Celebratory Fued

You hear a Whisper on the Wind

In the wide world of the Wilde Blue, sometimes stories are left untold. However, they are not lost. Listen closely, and you will hear them. This one comes from a few years hence, among the shining spires of Ilysium.
  The Avisong Anniversary has brought joy and celebration to the streets of Ilysium, and Prince Stadus would rather be anywhere else. Normally, revelry was something that Stadus would fit right into, but today’s celebration was so sanitized. Sure, somewhere out in the streets was likely a party where he would fit right in—where drugs and sex are dispensed in great measure by those with more money than inhibition—but he was required to sit with the rest of his family and mingle with the lesser nobility.
“Would it kill you to smile?” A soft voice, barely audible, comes from behind his shoulder. Stadus doesn’t let the Crown Princess see his frustration. Instead, he forces his obviously fake smile back onto his face, not turning around to respond.
“You were the one who requested I keep my magic to myself.” He murmurs, barely moving his lips. If his cousin had trouble hearing him, she would have to rely on the mindblooded slaves she made certain to keep nearby. He hated having his every thought spied upon, but that was a fact of life when he spent time next to the most important person in the Empire. He conjures up a mental image of himself lounging naked in a pile of devoted lovers, just to spice up the spies’ days.
“Yes, and I stand by that decision.” Vedia’s voice is terse, at least by Stadus’ judgment, but it was always so hard to tell with her. Anyone else would have probably just found it flat, or bored-sounding. Stadus gazes down at the banquet hall, filled to the brim with sycophants desperately trying to leverage this celebration into some modicum of royal favor. It would be such a trivial matter to grab the emotions of everyone watching them and twist them into sheer devotion to him. Stadus taps a foot, trying to stave off the urge.
“It is a wonder that Putrace has not used your predilections against you yet.” She continues, laying a hand on his shoulder.

It takes a lot of self-control not to shrug off her touch. Stadus grits his teeth, trying to think of something clever to say instead of just a crude retort. Maybe something about how he enjoys things being used against him. Something to rile up the princess, get something more than cold disappointment from her. But, no. That wouldn’t do for this conversation, perched above the decadent display below.
“Putrace knows that the people love me.” Unlike you’, follows, unspoken, but plainly thought for her spies to translate. Stadus watches a pair of sisters, likely from House Calybses based on their dresses, push their way up the stairs towards where he and his cousin were standing. Even from this distance, he could feel the pull on their hearts, the quickening of excitement as they approached. “Commoners and petty nobility alike.”

Vedia follows his gaze, dropping her hand off his shoulder. Her emotions were a mystery to him, thanks to her sorcery. But he had a knack for feeling when her dispassionate expression was in anger, or disappointment. This one was the latter.
“Try to keep your focus for a moment.” She murmurs, managing to smile and wave at the pair as they approach while speaking.
“You think so little of me.” Stadus retorts, before the sisters are upon them. The pair bow in unison to the royalty, keeping their heads lowered until addressed.
“Allecti, Yulia, how wonderful of you to join us for our anniversary.” Vedia’s voice takes on a warm tone unheard during her short conversation with Stadus. Though he has no mindblooded slaves with him to translate her thoughts, he can still understand the unspoken barb about the reach of her influence among the nobility.
“Of course, princess.” The sister with darker, longer hair—Stadus has no idea which is which—beams at his cousin. “The Avisong anniversary is second to none.”
“Well, the Emperor does like to flaunt his wealth.” Stadus interjects, easily warming his tone and making his smile appear more genuine. “But it can be rather boring. And when it comes to excitement, I heard that the last Calybses anniversary featured a half-dozen factory-new racing skiffs.”
“What the prince is saying,” Vedia continues, “Is that Calybses’ celebrations are admirable in their own right.” It always grated Vedia when Stadus slighted the Imperial family, especially the Emperor. They both knew that Vedia was Empress in all but name, and so a jab at ‘the Emperor’ was a jab at her. She never could let it stand, instead needing to twist it into a compliment to whoever they were talking to.

