Others, 52

Information Doesn’t Exist in A Vacuum, Finding Some Means Learning More than You Wanted

My Patrons voted for this chapter back in November!

Ao3 Link

“Sorry to make you wait,” Helena said as she stepped into the sitting room. Gloria had been waiting for quite a while.

“It’s fine,” said Gloria. She was used to waiting. She’d been waiting her whole life. It wasn’t so bad, having only her own thoughts as company. “I presume the king needed something.”

Helena nodded, but didn’t say what it was. That didn’t matter. Dominic had gone to see Franz to warn him of the assassination plot earlier, so no doubt Franz had immediately summoned Helena to confirm it. Gloria wouldn’t bother asking if Helena had, because the answer was irrelevant and Helena wouldn’t answer either way. “He did, but I’m here now. I understand you wanted to speak about your parents.”

Gloria blinked. Fucking Helena. “I wanted to speak about the Empire.”

“Yes, I read your letter. We can talk about them too.”

Knowing everything should be illegal, Gloria thought. “Let’s talk about them first. The empress isn’t going to come to the summit, right?”

“I very much doubt it,” Helena said immediately, waving for a servant even though there wasn’t one in the room. “Ekaterina Demna isn’t known for travelling about her own Empire, nevermind to hostile foreign nations. I could be wrong, of course, as I don’t know as much about her as I should. But I doubt she’ll come in person. She’ll likely send her son Emir.”

The oldest Imperial prince. Dominic said he was a boor, though he only knew Emir through his daughter. Dominic insisted that he hadn’t pimped Callie out to him for information, and Gloria was inclined to believe him, if only because it tended to be his sons that he treated like shit. Though that, to be fair, was because he knew he’d failed them as a father and instead of owning it, was taking it out on them.

Gloria took in a breath. “If she does send him, it’ll all but be a sign that she’s not planning to take the summit seriously. He’s supposed to be an idiot.”

“Yes,” Helena agreed. “Though I doubt that’s entirely true. I suspect he plays an idiot so that people won’t realize how cunning he is. More conjecture, of course.” The door opened and a servant came in with a tray of tea.

“It’s possible,” Gloria agreed, letting the servant set it out for them. “But he’s also her oldest son and she still hasn’t named him her heir, right? Maybe that’s because he’s an idiot.”

“That’s absolutely possible,” Helena admitted. She smiled at Gloria. “However, you should be careful what sources of information you draw from. The Empire’s Intelligence Ministry is not to be trifled with and they’re very good at intentionally spreading misinformation.”

“Right, of course.” Helena probably thought her own intelligence network was better. She’d always looked down on Dominic too, even when he had information that she didn’t. “Okay. I just wanted to know which one I’m likely to be dealing with.”

“Of course. It’s likely to be Emir. Evgeniy doesn’t tend to do straightforward diplomacy and Evander is too young to be taken seriously as a representative of the Empire.” She paused. “Though not too young to be the governor of Narwhal Junction, evidently, which I suppose says more about how positively the Empire views its colony there than anything else.”

“Got it,” said Gloria. “I expect I can deal with him.”

“I expect so. The stories about him can’t all be exaggerated.”

Gloria snorted. “Only most of them. That’s all I wanted to talk about.”

“That’s an odd untruth to tell,” Helena said, sipping her tea.

Sometimes Gloria hated this woman. “You’re very annoying, do you know that?”

Helena nodded. “It comes with the territory. People can’t help but respond negatively to you when you’re being needlessly mysterious. It’s why nobody likes Dominic. Gerard and Georgina didn’t kill your parents.”

Gloria wanted to feel a weight lift off her chest at that, she really did. But she didn’t feel anything except tired. “Who did?”

“The Sorcerer King.”

Gloria’s teacup was untouched on the table. She picked it up and held it. “That doesn’t make any sense.” She’d known Solomon for several years. He’d been an asshole. He’d have mentioned it, even if just to taunt her.

He’d wanted an ally in Three Hills, so of course he hadn’t.

“Very little that Solomon of Clan Netzer did ever made sense on a superficial level,” Helena said with a nod. “Much of it didn’t make sense even on a deeper one, and that was true even before he killed his whole clan. But I believe there was a logic to some of his behaviour, though I admit I haven’t fully parsed it and likely won’t, now that he’s dead.”

