This one's from our DM, who's been meaning to share more of Vigo's backstory and apparently also wants to complicate Tavros' life with more complex moral decisions. Honestly, I was pretty sure that Tavros' mother Emiliana was going to have Martini assassinate Vigo, if Vendril didn't get to him first. (Vigo spent the better part of two days torturing Vendril, and was responsible for the Archons who were arresting and torturing anybody with any elvish blood on suspicion of disloyalty.) Our DM, however, argues -- not unconvincingly -- that having someone else assassinate Vigo in an attempt to help Tavros goes against Tavros' whole story arc, where he's become increasingly responsible and increasingly willing to make his own decisions. So... for the moment, I'm posting this here while I think all that over.
* * *
“A company of vrocks was seen on the Sun Plains, I need you to send word to Lady Bertrand immediately!”
“Yes sir!” The messenger was impeccably clad in the regalia of Tavros Fontaine. He nodded dutifully and flew from the room, almost knocking Clovis over.
“Where the hell is Paulo Carbone!?” The man speaking swiped his arm across the desk, sending a shower of documents toward a hapless, second servant.
“He is… on his way,” the servant stuttered, “I am assured he will be here soon.”
“You assured me he would be here an hour ago! Now get out of my sight, you feckless moron!”
The servant quickly bowed and ran from the room. He also almost knocked Clovis over; Clovis really did have the worst luck…
“Stingard: Fallen. Paras: Fallen. Our eastern front decimated by that damned tarrasque. We’re going to have to lean on our dear Grand Marshall Bouvier sooner rather than later. Good thing his daughter’s our hostage.”
Clovis edged his way into the room, “His majesty,” Clovis began.
The head of Vigo the Whisperer snapped around, consuming Clovis with his penetrating stare.
“He, uh….” Clovis cleared his throat, “he gave us strict orders not to make any move until he’s back from Sandorne Castle.” Clovis looked at the floor, somewhat ashamed.
Vigo got up and paced the room, continuing to count their many obstacles. He was now on his second hand, “Eastern front, destroyed. Northern front, ground to nothing by those damned elven revolutionaries. The western front… it at least is defended by our newly minted Supreme Marshall, but she hangs on by a thread. And may the gods have mercy if Suncoast becomes the center of our power…”
“Oh yes, I know what you mean,” Clovis said. It was a bit of a fib, “and I’m sure King Fontaine does as well.”
“Does he?” Vigo glared at Clovis, “He knows it so well that he goes in the opposite direction of all these troubles, prancing off to Duendewood on some fanciful quest for the God of Secrets – who, incidentally – is actually NOT one of our problems at present!”
Vigo cut Clovis off, “Where is that other blasted messenger!?”
A young boy ducked into the room, looking sheepishly at the ground, “You already sent him to Magister Atrix with a message, m’lord.”
“And what are you?” Vigo bellowed, “You’re not mute, why can’t you carry a message? Must I wait for the first idiot to return!?”
“Oh, no no no, m’lord, I couldn’t –“
“Blast!” Vigo threw his wine glass across the room and it shattered on the wall next to the boy. who looked like he was about to melt.
Somewhere deep down, the part of Clovis that was a priest came to life, and he stepped between Vigo and the poor boy, “Lad, now is not a good time. Why don’t you wait outside, and please let us know the moment the official messenger returns? Alright, that’s a good lad.” He patted the boy reassuringly on the shoulder and closed the door quietly behind him, turning to face Vigo. The man was leaning over the table again, hands balled into white-knuckled fists, staring angrily at some paper.
“Vigo,” Clovis began carefully (he really did have the worst luck), “that was not well done.”
The spymaster’s body softened, and his shoulders slumped with a sigh, “I know, Clovis, it’s just… we’re a kingdom, which means we need a king. Instead, I’m left here to hold things together, and as you so succinctly put it, I’m not allowed to actually DO anything.”
Clovis’ face lit up – this was his area of expertise. “Vigo, good sir, you must have faith in our King. He is doing what he believes is best to protect the kingdom.”
