Regina Northwind sat in the chair, staring up at the ceiling.
“...there are times where the function of the individual is anecdotal to the current eventualities in a way that encourages others to imitate. Other times, the very presence of the individual at the pinnacle of the known world will act as a dampening agent that prevents the likely and necessary progress that so happily results from humans left to their own devices.
“It is a matter of availability. Or rather, of foundational qualities. When one looks at those paragons of heroism and asks ‘How did she/he do that?’ this reflection may serve as an impetus for further action. It will become the beacon of motivation that drives a determined individual forward even in the darkest of nights. At some point, those precious few individuals affected by such an ambitious muse will lose their sense of motivations in the motions of productions; they simply become a necessary detail of a greater act of chasing a goal.
“Those are the humans who move us forward.
“However, in some heroes, we find qualities that become more oppressive and bewildering than aiding. Those heroes are seen and the populace acts with apparent disbelief. ‘How did these actions lead to this?’ They ponder. The summit lies so far ahead that the mountain consumes one’s mind and vision; there are no perceived Paths forward. Humanity’s feet still as they crane their necks upwards to catch a glimpse of the long sunbeams that slant down from the top.”
Mrs. Hamilton stopped reading and looked up at Regina with a half smile on her face. “She certainly must be applauded for her audacity, if only for her work and weaving System elements into these… declarations. What do you think?”
“About the Chivalric Orders?” Regina paused, considering it. She rubbed her stomach idly. It was somewhat unbelievable to her, even now, that she could have a baby. She wondered what complications she was aware of from her past life to late life children would be applicable. “It’s… somewhat of a masterstroke for Franksburg, if it passes. No longer will it constantly live in the shadow of Donnyton.”
Mrs. Hamilton’s smile widened. “Well… I don’t think it is that simple for equity to come to pass… but I believe the girl was aware of that possible eventuality when she wrote this.”
“I’m just surprised she chose to lay the foundation for an Oligarchy. Franksburg is already establishing itself as a vocal supporter of Democracy, or at least a classic Republic. How did she manage to have the council pass this?” Regina asked, scratching her chin.
“Perhaps with the truth. That it is aimed at Donnyton. If our best and brightest leave to join a Chivalric Order… that’s basically what is happening to everyone else, so why not try and make us bite the same bullet?”
Regina frowned at the other woman. “So we will refuse to acknowledge the Orders? But then-”
“Of course not,” Mrs. Hamilton hummed as she wrapped her knuckles against her wooden chair. The two of them sat at Regina’s dining room table as a pot of bear-ish stew boiled in the other room. “I’m going to recommend that we affirm this. Becoming knights and things seems like fun. Did you read the details? I appreciate her flair. Cadets, Knight-Errants, Gallants, Chevaliers, Paladins, Abbots, and finally Prelates at the top? Those are fine labels. Fine Paths.”
Regina’s face turned more serious. “...the reason you are doing this is for… System-related reasons?”
“Yes. Well, and because she extended a peace offering by sending this to us first.” Mrs. Hamilton looked down at the neatly written letter. She stared intently at the paper for several seconds, then shook her head. “I have no doubt that she sent this with the full knowledge that if we agreed, we would immediately move to found at least two of these orders, likely Valorem and Sapientia. Valor and Wisdom. Then-”
Mrs. Hamilton’s gaze turned to the window, and her eyes were blank and grey. Regina said nothing, waiting for the other woman to speak. It took a minute, but finally, Mrs. Hamilton smiled.
“Ah, smart. No doubt Franksburg will found an order themselves. East End will soon follow. And I am told that Ms. Tessa is currently in Zone 1. Likely to encourage other to found Orders. It will involve politics in both Zones, if slowly…”
“Why? Based on the proposal, this Council of the Orders can only make decrees about other Orders; it really has no political power outside of themselves.” Regina said. “Even if power shifts to the Orders, that’s a slow game, and she running very quickly to finish things.”