The sister that had not spoken yet nods to Stadus. He can feel the threads of emotion flutter as her eyes meet his. He had that effect on people, even when he was not making it happen with his magic.
“There is some thrill in the generosity on display, no?” She says, almost timidly.
“I certainly think so.” Vedia interjects, before Stadus can respond. “You can almost feel the influence of the Empire collecting in this room.” Another invisible barb, this time at his heritage as a simple prince, with little power of his own.
“Yes,” Stadus continues, nodding along as if he agreed. “There certainly is some power in giving back to the people responsible for the Emperor’s continued rule.” Vedia stiffens, imperceptible to anyone who had not both spent years growing up with the princess and possesses a keen sense of body language. “After all, were it not for the gilded banks of Ambergard and the might of Sentisund’s navy, the palace would simply be a fancy building.”
“And Calybses provides the factories and shipyards needed to sustain both.” Vedia directs the conversation back towards her flattery-heavy style of politicking.
“Perhaps you would like to visit the shipyards one of these days?” The shorter-haired sister asks, still only having eyes for Stadus.
“Our schedules are very busy-” Vedia starts,
“- but I’m sure I can make some room.” Stadus finishes for her, which earns him an actual, obvious, glare. It does not even last a single second, but he notices. He relishes that reaction, even as he capitalizes on it. “I would love to see the newest warships still under construction, or perhaps even take a joyride in one of those skiffs.”

The longer-haired sister shifts her weight from one foot to the other.
“Well, the construction yards are somewhat dangerous.” She eyes her sibling, cautiously. Stadus can feel her trepidation, her nervousness.
“And we wouldn’t want to pause production just for a tour.” Vedia emphasizes the ‘we’, trying to insist that this invitation was extended to the both of them instead of just the prince. “Or cause you any trouble.”
“Perhaps then it would be better if my visit were kept more private. Personal, even.” Stadus practically purrs the last sentence, and has to stop himself from reaching for her heartstrings and entwining them with his own.
“Yes, perhaps a dinner with your family would be more appropriate.” Vedia continues, though, at this point, she has lost all control of the conversation.
“We would be very grateful for such an opportunity.” The longer-haired sister bows her head again, and tries to slyly nudge her sister to do the same. It is not very subtle, but it does get the shorter-haired sibling to tear her gaze from Stadus and likewise bow and mumble some thanks.
“And afterward, if you would like, I could show you the ships and skiffs that are fresh off the assembly lines.” The shorter-haired sister starts off with a flutter in her voice to match her emotional state, but grows more and more confident as Stadus’ grin widens.
“I would enjoy that very much.” Stadus promises, before Vedia can interject herself into the invitation again. She can probably hear the gloating tone in his voice. If not, her spies can fill her in on the victorious thoughts, or his fantasizing about this pretty little noble laying conquered before him that circled around his head at the moment.
“I look forward to it.” She replies, bowing one last time before turning, with her sister, and leaving the two royalty alone again.

Once the pair is fully out of earshot, Vedia turns back to face the celebration spread out below their balcony.
“You do realize that Yulia is the heiress of the family, yes?” She asks, once again managing to speak with only the barest movement of her lips. It must have been Allecti that he had been speaking to, then. Stadus will have to remember that for the next time they meet.
“Everyone’s the heir of something, dear cousin.” Stadus responds, also turning back to gaze out over the banquet. ‘Even me.’ He adds silently, for the spies to translate. “And sometimes it is not about who holds the most power. Even the adoration of commoners is useful.”
“I find it hard to believe that Allecti will find you quite so appealing once you have left her behind for your next infatuation.” Vedia waves at some noble or the other. Who exactly, Stadus could not care any less.
“Yes, you would find it hard to understand, wouldn’t you.” Stadus murmurs, just to see if he can disrupt her fake smile one more time. “I’ve cultivated my persona so that there’s absolutely no expectation of anything long-lasting. No broken hearts left in my wake.”
“Aside from the ones you let run crying to the newsrags.” Vedia is not going to let her visage slip a second time, but her barbs have become far less unspoken. Stadus must have hit a nerve.
“You should know to never believe anything those publications print. They claim you’re a nullblooded goblin.” Stadus does enjoy reading some of the things they say about the royal family, especially when directed at the crown princess.
“And they claim you’re attractive.” Vedia’s tone almost slips into outright hostility, at least by her standards.

Now Stadus knows he has won this confrontation. A childish insult at his appearance, with even a crack in her perfect mask. It was enough to make his fake smile real for a second.
“Enjoy the banquet, your highness.” He bows to her, and takes his leave, still relishing the thrill of victory. Now, let's see if he can track down some proper fun to top the night off.


