(1874-09-21) A Game of Chess
A Game of Chess
Summary: Dertan and Rowena talk over a game of chess.
Date: 2018-09-21
Related: Death of a Dragon
NPCs: None
Dertan  Rowena  

Kaedon Solar, Dalcen Castle
The solar, complete with tea and chess.

There is surely a suite given over to each of the most prominent vassals in the great Dalcen Fortress and it is in the solar of the rooms given over to the Kaedon's at present that Dertan has invited Rowena. He moves to welcome her with a polite smile as she enters and gestures for her to take one of the seats nearish the fire. "Do you mind if we get started? I fear that nobody wants to play me these days."

Rowena was, indeed, back in Dalcen. She had had to put in a generous amount of effort to both see to her duties as a Captain and as a sister. If there was one benefit, for those who would consider it a benefit, to the rise of Jarret Sokar, it was that Rowena had been in the castle much more than she had been in recent memory. What might not have been so beneficial, was that she had returned to her standard dress. No more dresses or fancy gowns for Rowena. So it was in her plain pants, shirt and gambeson that she walked into the solar, "No, I don't mind at all. And they just know when to fold a bad hand." The smile she returned, as she settled into the chair she had been offered.

Dertan is dressed exactly how he should be dressed for the ducal seat in a lovely dark green brocade doublet. It could be fancier as he has no accessories beyond the slender strands of silk that tie his ponytail, the decorative hilt of his broadsword and the ornate silver inlaid leather of his bracers. "Are you suggesting that I should try to lose?" Dertan asks as he settles into his own chair and offers Rowena her choice of two wooden boxes. One holding the white and one holding the black pieces.

"I think you know me better than that." Rowena settled into her seat, reaching for the box containing the white pieces, as the pair of them were offered. She opened the box, considering the look of the pieces before she returned her attention to Dertan, "No, I'm not. I am simply commenting on the fact that most players, when they know they do not have a chance of winning, and there is nothing dire at stake, tend not to want to put the effort into something they know will only end in a loss for them."

"I am talking about the others who could play with me." Dertan points out. "I have been telling myself that it is simply because the ducal seat changing hands has caused much confusion and now you tell me that it is because people are scared of my talents?" Dertan almost smiles as he asks the second part of that question, a certain lightness creeping into his tone. "I am quite flattered. I did not realise I had gained such a reputation with the game."

"So was I, Dertan. I am not 'most players'." Rowena's smile returned, at the sight of his, even as small as it was, "And I don't think the changing of hands has anything to do with it. Most of the nobles who spend the majority of their time here, or near here don't have anything to do but gossip, whether they be male or female." Rowena began to set out the pieces on the board, having judged them the right set for her, "They pretend to themselves that it is all courtly games, but.." Her shoulder lifted in an emotive shrug. "Reputations are not always won on the battlefield."

"It is a good thing that not all reputations are made on the battlefield." Dertan tells her. "Can you imagine what would happen if all those who had acclaim were unthinking walls of muscle." He finishes setting up his own pieces and then makes the first move. "As vital as it is that the battlefields carry glory, so that men and women strive for such excellence, it is those gossiping courtiers who rule many of the finer details of the duchy." He gives Rowena another of those near smiles, one corner of his mouth tugging upwards a fraction. "For an army marches only as far as its supplies last."

"A very good thing, as I have rarely met anyone on the battlefield or off, that I would consider an unthinking wall of muscle. They tend not to last in either case, at least in my experience." Rowena took her time with the game. She was not a particularly skilled player, but she did give such contests her best effort. She moved her own piece out, before she continued, "I though those were the quartermasters, who made sure that the armies were fed and watered. The nobles just throw money at the problem."

For his part Dertan chooses a move that whilst still advantageous wont lead to him winning in a half dozen moves, helping to draw out the game. "I have met a few." He comments. "Most of whom were honored for nothing more than being lucky enough to survive something stupid. Such types make for exceptional bodyguards in general as well, since they do not think about the consequences before leaping onto an assassins blade." He makes a move and then moves to his feet to pour two cups of tea out. "In a way a quartermaster just throws money at the problem as well. Someone has to buy the produce afterall. As advantageous as it is to live off your enemies bread it is always a good idea to be able to choose."

