Chancellor Yigor Surtova started when his elegant niece stormed into his offices, one manicured hand waiving a letter while the other clenched into a pale-white fist along her side.
“Have you read this, Yigor?! How dare they?!” Natala Surtova’s bright green eyes flashed dangerously, and her curly red hair danced like small flames around her shoulders.
The chancellor sighed and raised himself, bowing slightly to his niece.
“Your Majesty… Lady Sarrona Lebeda’s reaction is all but a surprise. They are grasping at straws and will use any excuse not to formalize your kingship – even such a faint rumor as the appearance of a legit Rogarvia heir.”
“I am not Your Majesty yet, Yigor, and it seems I won’t be for some time to come! House Orlovsky has also sent word that they have to consider this Quentin’s claim to the throne before they acknowledge me as their Queen. And House Garess and Medvyed won’t recognize my sovereignty as long as these Houses are keeping their counsel. And all of this due to that meddling Dwarven wilderness wench! What does she want anyway?”
Yigor nodded. “Yes, Your… Highness, that seems to me the most important question at the moment. I would suggest a cautious course of action, perhaps granting her the title of Countess in exchange for…”
“No, Yigor. These Stonemark upstarts have to be taught that they do not cross the interests of House Surtova. We will crush them as the little dung flies they are.”
The Chancellor raised his eyebrows. “Your Highness, I don’t know if it is wise…”
“Do not contradict me, Yigor, I am in a foul mood and I don’t have any patience for weakness at this point.”
“Of course, your Highness, but may I advice a… violent solution by proxy?”
Natala Surtova calmed somewhat and sank into one of the ebony chairs in Yigor’s office. “Speak, Chancellor.”
“I have heard that there is some bad blood between the Stonemark and their former ally, Maegar Varn of the Swordlord Nomen Province. Some internal matter regarding centaurs raiding Nomen towns, who, allegedly, have been supported by the Stonemark. The Swordlords of Restov are neutral in the conflict as Maegar’s niece, Elanna Varn, apparently has sided with the Stonemark. In any case, it would be interesting to support this Maegar against Baroness Hegelinde. We could drop all charges against Elanna Varn for the murder on Noleski and clear the Restov Swordlords name – in exchange they send troops to assist Maegar in handling the centaurs… as well as the Stonemark. Once the centaurs have been defeated, Varn could fabricate some proof of the Stonemark’s involvement and deploy the Swordlord troops, invading the Barony from the East. He could coordinate with your loyal ally, Baron Drelev in the West. Drelev, for his part, could fabricate some frontier dispute and march on the Stonemark from the West. Both armies would crush Hegelinde in the middle, conveniently killing any Rogarvia heir they find standing in their way. Then the demise of Quentin would be merely… collateral damage of this conflict, rather than caused by our interference. As a compelling reward we grant Drelev the Stonemark and the title of Count, while the autonomy of Restov and the Nomen Province is extended… under Your sovereignty, of course.”
Princess Surtova nodded slowly. “We are pleased with your plan, Chancellor. Make it happen, and be careful that none of the Great Houses gets wind of any of this.”