“That’s an odd untruth to tell,” Gloria muttered, feeling distant. What was she meant to feel, working all those years with the person who’d killed her family? Helena could be lying. Maybe it had been Gloria’s uncle and aunt and she was covering for them by pointing the finger at a dead villain.

Helena gave half a nod. “I don’t mean I won’t try. I mean the information likely isn’t available anymore. He kept journals and so forth but I doubt his son will be forthcoming with them, and as I understand it, most of his plans he kept in his head in any case.”

“Smart,” Gloria muttered.

“So long as you don’t want anyone to continue your work after you die, yes,” Helena agreed, in a tone that made it clear she was disagreeing with what Gloria had actually said. “I believe he had a reason to want Gerard to be king. And more specifically, I believe he had a reason to want Gabrielle to be queen.”

Gloria tried to breathe normally. “What was the reason?”

“He wanted Gavin to kill her.”

A chill ran through the whole room. “Gavin wasn’t even born when my parents were killed.” Solomon had had Gavin kidnapped by the dragon two years ago.

“Indeed. Solomon had access to at least some prophetic material, either a written prophecy that he’d interpreted or a seer whispering to him. Once you realize that, both his erratic behaviour and his insanity make slightly more sense.”

Solomon had never seemed that erratic to Gloria. Weird and annoying, but not erratic. He’d had a clear plan. But maybe he’d never told her what the real plan was. “Why did he care about Gavin so much? What did he want him to do?”

“That I’m afraid I don’t know. We’d have to ask someone who knew him when he was alive.”

Gloria let out a breath. She knew. Of course she fucking knew. Maybe she was lying because…no. Helena wouldn’t need to lie about all this just to get Gloria to confess to something she already knew. “Do you actually not know, or are you just choosing not to tell me?”

Helena nodded again. “The most important thing about having information is knowing when to share it and with whom, Gloria. It is not safe to share certain information with certain people.”

“Now, that one wasn’t even subtle.”

“Nor was your asking for a meeting on the night when Dominic is back in Three Hills with grave information.”

Gloria gestured at nothing, ceding that point. “Will you tell me if I promise not to tell Dominic?”

“Yes. But only if you drink your tea.”

Glaring at the now cold tea, Gloria tried to see something wrong with it, but of course there was nothing. “What’s in it?”

“A potion concocted by my cousin that will bind you to the promise. Nothing else. There’s some in mine as well. I promise I won’t tell anyone about your associations with Dominic or Solomon.”

And Gloria just had to trust that the sketchiest person in Dolovai was telling the truth. But she did, for some reason. So she drank the damn tea. It tasted normal. “I promise I won’t share what you tell me with Dominic. Or anyone else,” she added, before Helena could make her.

She felt a hand on her throat, for just a second, then nothing.

“Thank you. Keeping secrets of this magnitude is very difficult. Are you sure you want…”

“Just tell me, Helena. I deserve to know the real reason why my parents died.”

“Hm.” Helena took in a breath. “Solomon believed that Gavin would be the Leader.”

“Oh, shit,” Gloria muttered. It came out unbidden. It was a juvenile reaction, but when had she ever been allowed to have those? “Dominic believes that Solomon’s son is the messiah.”

“Yes. I am ambivalent about that theory, but I don’t have an alternative. Maybe Dominic is right, though I don’t think Solomon thought that about Samson.”

Solomon hadn’t thought much of Sam. “Maybe he was wrong. Maybe he was wrong about Gavin, too.”

“I hope so, Gavin is a nice boy and I’d hate for him to end the world.” Helena sounded like she meant that, glib as it was. “Who does Dominic think the Leader is? Out of curiosity.”

There was no reason not to tell her. “He believes it’s Theodore Silver.”

“I met him at the wedding. He doesn’t have the impact on the world that the prophecies suggest the Leader will, but I’ll keep him in mind.” Helena took one of the sugary cookies that had come with the tea.

The identity of the Leader was important, but that was more Dominic’s area than Gloria’s. “I genuinely don’t know what Solomon hoped to gain out of starting the apocalypse. He supposedly wanted to be a god, but unless he knew something about the apocalypse that the rest of us don’t, that wasn’t going to happen.”

“I don’t know either, but he clearly thought there was something to gain. Perhaps he thought to take advantage of the chaos of a civil war and make himself king of Dolovai, I don’t know.”

“Solomon was grandiose and insane, but not like that,” Gloria said. “He named himself king of that stupid plateau, but he wasn’t stupid. He wouldn’t try to just usurp the ven Sancte monarchy.”

