Hvs.tCF 85:2

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Turn Number:88
Side's Turn:Gobwin Knob

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Ansom wouldn't look away, but his already pained grimace darkened. "It was discussed," he said.

"And?"

He sighed. "Chief Gotti was of the opinion that even if I were to be allowed to approach close enough to strike you, that I would only be attacking a Dittomancer's copy."

"Aha!" said Tramennis, nodding in triumph. "I knew he'd think of that."

Ansom looked away. He wanted to defend Lord Hamster, but could not find a way to phrase it which stood a chance of being accepted by a King of Jetstone. "He does want peace," he insisted. "Truly. The overture is sincere, and of his own initiative."

"Oh, yes. Very well." Tramennis nodded, as if humoring his brother. "We'll see where we get in discussions."

Ansom suddenly looked up at the King and narrowed his eyes, inspecting the man. "Are you a copy?"

Tramennis made a duck-lipped face and his eyebrows went up. "That would be telling."

Ansom continued to stare discerningly, not sure what he was looking for. Perhaps a little magical glow around the edges or something. This figure in front of him simply looked like a man.

Tramennis seemed amused at Ansom's uncertainty. "Funny feeling, isn't it? Not being sure if the man you're looking at is really your brother?"

The Warlord said nothing, but he stopped examining the King so closely.

"I will admit to having done it," Tramennis said airily, "to see what it was like."

And what was it like?"

The King looked away, closing his eyes with a wistful smile. "Edifying."

They sat in silence for a few moments, but Tramennis seemed disinclined to elaborate.

"I had been wondering what sort of a King you would make," said Ansom, by way of breaking the silence.

This made Tramennis perk up. "Oooh. What were your expectations? Have I met them?"

Ansom shifted his weight on the uncomfortable bed. "I suppose I'm not sure yet. I thought it would change you. I worried that you might become… like our father."

"In what way?"

"The wrong way," said Ansom. "I mean, blindly intent on maintaining Royal supremacy."

"Puh-ha!" exclaimed Tramennis. "Then you might just as easily have said you were worried I might become too much like you."

He gave a dismissive scowl. "That was another lifetime ago."

"Yes, for both of us, I'd say," the King said. He ran his hand through his hair as if missing the feel of the crown there. Ansom hadn't asked why he wasn't wearing it, but perhaps that was evidence that this was a copy, and they hadn't bothered to spend the juice to copy the crown as well. "I will tell you, our sire could lay it on pretty thick about the Titans and what it means to be a Royal. It annoyed me, and made my task as liaison all the harder. But I've since begun to see the underlying wisdom of it."

"Oh?"

Tramennis waved the Scepter. "Here. You're not really worried I'm going to dispatch you in the middle of a parley under formal truce, are you?"

Ansom's brow knitted.

"What, really?" said Tramennis incredulously.

"Only because…" Ansom hesitated. It wasn't politic to say what he was thinking, but he decided to go ahead and say it anyway. "Only because you mightn't see us as worthy of the consideration, at this point. Gobwin Knob has violated two parleys with Jetstone."

Tramennis nodded, with some satisfaction. "And the neutrality of the Magic Kingdom, let's not forget that. He walked through our portal, off-turn, in the middle of a battle."

Ansom stared, unable to give a response—even a small nod—that couldn't be taken as an admission of guilt.

"But you know, if your Lord Hamster is blind to the concept of honor, that doesn't excuse those of us who can see. Does it? Our obligations remain. I could no more shoot you under truce than I could shoot myself. But we do need to learn from our mistakes, and take precautions." Again, he raised up the Scepter a little bit "Don't we?"

Tramennis leaned back in the chair, relaxing his grip on the Scepter. "So. What sort of a king am I? Am I dedicating my reign to the preservation of Royal hegemony? Well, you're here, so it seems not. I'm at least willing to talk peace, even with the likes of Stanley and Lord Hamster.

"But I still cleave to Royal principals, Ansom. I believe in those, and quite strongly. I hope I'll be a wise king. I hope I'll be strong. I hope I'll be just. And the only way I know how to be those things is to be good. To apply the ideals I know to be right, the Royal standards. I shall lead with honor, and by example. I'll ask nothing for Jetstone that I wouldn't be willing to give to her myself."

A moment passed, then Ansom said quietly, "You are mistaken, you know. About Chief Warlord Gotti. He is not without honor."

Tramennis tilted his head. "I'd like to believe you, brother. But I have no evidence that's the case. So I hold positively no faith that a truce with Gobwin Knob would be anything other than a Parson Gotti scheme to violate it in a sneak attack, perhaps from the Magic Kingdom, and finish us off."

"It wouldn't."

"How do I know?"

Ansom mulled that over, but could not produce a reasonable answer.

"I suppose you could not," he admitted.

"I could," said Tramennis, suddenly springing forward. "Parson Gotti certainly could provide me with some new evidence of his good faith, a gesture that I might very well accept!"

Ansom had, in the course of rising to level 10, walked into many traps. A few of them had even been diplomatic in nature, so this feeling was familiar. He sighed. "You have a precondition for negotiation, then. What is it?"

Tramennis grinned wide. "You're not going to believe this, but no, it's not a precondition. I've only just thought of it. But it's a splendid idea! You know the way your highly honorable Chief Warlord has of barging through our portals?"

Ansom swallowed, eying his brother with dread.

"Yes," Tramennis went on, his grin growing triumphant, "let's have him come here."