The other shoe finally dropped. And, Gods above, did it fall hard.
Sasha is dead. I really wish those three simple words would not sum up all the problems we have. We brought his body back to Tuskendale as soon as we could, and spread the word to the guard and the Baronial Council. The morning immediately after was incredibly tense; I don’t think I’ve ever seen the whole group of us so distraught. Katya was in quite a state all night, and the following morning only showed marginal improvement.
The very first topic we touched on was succession, something that I had been hoping to put off until we could get a better grip on the situation. The Council (nay, Lem) was insistent. After some discussion, it boiled down to either Katya or I. I knew Katya had enough on her plate, and so I did what I had previously thought was impossible. I took up the mantle Sasha had left behind. It’s far heavier than I ever imagined it to be.
It did not stop there. Galina brought news of a rabble-rouser by the name of Grigori who had been stirring up a fuss- and much to my surprise, he had been rather successful. Apparently while we had been off exploring the Southern wilderness, Grigori had been sewing little seeds of doubt in the Tuskendale citizenry and spouting not entirely false platitudes about various members of the Council. It was decided that Katya would stay behind and prepare an announcement to the people of Sasha’s passing, while Lem and I would head out to deal with our new friend.
We found him in the courtyard, starting the show early. The conversation quickly relocated to The Wench, where it became somewhat more heated. Lem made an appeal for Grigori to step down from his soap box, and Grigori rebutted by claiming Lem had finally been ‘swayed by the Council’ and had stooped to our level of thinking. I had remained quiet, having nothing of note to say, but I finally mustered my scattered thoughts and spit them out, one after another, hoping one of them would reach through the man’s seemingly thick skull.
The strangest thing happened when I was finished. There were cheers of approval. People were actually in agreement. Grigori faltered and slipped out of the Wench in shame. It struck me that, even as my words may not have reached Grigori, I touched other people. Lots of people.
Never in my life have I had to step into a pulpit and sway a crowd. Afterall, a crowd is just a mob waiting to happen, a pot of simmering water waiting to boil over. The speech is like the spoon that stirs it, calming it down and abating the peak temperature. This, in essence, is my job now. I am the inspiration, the idol for a mass of people that look to me for decisions. Their lives rest in my hands, and I have to do my best not to let them fly to the wind. And yet, neither can I squeeze too hard. There’s a balance to be achieved, and I don’t know yet where that balance is. Indeed, as far as I can tell many countries have their own ways of handling such things. If anything, that confuses matters further; it means there is no definite answer. That terrifies me to no end, and I imagine it will keep me up some nights.
My answer to problems, previously, was either to dance around them and pretend they’re not there, or to charge them and pray my lance struck well enough to wound. In this case, I can do neither of these things. I must rely on those around me to fill in what I cannot do, and at this point I feel that that’s… everything. If I’m not in the field with a sword at my hip, ready to confront evil, then I’m not at home.
This castle is no longer home to me. I have no choice but to make it one.