Vigo snorted, “Faith? A lot of good that does.”
There was something odd about the way he said it, and Clovis, always one to stumble into the unluckiest situations, opened his big mouth before he even knew what he was saying, “What do you believe, Vigo?”
The spymaster regarded Clovis intensely, but with a degree of respect, as if he’d found something he hadn’t seen there before.
“I said,” continued Clovis, always one to dig his unlucky holes deeper, “What do you believe?”
Vigo might have grinned for a split second, but then he turned his head away, as if embarrassed, “Nothing.”
“What?” Clovis asked in shock.
“I said nothing.”
“Well,” Clovis stammered, “that doesn’t make any sense. Everybody believes something, at least sometime in their life.”
“Sometime,” Vigo laughed, without mirth, “yes I did, not that long ago.”
“Then what was it?” Clovis asked.
The man’s head snapped around, “Look at me, Clovis. I deal in secrets, I deal in knowledge, I deal in knowing that which isn’t supposed to be known. Do the math!”
“Oh,” Clovis stumbled backward, realization slamming into him.
“Were you expecting Helios?” Vigo asked sarcastically, “Or Amun? Or maybe some obscure harvest goddess? Who else would I worship!?”
“May the sun’s rays protect us from the night!” Clovis drew a circle in front of himself.
“Save it,” Vigo said, turning his head away again, “That is… no longer.”
Clovis was silent for a long moment. He didn’t know what to say, he really hadn’t expected the conversation to go this direction. He really did have the worst luck.
“Well,” Vigo sounded almost relieved, “now that it’s out there, should I tell my king? Get my head lopped off by that big, rusty sword of his?”
“Y-yes,” Clovis stammered, “but n-no…”
“Which is it?”
“Of course you should tell him,” Clovis stamped his foot fiercely, “but you should have some faith that he won’t lop your head off!”
“Faith again,” Vigo rolled his eyes.
“Yes!” Clovis walked over to Vigo, grabbed him by the shoulder, and looked him in the eye, “Faith!”
“In Tavros? In a king? I tried that, boy. It’s how I lost my faith in the first place, and I still ended up on the wrong side!”
Clovis blinked, his mouth moving wordlessly. It all made so much sense now: Vigo the Whisperer, the accomplished spymaster, pursued knowledge and secrets. Of course he was a follower of Vecna, perhaps even one of some import. But when it came time to choose between his kingdom and his god, he chose the former, only to have the ‘king’ in kingdom become a raving nutcase.
“That’s what I thought, boy.” Vigo seemed both pleased and pained to have won the argument, and turned back to his papers.
“Nothing,” Clovis whispered.
“You have nothing: You chose king over god and lost both.”
“Thank you for the diagnosis,” Vigo sneered.
“You have to stop this,” Clovis exclaimed, gathering a head of steam. Such a state always led him to an unlucky place.
“Stop!?” Vigo asked, incredulous, “Stop? As you so honestly put it, I have nothing else left!”
“No,” Clovis said, “quit trying to atone for whatever you used to believe, or trying to honor this office, if that’s what you think you’re doing. And definitely stop trying to tutor our king like a schoolboy! That is not the way to earn his respect and it’s getting you nowhere!” Clovis waved his arms around the room, indicating the various maps and papers, “Because look here, Mr. Whisperer, I know what you believe!”
“In this! In your kingdom!” Clovis tapped his finger on the map of Sol Povos.
“Sirs,” the boy poked his head in the room, “the messenger is back.”
Vigo nodded, his voice much more subdued, “thank you, please send him in.” After the door closed, he turned to Clovis, “Thank you, Cardinal, I will think on this.”
It was a dismissal if Clovis had ever heard one, and a good thing, too. As he ducked out of the room, Clovis was in the process of regretting every word he’d said. In the hall he buried his head in his hands and moaned, “How did I get myself into this!? I truly have the most rotten luck!”
