“The first order of business,” he recited, “is the Lord of
A well-dressed gentleman came forward from the crowd. “My
liege,” he stated with a bow, “there is disturbing news about the
Unclaimed Territory. With neither Sartan nor the empire legally
permitted to introduce combat units into the disputed region, a
potentially volatile trend has emerged. Settlers from the Kingdoms
of Romadon, Rador, Valia and even the empire have begun settling
in the fertile region with little to be done about it. Now that you
have withdrawn our forces from the region, we have no leverage in
“How is that a concern to the empire?” Mandrean inquired
while accepting a drink from a servant.
“Sire,” stated the lord, “our informants tell us that Valia for
certain and perhaps each of the others has secretly promised
protection to the settlers as an enticement to move there.”
Mandrean had heard every word but was, after all, a man of
slow wit. Realizing that the significance of the information was
indeed lost on his master, the lord elaborated.
“Do you not see the implications for us, Sire? If that prairie is
settled and these nations provide protection, it is an underhanded
method of claiming the territory. Once the farmers are in place,
these kings need but only claim that there is a danger to their
people and send armies to protect them. They would appear to the
world to be innocent lambs but are in fact preying wolves. We
would be forced to either accept their annexation of the region or
fight three powers. The issue must be scrutinized.”
Mandrean grew agitated when the issue was brought into
perspective. “That land should have been ours years ago,” he
insisted. “Are you sure of your facts?”
The lord shuffled his papers and looked away. “We are certain
that the settlers are squatting and that they are doing so in
increasing numbers. As for the support guaranteed by the other
factions, we have one spy’s report from Valia and no others.”
“So this threat is little more than speculation at this time, is it
The lord became less at ease. “Sire, I truly believe that my
concerns are valid on this matter.”
“Fine. Then find out how correct they are, and report back to
me with something more definite. I am not inclined to mobilize our
forces without good reason.”
Snickering was heard from the gallery after the statement. The
sound set the emperor into a tizzy.
“Who laughed?” he yelled. No one spoke. The hall was silent.
“If I find that fool, he will be dead.” Still, no one spoke.
Seeing that his point was made, Mandrean returned his attention
to is Lord of Diplomacy. “What else have you?”
“Your regional commanders have been briefed on the other
matters, and they will address them in their reports.”
“Then waste no more of my time talking,” Mandrean told him.
The lord returned to his seat.