A short story based in Armello. This time I wanted to tackle a point of view of some groups of people living outside of the kingdom. How do they view Armello and its people? What are their plans? Wait and see/read!
The young prince Konrad von Leichmaul looked through the window of his carriage to the streets of his hometown, Dachsburg. The badger was dressed in exquisite finery. Green traveling clothes, with a large puffy hat, and a cloak with the heraldry of his house, two crossed hammers in front of a tower. Though dressed seemingly for ordinary day-to-day work his robes were worth more than some could earn in a whole season.
He was returning from his trip to Armello, on behalf of his father. Business was going well in the local kingdoms, but Armello being still under the rule of a relatively young monarchy left many doubts. Doubts which now were confirmed. The things Konrad saw and heard raised forth many questions. But, what Konrad knew would in the end weigh the most on his father was whether business was at all possible there.
Unlike in the free city of Dachsburg, where as far as Konrad can remember there was always peace, prosperity and luxury Armello looked what one would expect from the poorest farm in the region. Run down, in ruin. And things were about to get much worse.
Much of Dachsburg was built by the ingenuity and hard work of the von Leichmauls. His ancestors lay the first stones here. They are the ones that bled for this city to be free from the chains of monarchy. Dachsburg was a city of merchants, where the only denominator of power and status was wealth.
And Konrad was fortunate to be born in the most powerful of the houses in this city, respected and loved. That is not to say the other prominent families were any different. All sought the same thing, wealth. And the only great wars within this city for the past century were only for the lowest prices. Some visitors even claimed that the beggars of Dachsburg could afford their own houses. A bit of a stretch, but it served to build up the city’s prestige.
As the carriage slowly drove through the city, toward the von Leichmaul estate, many, if not all of the people along the road waved to the passing carriage. They were a happy people. Badger or not, those who wished to work hard and earn an honest living found their home in this city.
There was no shortage of troublemakers, but they stayed out of sight and as quiet as they could.
Finally arriving at his family’s estate a servant soon ran up and opened the door to Konrad’s carriage, the princeling hopping out of it and gazing around the courtyard. Though a month has passed not much has changed. The spring added much color and life to the gardens surrounding him. Even as he looked over the entrance to the estate he felt the gaze of two large badger statues looking back at him. They held the balcony right above the entrance. It seemed a bit too much to Konrad, but he was not the architect behind these decisions.
As the servants unloaded the carriage Konrad already knew where he had to go. His father, no doubt, knew of his return and waited in his office. Through the front door Konrad entered the main hall. It was meant to be stunning. Golden chandeliers, exotic paintings and portraits, luxurious carpets upon the floor, and fetishes from distant lands. The aim was to surprise and awe-struck any visitors, and most of the time it worked.
Konrad was in a hurry however. He had no need to admire the heritage of his family. There was, after all, much to discuss.
Up the marble stairs to the first floor, down the different corridors, until, as always, Konrad was stopped by his father’s guard. Though father never chose to tell Konrad all of his adventures he knew that this silent guardian pledged his loyalty decades ago, after Konrad’s father saved his tribe, or city.
He was hunched forward, with a long snout. Unlike most people and creatures he knew this one had almost no fur. A skinny underbelly, and thick armored scales along its back and tail. Its talons were long, though not too practical. Due to its surprising size and culture it had a hard time adapting to the clothing most Dachburgians wore. Instead it wore something akin to a white skirt around his waist, and even in the middle of winter the cold did not seem to bother him at all.
The guard looked to Konrad, recognizing him and bobbed his head, motioning to the door.
As Konrad expected he found his father sitting behind his desk, looking over reports, ledgers and his own notes. Even when he wasn’t truly occupied he tried to keep up appearances.
This seemingly venerable old man had much more life and cunning in him than it appeared, and Konrad never knew why he played these games with him.
“Welcome back Konrad. Tell me of Armello, much has changed?” the old badger set aside the book he seemed to be studying and sat back in his chair, looking to Konrad who also seated himself in front of the desk.