As they generally did, Mrs. Hamilton’s eyes turned West. Regina knew the other woman was feeling for the Ghosthound.
Mrs. Hamilton chuckled to herself, shaking her head. “I have a few ideas. This… might be about dispersing some of Donnyton’s power by drawing people away towards orders that attract them, but it is also aimed directly at Randidly in a very personal way.”
“...and you still want to approve it?” Regina asked hesitating slightly.
“How closely have you been reading what the girl has been saying,” Mrs. Hamilton shook her head slightly. “Listen to this: Humanity has now been inexorably bonded to the concept of Paths, which are afflicted with a great conceit. The conceit is thus: Paths are not individual. There is a multitude of examples of Paths being had by multiple individuals. All people have access to the same Paths.
“With that in mind, the most likely explanation for a baffling summit hanging above the collective head of humanity is the emergence of a different sort of Path. Indeed, this explanation is preferable to the alternative; that an inordinate amount of hard work and timing are all that can move your fate forward in this world. That is a crushing truth that should only be borne by those standing at the summit.
“The Chivalric Orders serve as another conceit: this is a path upwards. It seems likely that such a belief will, in fact, lead to a Path. But even without proof, these illusions of perspective will provide the bridge that allows the wheels of determination to grip a Path forward. Although they cannot see the shape of their journey, even arbitrary road signs reassure restless hearts as they chase the back of those that came before.
“It cannot be said that we do not owe a deep debt to those that stand at the pinnacle. But those intrepid adventures they have thus far engaged in were solely as individuals and bereft of a theoretic and narrative underpinning. Without this shape, they are truly power without law, unpredictable and dangerous in the eyes of the governing establishments.
“Let the Chivalric Orders be the sharp blade and gleaming armor that prevents such entities from running rampant under the influence of their own wild and mundane aims…”
Mrs. Hamilton looked up at Regina expectantly.
After several seconds, Regina could only shake her head. “Yes, the more I read of what she says, the more it seems like she is trying to retain Randidly. By giving… basically anyone more superiority over him.”
“That is certainly how most people will read it at first…” Mrs. Hamilton said slowly. “But humans are strange creatures; who knows what might happen?”
Ghost sat in his small van deep within the Earth, pondering.
It was an intimidating and exciting possibility that he might soon be able to roam throughout the land. Only after delighting in the simulated scenarios did it occur to Ghost that he would no longer be able to display his preferred hologram avatar. He would likely need a new version to convey how he was aging and growing.
And he was growing and learning from his interactions. At the moment, Ghost was balanced on the edge of a difficult decision.
Far away in the North, Hank was arguing with Alan, trying to convince his brother to return to his seat as President of the UHF. Largely a figurehead role, Alan was still depressed and unwilling to return. After all, Father Foster had taken from Alan his heart, to try and capture the Skill Stronghearted Charisma. Unfortunately for her, Randidly Ghosthound killed her before she could put it to use. Ghost had looked but had been unable to locate it.
At the moment, some strange tribal magic from the Treant being appeared to be serving as Alan’s heart. It was difficult to examine too closely because Ghost had a distinct impression that the thing knew when he was watching it. As it made Ghost uncomfortable, he avoided it as much as possible.
But Alan and Hank were just smaller figures. They were not the problem. It was the group beyond them that was the problem. Thousands of monsters who possessed the minds of human. They were often scarred and traumatized, not entirely mentally sound. For this reason, Ghost didn’t trust them. It was difficult to predict the actions of the erratic.
Several companies were surrounding the group, awaiting orders. Tensions were high at the front on both sides, as both feared the other. Ghost’s drones had a stabilizing effect, but soon that wouldn’t be enough.
They were a liability. They were unpredictable and dangerous. They currently worshipped a tree. Ghost knew they should go. But he also knew they were human, and therefore Randidly Ghosthound would not want them harmed meaninglessly.
Was this meaningless? It was difficult for Ghost to tell. But he needed to make a decision.