have Medas sanctioned via official means, he found all the usual channels glacial, and the populace disinterested. No other official seemed motivated to act, and the people apparently expected their leaders to be financially corrupt. The regent wasn’t exactly forthcoming with his complicity either, which made it challenging for him to make a full throated accusation as well. The two of them apparently met several more times in the following weeks, ending with the regent making a dramatic exit from the Medas house, choked with rage, lips flecked with spittle.
Things moved quickly after that. The regent threw away all pretexts of subtlety and appealed to the peasantry, whipping them into a frenzy. He threw everything he had at Medas, every problem the city faced, every fear the citizen’s had, every bigotry he could appeal to. As a leader, it was irresponsible. It was also effective. Things rapidly became so chaotic that Medas’ co-conspirators had no choice but to offer him up as a scapegoat. Considering the circumstances, I suppose plotting with foreign powers wasn’t the most inappropriate charge to kill the man for. His family name arguably had it worse. The public’s rage was quelled. The funds headed to the city were temporarily halted pending an exhaustingly slow investigation into the affair. The guild’s influence faded back into the shadows.
It took a lot of interviewing, and some interrogating, but I’d managed to put all the pieces together. I’m not sure why I was surprised no one much cared to hear that Medas, while a bastard, had been wrongfully charged, that the regent had lied, and the general populace all been made fools of for some nobles’ political games. It took me a few years to realize. No one wants to admit they’ve been had. Especially not to a stranger. The other officials were all laying low. I would have to tug on a different string.
I decided to take a page from the regent. A bridge had collapsed recently, crushing a group of children that had been playing in the stream below, as well as injuring a local merchant that had been carrying his goods across it. He was a sight. More importantly, he was willing to listen about the regent’s temporarily willing hand in the entire affair. In fact, he was downright pliable. Meanwhile the people were already good and angry in general, but lacked direction.
I introduced the merchant to some third parties interested in seeing him get justice for his suffering. I passed around some more coin. Suddenly other officials were feeling up to officiating again. Word began to spread of a malignant tumor at the heart of the city. Rumors of killings passed off as accidents, state sanctioned guild sabotages, and foreign interests swirled around the regent. So did any scary story I could think to spin off in the taverns. Did you hear that something called puppeteer’s disease is running amok all up and down the Realm? Yeah, it seems like Thorns is on the move. Make sure you look to your family.
The town was absolutely on edge. Even worse, a poor rainy season had seen that their grain harvest for the season was well under par. And that silo didn’t look too sturdy. In fact, just a few alterations would make it critically unstable and likely to fall over during the first serious storm to hit it.
Which made it a particularly dramatic night when just that happened. Torches flaring in and out in the wind and rain. Grain spoiling in the mud and grass. The people once again out of control, and the regent finding himself without many allies as the people looked to extract vengeance on the first authority they could get their hands on. It doesn’t pay to be an interested third party in the middle of a riot, so I chose to make my exit then. I was able to catch a brief glimpse of the regent trying and failing to calm to the masses on my way out. I wondered if he was able to appreciate the circumstances of it all.
Some time later, I had heard that the merchant had been widely praised for his part in bringing the corrupt regime to justice. He was even going to be given some official position to help the citizens heal during their traumatic times. Guild chatter from the area increased. My handler, whatever his masters stake in the affairs were, seemed pleased. As pleased as he ever got, anyway.
As for me, creator strike me down if I ever get involved in politics. It’s a bad joke. I should know. I’ve told enough of them.