"Now you sound as though you're defending a noble's right to sit about and gossip when others are out there doing actual work." There was no heat in Rowena's voice, as she made her countermove, pausing to study the board as Dertan rose to prepare their tea. "But there is something to be said for being the one who survived a battle when others did not." She sat back, as the game was still so early now, that trying to anticipate movement would lead to poor returns, "And it isn't the nobles going out there and buying from a market. But it is the quartermaster who travels with the armies as they march."

Dertan places the cup in front of Rowena before settling down himself. "How could one man, or woman, hope to buy every loaf of bread himself? All he or she can do is pay the many quartermasters who have the task and punish those who step outside of the rules established by them. Is that not the nobles role? To shape the quartermaster's behaviour in order to obtain the environment and outcome they require?" His mouth twitches up a little to the side again. "Given that we are presently sitting about and gossiping I do not believe it would be right to leave such a role undefended. Besides there are many important gains that can come from having a family member 'sitting about and gossiping' in the courts. When it is possible to change the course of nations with a whisper in the right ear how can they not be valuable?"

"Ask a commoner or a merchant who is growing their business and is walking from stall to stall how they manage it. Ask a steward how the manage to order all of the silver, or the head laundress how they manage to do their jobs. In my experience, Dertan, most nobles do not care how things are done, only that they are done. The way most of the people who live in this castle don't think about how food gets on the table, or how their linens are changed or by whom. There are probably a good four dozen or more servants walking through this castle at any given moment in time and most of the nobles could not even tell you who they were or what they were doing." Rowena accepted the cup, lifting it to her lips for a sip. Dertan had known her long enough, that she did not have to consider whether or not he had made the tea to her liking, "Some nobles who gossip are valuable, others are not."

"The same way that the noble does." Dertan points out. "He hires talented people and then delegates pieces of the task to them. Nobody does everything themselves Rowena. We, as nobles, in out intended roles, are intended to achieve things through others. That makes it difficult to cross the gap between those things. Or do you believe I should be out there trying to command each squad instead of their officers?" He does nod slightly at the not caring thing. "If you try to manage every detail of how everything is done you stifle innovation and the desire for your underlings to do well Rowena." He sits back and his expression softens a little. "Could you say that you know all the servants in a castle this size? Sometimes Rowena once a certain threshold is reached it is pointless to try. You are used to being a captain, I understand that, so you have the privilege of being able to be involved with all your sailors to an extent because the unit is itself quite small. Could you honestly say that you know any of the stevedores who helped to load the vessel? It is easy to see those outside out little world as being uninvolved but the truth is that everything, everywhere, works on the same structure with each person being part of a small group that is then part of a larger group and so on and so forth."

"I think in that you are wrong, Dertan. Not everyone has the money or the ability to hire talented people to work for them and to do the work that needs doing. I think you also seem to have an elevated opinion of nobles. There are as many corrupt nobles who do nothing as there are those who seek to do good. We all know what nobles are supposed to do. We also know how things actually play out in reality. And I do not think you should be out there commanding every unit, but I do think that one should at least make the effort to meet and engage with the men in those units." As for the servants, "When I was younger, and I actually lived here, yes, I probably could have. I was forever under their feet, wanting to be engaged in actually doing things, much to my mother's intense dislike. And yes, I know everyone who loads my vessels, because I work with my steward to ensure that the works is being done as I want it to be done. The same as I would if it were a castle I was running and not just a ship. But I don't agree that everyone is nothing but a part of a larger group. There are many among the commoners and the lesser landed families, even the knights, that must do for themselves."

Dertan gives her a considering look. "And those individuals who try to make do for themselves struggle for it." he points out. "As they should if we are to have strong communities. There is no point rewarding those who refuse to fit into everything else." he pauses to take a long sip from his tea, moving a pawn almost without thought just after he places the cup back down. "There are also a great many corrupt men and women at all ranks of society." he points out. "And there will remain such as long as temptations to stray from the righteous path remain. That is the true test of a soul do you not believe? The truth of how they react in the face of something that can benefit them, or those they love."

"And again, you are assuming that everyone has a community to which they can and should be long. In some of the worst areas of the kingdoms, those who live there do not have communities or anyone that they can turn to for help besides themselves. And yes, they do struggle, but, often the only option is to do for yourself, and if you cannot do that, to give up any semblance of effort and simply allow yourself to die." Rowena set down her cup, reaching out to move her own piece across the board, "There are, but I think we as nobles, do have a tendency to believe whether true or otherwise, that only lesser men fall to temptation. But I will leave discussions of the righteous path to you. I do not much much stock and faith in doing what is godly. Or in living by the tenets that faith or religion tell me that I should."

