David Madore's WebLog: Gratuitous Literary Fragment #63 (circles of power)

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Gratuitous Literary Fragment #63 (circles of power)

Three men ruled the Empire.

Or, as the usual belief went, only one of them did, the other two being mere puppets in his hands. Historians centuries later could never agree, however, as to which wielded the actual power.

Was it the Minister of the Provinces, the formidable Sir Ishgur-Sal, whose secret intelligence service, or so rumor had it, was everywhere and knew everything? The “Iron Minister” was a man before whom even the prime prefects trembled, a man who never smiled, a man whose name inspired terror throughout the Realms.

What about the Prime Minister, Lord Aden, the old and wise? Here was a shrewd politician, who had served three monarchs, who survived every coup in the troubled times of his youth, a gifted orator who could always coax the Senate into voting whatever bill needed to be voted and the Emperor into signing the bill into law. He was a man who smiled at all times. Certainly Lord Aden left ample proof of his adroitness at administering the Empire: but was that where the power lay?

Or was it perhaps with Quentin VI himself? To all appearances, the young monarch was a frivolous figure, entirely unconcerned with the well-being of his people, who cared only about the magnificent celebrations ordained in his palace. But some had speculated that the carefree semblance that he projected publicly was deliberately arranged so as to hide from his enemies (and perhaps his own ministers) the true manner in which the Empire was ruled: and certainly there were aspects to Quentin's reign which would seem oddly incongruous unless explained by such a theory.

However, the truth is at once simpler and stranger. For nothing of the relations—and the balance of power—between Quentin, Lord Aden and Sir Ishgur-Sal can make any kind of sense unless a very small fact is taken into account, which never made its way into the history books.

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