You Just Have to Trust Experts to Be Knowledgeable About Their Own Fields
“The proposal as you’ve laid it out is…compelling,” said Jakob, tapping something against the table. It was annoying. “I think my clan can agree to it, presuming the other nearby clans also agree.”
“We’ll be visiting Clan Betchek soon,” Henry promised Jakob. “Clan Qeppen is dragging its feet about meeting on neutral ground, but they’re listening. We’ve heard back from Clan Vickn and Clan Nyumer in Dolovai as well. The head of Clan Nyumer seemed particularly excited by the idea.”
“Carson of Clan Nyumer is an idiot, I wouldn’t put too much stock in what he seems excited by,” Jakob muttered.
“What do you mean you think your clan can agree to it?” Sam asked. Henry could recite the schedule all he wanted, but Sam had heard what Jakob had actually said. “You’re the one making the decision.”
“Not all of our clans are authoritarian dictatorships,” Jakob said, somewhat tightly. “I’m the leader, but I’ll make the decision in consultation with some of my clan’s other elders this evening.”
“Ah,” said Sam. He got it now. “You’re not backed by your entire clan. If you don’t make them feel like they’re part of the decision they’ll try to remove you as head.”
“That’s not what I said.” If Sam had thought his voice was tight before, it was wound like a spring about to snap now.
“But it’s what you meant. Whatever, I’m not going to tell you how to run your clan. Or have your clan run you.” If Clan Cween wanted to be fractious, that was beneficial to Sam. “Talk to your elders if you need to. I’ll wait.” If he had to wait much longer, he was going to start executing Clan Cween members one at a time.
Jakob’s chair moved. “This is not an impressive attempt to rush us into a decision.”
“Please. If I were trying to rush you, I wouldn’t have waited four days to start,” said Sam, who had been poking Jakob about his clan for four days. “If your elders would like, I can leave and come back after I’ve spoken to some of the other clans.”
“I wouldn’t advise that if you want our agreement.” Jakob was silent a second, then he sighed. “Some of our clan are…concerned, about allying ourselves with you, given your family history. Clan Arkhewer may be new, but you’ve inherited Clan Netzer’s reputation whether you want it or not.”
“It is hardly my fault that you people are stuck in the past,” Sam began. He felt Henry reach out to touch him, and kept talking before he could. “But it’s an understandable thing to be worried about. To be quite frank, Jakob, I don’t gain a damn thing by allying with you. We can all pretend that it means security and the knowledge that Clan Cween won’t come after me, but we’ve been neighbours for years and you’ve never so much as sent a letter. All the benefits to my clan—shared knowledge, strength in numbers, bargaining power with the rest of the world—are also benefits to your clan.”
“Surely you don’t need me to remind you…”
“That my father was a scary murderer, I know. I was there.” Sam stood up. “I’m leaving tomorrow, Jakob. Tell your elders that if they don’t want an alliance, that’s fine. I’m still planning to make them with all your neighbours.”
Sam left the room, Henry behind him. As he neared the door, Sam noticed the hidden presence in the corner detach itself, move through the wall and follow them.
“You could be a little bit more diplomatic,” Henry muttered, voice low. “These people aren’t your subjects, you can’t let them feel like you’re forcing them into things.”
“Fuck that,” Sam said. “Jakob’s an idiot and worse, he’s a weak idiot. He wants the alliance, he just needs to stand up to his grandmother or whoever has their hand up his ass and tell them to shut the fuck up. I’m being plenty diplomatic by giving him a shove in that direction.”
“A pretty hard shove.”
“I’m a pretty hard person. I’ve been plenty patient. It was working for a few days and I’m not a child, I can admit that you were right to tell me to do that. But it’s not working anymore and I’m not letting these assholes jerk me off anymore, I have better places to put my dick. Hi, Levi.”
“Hi,” said Levi, a scowl in his voice as he dropped his intangibility spell. “I wish you’d tell me how you kept doing that. Nobody in my clan ever knows I’m there.”
“Clan secret,” Sam told him with a smirk. Levi’s spells were brilliant. He did something with the Forces that rendered them functionally undetectable as he used them. A few months ago Sam wouldn’t have known they were there either. Turned out it was much harder to hide the Web from a god, though. “You ever spy on Jakob with the elders?”
“Clan secret,” Levi muttered. “I’ll tell you mine if you tell me yours.”
Sam smiled, grabbed Levi’s wrist. He pushed Levi against the wall and kissed him. He was satisfyingly short and, after three days of horny magic, satisfyingly pliant. He was hard against Sam’s leg. “Deal,” Sam told him. “After we get back to my castle.”
Sam let him go. “We’re long past playing dumb, aren’t we? We both know you want to come with us when we leave. Your talent is wasted in Clan Cween and you know it.”
“Well…Clan Cween is my family,” Levi said, sounding sure of that.
“Clan Netzer was mine and that didn’t stop me from changing my name,” Sam told him. “Whatever, I’m not making you do anything, Levi. You want to stay here, stay here. It’s your life.”
“How…” Levi swallowed. “Even if I…I mean they wouldn’t let me anyway. They never let me do anything. I’m not even allowed to look at any of the serious spellbooks. I’m not allowed to go shopping by myself. How would I even convince them to…”
“Let them fuck you?” Sam suggested. “I don’t know. I can’t solve all your problems for you, Levi.” Something fun Sam had done after he and Henry had first fucked Levi was that he’d finagled the libido spell to trigger, just a tiny bit, whenever Levi heard his own name. “You’re smart and your clan are idiots. I’m sure you’ll think of something. Otherwise I can just kidnap you.” He said it as though it were an afterthought.
“Whatever,” Levi muttered, quiet. “I’m…I’m going to go spy on Uncle Jakob and the elders.”
“Are you joining us in the room again tonight?” Sam asked. Levi had, every night since the first.
“I don’t know. Maybe. I’ll think about it.”
“Up to you,” Sam lied. “Talk later, Levi.”
“Yeah.” Levi fucked off, disappearing through the wall again.
Sam smiled to himself and kept walking. “Let’s go have a bath,” he said. Clan Cween had a shared bath in the bottom of their keep, but it was nice and big.
“Yeah,” Henry agreed. “I’m worried you’re being too heavy-handed with Levi. You might be right about Jakob, but if you expect Levi to want to follow you…”
Sam used Chaos to slap Henry on the ass. “I do expect it, and he does and will want to follow me.”
“Not if you strongarm him too much. The other night wasn’t a big deal, but eventually he’s going to start to realize not every idea you give him was really his.”
“Henry,” Sam said. He stopped walking. “Clan Arkhewer is full of people I raped and strongarmed and coerced into doing what I wanted. Even fucking Todd is something I built. And you’re all loyal to me.”
“No well. You can disagree with me about diplomacy, whatever. That’s your thing. Making stupid boys submit to me is my thing. I know what I’m doing. You were helpful the first night. Keep being helpful or back off.”
Henry was quiet for a second, but then he sighed again. “Okay. You’re right. It is working. But once we get him in the castle…”
“He’ll be stuck in the castle,” Sam finished. “And if he wants to cause trouble, he’ll have to do it after getting gangbanged by thirty dragons. Come on, we’re going to have a bath and then I want to be mean to Levi’s brother before we leave. We’re not going to see any of those other clans right away, right? Because this fucking sucked and I’d like a few weeks to break Levi in before we acquire a new clan member…”