Tavros stretched his aching back. The trials of Sandorne Castle had taxed him severely, and he suspected some of these pains would be companions for life. The three hour briefing on events since his departure was mercifully drawing to a close, and his retinue of advisors filed out until only Vigo remained. He stood in front of the desk, across from Tavros, with his hands clasped behind his back. Tavros groaned and drained his cup of wine, simultaneously reaching for the decanter to refill it.
“I’ve had confession with Cardinal Cloverfield,” Vigo said flatly.
Tavros spewed a mouthful of wine across the room in astonishment, “You what!?”
“I’ve had confession with Cardinal Cloverfield,” Vigo repeated patiently, “and he gave me some advice. Upon reflection, I concluded his advice was logically sound and I intend to act upon it.”
Tavros looked around the room like a caged animal, convinced this was some sort of joke. Was it his birthday? Were people about to spring out of hiding places with fireworks and sweets? Did Jacqueline put them up to this?
“I’m serious, Tavros.”
Being called by his name jolted Tavros’ attention. Vigo really was serious.
“You asked me a question once – one I didn’t really answer.”
Tavros narrowed his eyes, searching Vigo’s habitually unreadable face. That was a trick he could stand to learn. Then it hit him, “What do you believe?”
“Nothing,” Vigo said, “but I already answered that question, and it’s not what you were really asking.”
“Have you,” Tavros chose his words carefully, “ever believed?”
“I was a Secret of Vecna – the equivalent of a bishop – but only a membrum honorarium, not a priest. It’s an honor often awarded to important nobles, especially those who make financial contributions. They’re given significant influence and access to high-ranking clergy, but are not priests themselves.”
“Gods!” Tavros was aghast, “you bankrolled them!?”
“The king’s chief spymaster is a very well compensated, but as you can see, I have virtually no mentionable wealth. As king…” he cut himself off before finishing, pursing his lips.
“As king,” Tavros continued in a somewhat abashed tone, “I should have already asked myself where your wealth had gone, and I should have had someone independently look into it.”
“What else have I missed, Vigo?”
Vigo was silent.
Tavros growled angrily, “What, no lecture? That’s a change. Fine. I’ll reason it out.” He drummed his fingers on the desk, “Let’s see, what should I desire to know of a member of my council. Are you loyal to me?”
“Excuse me,” Tavros choked, his eyes bulging, “if you’re not loyal to me, then who?”
“Not who. What. I am loyal to the kingdom.”
“Then why serve me?”
“Hrm, okay. Well, obviously,” Tavros reasoned out loud, “you currently believe I best serve the interests of the kingdom, so you support me. Then logically,” he paused to take a drink of wine, “the next question I should want to answer is what will happen if you cease to believe in my kingship, will you act against me?”
“Without hesitation,” Vigo answered.
“And you tell me this? Fear you not that I will string you on a questioner’s rack for saying such things?”
“Men torture for two reasons, Tavros. The first reason is simple: Cruelty. I do not fear that from you. The second reason is to gain knowledge, and since I am well aware that I would, under pain of torture, divulge every bit of this information, there is no reason to withhold it from you now.”
“How many men did you torture for my uncle, Vigo?”
“Hundreds. I can’t even count them all.”
“Personally? You were in the room?”
“For a great many, I turned the crank and asked the questions myself.”
“Amun’s mercy,” Tavros shuddered, “doesn’t that bother you?”
“In truth, I hate it. It’s one of the reasons I sleep so little, and when I do, it’s usually after secretly drowning myself in wine. My dreams are plagued with horrors I wish on no living soul, and will be to my end of days.”
Tavros threw his hands in the air, “Why, Vigo? Why… any of it?”
“There are times when the good of the kingdom – the many – outweighs the good of an individual, even an innocent one. In such cases, a sacrifice is logical and must be made.”