“I am afraid I have no good news. Armello is in civil war. Apparently the King has gone mad and the clans turned on each other.”
The old badger grumbled a bit, scratching his chin, “Mad, you say? I thought the strain of such a high office would not drive one mad, but the refugees who have been coming here from Armello confirm as much…”
A servant entered the office bringing refreshments for the two lords, pouring each one a glass of red wine before disappearing as quickly as he had appeared.
“Did they also mention the monsters attacking at night? The King’s own guard attacking villages and towns? What do you think has caused this?” Konrad asked. Though he spoke to many of the locals in Armello nobody knew exactly what was amiss.
“We may never know, but what is important is that we study this situation carefully and act twice so. The King will fall, no doubt. Armello was only strong when it was united. Now with the clans fighting one another whoever wins will also lose.” the elderly badger spoke, a lot of confidence in his own words.
“How come? Wouldn’t the new king bring order and peace?”
“And which king would that be? The Wolf? The Bear? The moment one of the clans gets their representative on the throne do you believe the other clans will bend their knee and submit? Perhaps now it seems like a race for the throne, but when the first battle is over the next one will commence, and another. It will continue until one of the clans manages to force the others to surrender. Unless it is the Rats. They would most likely play along until it was time to install their own king.”
“Never trust a rat.” Konrad remarked, and his father nodded.
“This does not concern us too much, this war. The King will no doubt fall, and the clans will squabble for control. It would be to our benefit to keep all of them well supplied for their conflict.”
Konrad fell silent for a moment, looking down to the floor beneath him then back to his father, “But that will ruin the kingdom.”
“By giving them all weapons, mercenaries, they will keep on fighting until they have no more coin to spend.”
“But why then…” Konrad lifted his hand up “Not aid only one side? Why not bring this war to an end?”
“Because, my son, it is not in our interest to end this war.” the old badger took a sip of his wine. “With the war over we will have to look for our coin elsewhere. And if the clans, and the king, wish to bleed each other out there is nothing we can do to stop them.”
“What of the people…”
“They are not our own.” the old badger said sternly.
The two lords sat in silence for a while, an air of unease between them.
“You were always different, Konrad.” his father finally said, with a sigh. “Our family comes first, then Dachsburg. Armello is merely a gold mine, a pool of wealth waiting to be exploited. We did not lead them down this path, they chose to do so.”
“Is it the right thing to do?”
“There is no right and wrong in commerce, Konrad. We respect wealth, we always respected it. Every merchant of Dachsburg earned it through his hard work and sacrifice. We have the strength and will to profit. And this Armello you speak of? Troublemakers, brigands, pseudo-nobles. To them you are nothing but a sack of gold waiting to be robbed.”
The old badger slammed his goblet against his desk. Even Konrad found his father’s current behavior surprising.
“We hold power those bastards can only dream of Konrad. Our coin is that power. All their titles and crowns, warriors and knights, artifacts and knowledge. None of them measure up to the power of a golden ducat. We do not pretend to be in control. We are in control.”
And another eerie silence fell.
“But ultimately, my son.” he spoke again, “It is about the family. I always do what is best for us. To aid Armello means to hurt ourselves. Spending our wealth on a land that will never thanks us is pointless and senseless. We must do what is right. We must take their power away from them, because they clearly do not know how to use it.”
There would be no discussion. Konrad was in no position to argue with his own Father. Nobody truly was. The old badger collected a box from one of the drawers of his desk setting it on the table and pushing it closer to his son. “These letters are to be delivered to our subsidiaries. Each of them will approach the clans separately as well as the king. None of them will know we are pulling their strings, even after their war is finally over.”
Konrad rose up and collected the box, holding it under his arm and he bowed, respectfully to his elder. “Yes Father.”
As Konrad turned to leave with another long journey to be planned he heard his father speak once more.
“Oh, and do visit your mother. She has missed you.”
With the closing of the office door the fate of Armello was as uncertain as it has always been.