"Without community." Dertan points out in return. "There is no reason for them to live. We all need it, desire it and require it and every last one of them is looking for a new one so that particular statement doesn't change the situation." He gives her a small smile at her comment about faith. "Which faith are we talking about? The One Faith has rules against such things yet practices them in plain sight. The Many is simpler in many ways. It simply lauds those who benefit the community, in whatever way they might do it. Truthfully the amount of atheism in this family is a worrying thing. I do not believe the church of the one is a healthy thing right now yet faith itself is a strong tool in controlling the corruption you pointed out." a pause. "As for nobles and temptation. I find that usually the temptations that fall before them are greater than those faced by the average commoner. Whilst the average commoners life is boring and limited it is also stable and peaceful in a way that a noble can never know."

"There are many reasons to live. And as many who prefer not to be a part of a group. There is no single way for someone to live that is 'right' or 'proper', Dertan. It is narrow-minded to believe that only one way of living has value or merit." Rowena sat still, waiting for the next move to come. "I do not find atheism worrying. I have never felt that I needed to be told by some higher power what was right or wrong. As those who follow the One and those who follow the Many believe. One should not have to look outside of themselves to understand what is morally and ethically right or wrong. And greater temptation is only a matter of perspective. For a commoner stealing one hammer, in a life where you are lucky to see twelve in a year is a grievous crime. For a noble, say, that might translate to stealing say, two hundred if your yearly income was two thousand and four. The temptation is the same, it only seems different because the scope of what is available is different, and because we look at it from a different perspective. You and I would think nothing of losing a hammer."

"So you do not believe that there is something unnatural in someone who eschews family?" Dertan asks Rowena seriously. "Since that is the smallest unit of community of which I speak." He gives a small shake of the head at her examples. "I was not talking about money." he explains. "Or rather not directly. A peasant might hide a bushel of wheat under his bed come tax time. If every peasant does this the kingdom suffers greatly but if just the one does then it is not such a terrible thing. Which is not, you understand, an excuse not to punish the crime. For the peasant the temptation is merely that he has larger meals this year. A nobles temptations on the other hand impact many more than him. Say that noble was to use a granary worth of grain to earn a favor from a neighbouring realm so that he personally gained a new warhorse ahead of his neighbour. Then, when the weather turns, the peasants all starve because the grain has been lost. That is what I meant by greater temptations. He is not only tempted to eschew his own responsibilities for his own gain but also to misuse those of his fellows.

"I believe that not everyone is fortunate enough to have family. Or to have those who would wish to welcome them into a family that was not their own. Or to make a new family with them. Having others around you who wish to have you around in turn is not a right or an absolute. It is a privilege that not all are given access to. But simply not having access to family or community is not automatically a death sentence. And I was only using money as the easiest example. You might say the same for the peasant. Say he hides that bushel of grain. And then, when the noble sends his soldiers to determine who was the responsible party, everyone in the village is punished when they either decide that they cannot discover who stole it, or they simply wish to make an example of everyone lest others believe they can steal, because if one person got away with it, surely they can to. Every crime has the potential to ahve unforseen circumstances. And nobles are very fond of making examples of those who break the law. They do not always punish the right people."

"I said eschew family Rowena." Dertan points out. "Being without a family yet wishing for one is an entirely different situation. It is the man who purposefully puts himself outside the society that I am speaking of with such disdain, not those who have had an unfortunate set of circumstances temporarily set them adrift. Those will find their way back." He nods. "It is important to make dramatic displays of justice. It does not work if nobody sees it being done. I agree that sometimes mistakes are made. I do not think that negates the value of the display however." he moves his knight into a position that will give him victory if she doesnt counter it.

"People want what they want, Dertan. Some want family, some do not. I am not going to judge someone for well or ill if the choices they would make in their life is not the same as the choices I would make. Lord knows, all of my choices have been entirely counter to what I should be choosing to do as a daughter of House Sokar. And however she might have felt about it, Mother never punished me for not, for example, wanting to secure the legacy of the Sokar line on my back. She did not love me, and I think, she did not approve of my decisions, but she did not punish me for them. She simply accepted that I was as I was and found a way for me to be useful. Sometimes, that is all you can do in life, is to find a way that you can be useful." Rowena looked back down to the board, moving her own piece. The move would not stop his victory, likely, only delay it a play or two.