It chilled Tavros to hear Vigo speak of it so bluntly, as if it were as simple a choice as wearing a coat on a cold day. He wondered if he would ever be able to make such a sacrifice. If it was a choice between Aesa’s life and hurting an innocent, what would he do? What if it was Aesa and Anica and his mother and Jacqueline (since when was she in this list?), what choice would he make then? He shuddered and pushed the thought to the back of his mind. “I must admit, Vigo, bringing these things to me takes more courage than I realized you had.”
Tavros frowned, and considered this rebuttal, “Fine, another puzzle. I will reason this one out as well. I will look at the converse.”
Vigo smiled, “I see you have been listening to Dante after all.”
“I listen more than you realize, Vigo. Now, as I was saying, the converse: Why wouldn’t you tell me? Well, I suppose the same reason as anybody else: Fear, specifically the fear of losing something. So, I must conclude you don’t possess this fear, or alternatively you have nothing to lose.”
“Very good, Tavros,” Vigo nodded his head appreciatively, “most excellent. Now, circle back to the beginning of our conversation, what is my purpose today? You must always be asking yourself, what is the other person’s purpose?”
“I thought I was reasoning things out for myself,” Tavros chided.
“Old habits, I’m afraid.”
“I’ll overlook it. Now, circling back to the beginning. You wanted me to know that you used to worship my mortal enemy – the very force that I, and everybody I love, have been fighting against these last three years. But you also wanted me to know that you have nothing to lose. I suppose this is all about understanding. You want me to know exactly, precisely, what you are.”
“A broken man,” Tavros said, a full picture finally forming in his head, “One who gave everything to the Order of Secrets, only to have them betray and attack the only thing you cared about more – your kingdom. So, you abandoned them and backed a man you knew to be evil, presumably based on some logical calculation that he was the lesser evil. However, this turned out to be a poor gambit, so you betrayed him as well and now you have nothing. You attach yourself to me because I provide a means to help the kingdom, wherein you have some very specific ideas as to exactly what kind of help the kingdom needs. You’re like a broken and out of favor tool, each day hoping only to be picked up and used for its intended purpose one more time.”
Vigo was quiet for several long moments, before replying softly, “Well done… Your Majesty.”
Tavros took a deep breath, drumming his fingers on the desk again. “The only question remaining, that I should be asking, is why now? Because I don’t believe for a second that our dear Cardinal Cloverfield simply coaxed you down this path of confession.”
Vigo was silent again, seemingly committed to letting Tavros figure it out for himself, no matter how long it took.
“Well, let me take inventory,” Tavros began thoughtfully, “you’ve made it clear where your true allegiance lies, and that you don’t fear me. In fact, you don’t seem to fear anything, namely because you have nothing to lose. You are, in fact, quite exactly a tool. And why do you want me to know this now, at this moment? I would guess because you’re sensing that this conflict is starting to come to a conclusion, and when that happens, like an artisan finishing a project, I will start thinking about what to do with my tools – about what to do with you.”
Vigo stared at him intently.
“In fact,” Tavros continued, “a man of your experience would have already suspected, or perhaps even discovered, that I’ve already begun thinking about this.”
“I would be otherwise disappointed in you, Your Majesty.”
“So, it seems,” Tavros said, counting on his fingers, “you have laid out your terms neatly and quite immutably: I can turn you out, expecting not a shred of loyalty should our interests ever collide. I can use you for the tool you are, and only that tool – also without a shred of loyalty, I might add. Or, I can have you killed.”
“Quite exactly and well spoken, Your Majesty.”
Tavros’ face softened, “These are not compassionate choices, Vigo. Do you even want to stay with me, to be used as a tool, but never trusted, never loyal, never part of the family? Is that really an existence? Is that really what you want?”
“With all my heart, Your Majesty.”
Tavros signed and rubbed his temples, “Vigo, I know this doesn’t mean to you what it would mean to another person, but for what it’s worth… thank you for telling me the truth.”
“It served its purpose, Your Majesty.”
“I know. Now, you are dismissed. I have much to think on.”
As Vigo the Whisperer left the room, Tavros shook his head in dismay.