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Corvo Branco
Corvo Branco
11 Jan, 2022 19:22

That's a beautiful story.   You managed to make it a game, where the reader is curious to see who will win up to the last moment.   Telepathy is harder to deal with than most other kinds of "magic", I think. Those who can read minds and mix with feelings are too well protected in most circumstances. Unless they face others with the same power, or some protection. Some powers will help in a open combat but not in social circumstances, some are the opposite, mind reading (and writing) is a universal tool. And how any govern could NOT end up as an absolute tyranny if the rulers have such power over their subject?   I have not yet managed to find a scene like that you gave us in my Planet Sharitarn. I have up there two Magic Ways that deal with "Mind Magic" and one is perhaps close to this power mentioned in this story. Mind Wisper spells allow people to read minds, and give small suggestions. Necromancy is a Way most people see as normal, as good as any other, but Mind Magic is somewhat framed upon. Common people consider it to be too dangerous, and avoid those who follow the Mind Ways.   Cities where Mind Ways are taught are looked with suspicious. Most Merchant Caravans avoid them.   I have not yet described any of those cities in detail, or visited one in a story, but before I do that I will came back an read this article another time. To find inspiration, and furtively steal one detail or two from your royal family here.

11 Jan, 2022 22:29

Thanks! I'm glad you enjoyed (and feel free to steal ideas, I do that all the time :P )   Mindblood magic (the thoughts one) is certainly very powerful, but no one really has a monopoly on it, and many of the powerful people in my world simply employ talented Mindblooded people to spy on everyone around them. The Crown Princess, for example, is not Mindblooded, but uses them to try and get a foot up on those around her. Of course, some of those people also have Mindbloods listening, so it becomes this (imo) very fun game of trying to out-think as well as out-speak your opponent.   Songblood magic (the emotions one) is a little less commonly utilized by the rulers of the world, mostly because it's seen as a little too crude and direct. Sure, you could just use your magic to make your opponent think you're great, but once you stop they're going to stop thinking that way, and they might even realize that you used magic to convince them. There have even been court cases where it was ruled that contracts signed under Songblood influence are NOT legally binding, which throws a big wrench in the plans of anyone trying to use it to gain power. Of course, if you already have power, like Prince Stadus, then you don't really have to worry about what is and isn't legally binding. You're a prince, you don't have to worry about people going back on their deals, because then they'll be pissing off the royal family, even if the deal was made under the influence.

Corvo Branco
Corvo Branco
12 Jan, 2022 01:32

On the other hand, contracts are not the only way to materialize power. If you can influence the emotions of your own troupes in a battle field, and/or the emotions of your enemies, doesn't matter who "go back with their word" tomorrow. Even if people know they are being manipulated that way, may not make much difference. Besides, artists in general are paid to manipulate emotions in a given way.   Instead of separate Mind Ways in thoughts and emotions I separated the Ways by deep and slow (Mind Carving) and superficial and fast (Mind Whispers). Emotions and believes, memories and values, are all the same as far as Sharitarne Mage Castes are concerned, but if you follow Mind Whispers you have few tools to "take the pulse" of a crowd, for instance. Or read the mind of someone in the other side of the room. Or plant ideals/feelings in one or several minds. Look for a spy in the streets. Those are Mind Whispers field.   On the other hand takes really long for a Mind Whisper mage to change the mind of someone in any permanent fashion. Their tools are superficial.   A Mind Carver sigrax will sit with one person, instead of affect several. And will need minutes if not hours. But they can erase and rewrite people in deep levels. Teach complex skills and knowledge like you install a program in a computer, draw a new personality inside another person and hide it to be awaken years later. Erase or create traumas and mental conditions. That cute sort of things.   In both cases is very hard to defend a person against Mind Magic without Mind Spells. There is a Way named Anti-Magic that does this sort of defence well enough, and it works for about all sorts of magic Ways. But it is the "Useless Way" of Magic. Since you cannot use anti-magic spells for anything, except protection against magic.   Unlike what happen in your world the natural process of magic in Sharitarn favours the formation of a sort of monopoly over magic, and magic Ways tend to remain in one nation or another. Shaping the personality of the nation, and defining the possibilities this nation has access to in terms of magic.

12 Jan, 2022 06:44

That's very cool! The idea of deep versus superficial magic is really neat, and I always love the intersection of magic and politics.

Corvo Branco
Corvo Branco
13 Jan, 2022 02:13

Politics has this peculiar trait in real life: every source of influence and power in existence will be used as basis to gain political power during crisis. Magic cannot be entirely excluded from political disputes, where it has mensurable effect in objective reality.