"Do not forget that family includes parents, cousins, aunts and uncles." Dertan tells Rowena. "It is not as simple as not wanting a spouse and children." He gives her a long look. "Duchess Isabel loved all her children. I can not believe you did not see that. I do not think there was one thing she did that was not about securing the legacy for her family. It was not for her own power. She would have chosen differently if so. Nor would she have simply ignored your choices if she disapproved Rowena. I do not remember her missing one detail that mattered so how could she have merely forgotten about you? No. She knew. And as you said made it possible for you to thrive with what you had chosen."

"I am not forgetting extended family Dertan. But I was also not speaking of them, but only of a specific example, of myself, and my particular intended role within the Sokar family. I am the only true daughter of the main Sokar line. And in noble society that position usually commands a certain use. One which I refused. It is too easy to justify your arguments by only looking at the bigger picture." Dertan's comment about Isabel actually brought a laugh to Rowena's lips, but there was no humour in it. "You were not her child, Dertan, and so, I believe you were insulated from that. There is only one child Isabel bore that she ever loved, Dertan. And she was no child of Gregor Sokar. And, to use your generalization, one does not have to love ones immediate family, one's children, to love the larger family as a whole. Isabel loved few things, but what she loved was her legacy. She was so blinded by that, she could not see anything so trivial as children."

Dertan sits back and folds his hands on the table between them. "But Rowena." He makes eye contact, his words pointed. "You are her legacy."

"No, I am not. A legacy is not a person or a single thing. It is a vast engine, that does not care for the cogs and spokes that makes up its wheels It only cares that it is going where it is intended to go. And, as we have both seen where her choices for her legacy led her. Her desire for her 'legacy' led to her actions turning the meeting hall into a killing floor."

Dertan gives a sigh and moves his last piece into the check mate position. "You are being unreasonable." he moves to his feet. "But I think I understand why." He takes a few steps away and half turns to look out the window. "I spent much of my adult life trying to please her. It feels strange for her to be gone."

"So did I, Dertan, don't think that I didn't. We all did, and none of us succeeded. She found fault with all of us and nothing we ever did pleased her and she sought always for others who would be more in line with her will and desires, when she found her own children too much of a disappointment. Whatever intentions she might have had in the beginning, whether they were good or not, in the end, she allowed her own desires, her own ruthless ambition, cloaked in the word 'legacy' to lead her to betraying the family you claim she loved so well." Rowena took the loss of the game in good humor, turning, now to simply adorning the board in patterns of black pieces and white. "It is always difficult, when someone you are accustomed to has gone. My thoughts, now, are for Jarret, and doing everything I can to support him."

Dertan gives Rowena one of those long looks that usually indicates he is having an internal argument about saying something. In the end, as is typical of him, he chooses not to and instead changes the subject. "I appreciated the game. You're trick with the bishop was quite innovative." He moves away from the window to start packing a pipe as he speaks. "You may leave if you wish. I intend to spend the rest of the evening trying to write about the new church. There is a terrible lack of literature on the Many."

Rowena rose from her seat, reaching down to retrieve her teacup on the way, moving to return it to the sideboard, "I am not much competition for you, Dertan. And I will take your compliment to heart." Games were never, really, about winning for Rowena, but simply about the act of playing them. Once she had returned the cup, moving towards the door, "I wish you the best of luck with your writing. There should be more written on it, so that those who do not believe and listen only to rumours and lies can be educated on what it is and isn't" Rowena moved to the door, pausing, just for a moment before she slipped out, "She was my mother, Dertan. I loved her, in so far as anyone could. But I also understood her. And I grieved when she fell, as all humans do, in the end."

"That is my intention." Dertan tells her. "To simply make it understood." He pauses again after she says the thing about loving her and then gives her a short, brief, nod. "Sometimes it is impossible to see something clearly when you are too close to it. The legacy and you, the Sokar family and the entire riverwatch duchy are not independent of each other." He frowns a little as he looks at her. "But even I can tell it is time to stop here. Perhaps we will talk to it another day. When it is not so fresh."

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