Archive | April, 2016

Emily and the Barony of Cockatrice

2 Apr

A couple of posters asked about Emily’s decision, at the end of Wedding Hells, to simply abandon the Barony of Cockatrice after her confrontation with King Randor, questioning the value and wisdom of that decision. I’m not saying that it won’t have negative repercussions – for her and for her (former) people – but the decision didn’t come out of nowhere. <grin>

First, Emily was effectively tricked into taking the Barony. Randor offered it to her (at the end of LIE) at a point when she could not politely refuse without embarrassing Randor (and Alassa) in front of their entire court. She felt she had no choice, as Randor calculated, and allowed him to ennoble her without a fuss.

From Randor’s POV, the arrangement had some definite advantages. He rewarded Emily for saving both his life and his throne (and his linage, in Alassa) in a matter that fitted her accomplishment. No one in Zangaria could decently argue that Emily did not deserve reward. (Alassa wasn’t joking when she said Emily would probably have wound up married to her, if Emily had been male.) In addition, it removed a barony from the clutches of the old nobility – Randor had no illusions about just how much he was loved, prior to the coup – and put it in the hands of someone he thought he could control. Randor took Emily’s measure during LIE. He thought she could be controlled and directed – and didn’t realise, at some level, that Emily was growing more self-confident as the years went by.

He also thought (correctly) that Emily would have absolutely no support from the other barons, if she did decide to rebel. Her mere elevation to the peerage would make them her deadly enemies, forcing her to stay on Randor’s side. By his standards, this was absolutely correct.

Second, Emily was utterly unprepared to run a barony. (This suited Randor perfectly, or so he thought.) Noble children – males, certainly, but females too where there was a shortage of male heirs – were trained in estate management from the day they could walk. Even Alassa got some training, although Randor kept hoping for a male heir even as his daughter grew to adulthood, but Emily had none. Seriously, outside the remnants of the landed aristocracy in the UK, how many children do get that sort of training in our world? Emily, quite simply, had no real idea of the magnitude of the two-edged sword that had been dumped in her lap. She had become, overnight, a great lady, a queen in miniature. She was effectively all-powerful, as long as she didn’t annoy the king.

This slowly dawned on her over the following three years.

Third, Emily found herself ill-suited to run a barony. On one hand, she hated the thought of micromanaging her estates; on the other, she found herself trying to impose ‘her’ standards of acceptable behaviour. In doing so, she upset a number of applecarts – a problem made worse by the innovations she had introduced earlier – and found herself grappling with thorny problems caused by her own works. Insisting that girls be treated with the same regard as boys, when inheritance was considered, caused no end of problems. Emily was never comfortable ruling over hundreds of thousands of lives.

If you compare it to the end of The Honour of the Queen, when Honour is given a noble rank on Grayson, you can see a number of differences. Honour is a 50-ish year old naval officer with three commands under her belt, a commander used to giving orders and expecting them to be obeyed, a woman who comes from a society where the nobility wields very real power. She understands their obligations even though she had no reason to expect them for herself. Emily is (was) a sixteen-year-old girl with next to no understanding of friendship, let alone all of Honour’s experience. In short, Harrington is FAR more suited for her position than Emily is to hers.

By the time Wedding Hells rolls around, Emily is torn between a degree of loyalty to her people and a reluctance to waste her time in a barony.

And then she has her confrontation with Randor. By this point, she’s more than a little fed up of him.

Randor had NO idea how powerful she had become. His basic idea was that Emily – who’d killed two necromancers and a combat sorcerer – would intimidate the rebels into backing down. The orders he gave were vague, but he certainly didn’t expect anything else. Emily, however, thought he was asking her to commit mass-murder, if not outright genocide. Knowing that she would need to obey if she wanted to keep the barony, she threw it back in his face and teleported out.

At this point, Alassa worked out a compromise that left Imaiqah in the Barony as Emily’s regent while Emily was ‘exiled’ from Zangaria. Randor (like other monarchs, including the historical Edward I) had occasionally exiled aristocrats from his country, so most distant observers didn’t think it too odd when he ordered Emily out. Just how many people believe this, though, is an open question …

As far as Emily is concerned, at this point she is no longer the baroness and has no intention of resuming her role. However, just about everyone she meets will assume that she’s merely biding her time until Randor chooses to lift her banishment, as they will find it impossible to imagine that someone would give up so much power…

There will be interesting times in the future for everyone involved <grin>