“Unless he thought he had the right to.”

Gloria frowned. “What?”

“Solomon’s father was Giles ven Sancte.” She said it so calmly, so flatly, that Gloria could tell it was fake. She was nervous.

Gloria stood without meaning to. “No.”

Helena just nodded. “I’m quite certain.”

“You have no way of knowing that.” Solomon had been older than Helena.

“I have many ways of knowing most things,” Helena promised, a small shake of her head giving away that she wasn’t taking this as lightly as her tone made it sound. “And I know this. King Giles had a sexual relationship with a Clan Netzer sorcerer named Stephanie, who had a son. I don’t know if Giles realized that he had an illegitimate child. I suspect Solomon must have known or at least had a suspicion. He believed he had a claim to the Dolovin throne, because he did.”

“And he thought that if Gavin killed Gabrielle, he could swoop in and…that motherfucker,” Gloria whispered. “He recruited me knowing I was his niece. He killed my parents. His sister.”

Gloria had worked for Solomon for years.

She looked up at Helena. “Sam.”

“I have no reason to believe he knows this. And no reason to believe he will ever find out. The only people who know are not at all invested in telling him.”

“Who knows, besides you?”

“That I can’t tell you. I am bound not to reveal my own source, you see.” Helena shook her head again. “Nobody in Three Hills.”

“Okay.” Gloria let out a breath, but still felt like she was holding one. “Why would you tell me this? Why bind me to secrecy and then tell me this?”

“Because this is the last conversation we ever have and I’m the only person who knows why your parents were killed. It seemed only fair to tell you.”

Bullshit, Gloria thought. Helena never just told people things out of fairness. That wasn’t how being a spymaster worked. “I’m not going to tell anyone,” Gloria whispered, looking at the floor. “Even without the potion I wouldn’t. Because it’s not true. There’s something wrong with the explanation. The pieces don’t fit right.” It didn’t explain Solomon’s treatment of Gavin. It didn’t explain having him kidnapped, taken away from the city.

“I agree. There’s still something missing in this equation. Solomon’s belief that Gavin was the Leader doesn’t fit in any obvious way. I was hoping you’d tell me why he kidnapped Gavin.” She was watching Gloria carefully, like Gloria were an insect under glass.

“I don’t know.”

“Unfortunate.” Helena sighed. “Then we’ll have to figure it out the old-fashioned way. Or not, since he’s dead. Maybe we’ll never know. Maybe it doesn’t matter, though I have a feeling it does. There’s one other reason why I told you. If Gavin is the Leader…”

“Someone has to kill him before he destroys the world, I know,” Gloria said, feeling sick. “I know. All I’ve ever done is try to protect House ven Sancte.”

“Me too. But we can’t protect six people and ignore the rest of the world.”

“Is that why you kept the plan to assassinate Gerard a secret?”

“I didn’t keep it a secret,” Helena assured her with a soft, fake smile. “I just didn’t tell you.”

“Okay.” Gloria sighed. “I think I’m going to go home and have a mental breakdown.”

“Please try not to do it in front of Dominic. He’d ask rather a lot of questions you’d struggle to answer.”

Gloria nodded, went for the door. She paused. “Goodbye, Helena.”

“Goodbye, Gloria. I’ve always enjoyed talking to you.” Helena looked tired, and like she’d just sit in this room all night drinking tea.

That wasn’t true, though. The minute Gloria left she’d be up and onto the next thing. “You too. Thank you.”

Gloria left Dolovai’s spymaster behind, walking out of the house in a daze. All her life she’d wanted to know why her parents had died. And now she did. And she didn’t feel better. She didn’t feel vindicated. She didn’t feel right. She didn’t feel whole.

She just felt tired and betrayed and like she was still missing something. Helena never shared information just out of sympathy. She wanted Gloria to do something, but what could Gloria do? Aside from kill her cousin.

Her cousins, she thought. Whether or not Gavin was the Leader, Sam was dangerous. And he didn’t know about his relationship to her family, the family she needed to protect. There was one way to make sure he never found out, though. So maybe it was up to Gloria to make that happen.

Because dead princes couldn’t start wars.

Previous (Story)

Previous (Series)

Next (Story)

Next (Series)

10 thoughts on “Others, 52

  1. “And Gloria just had to trust that the sketchiest person in Dolovai was telling the truth.”

    Excuse you, Gloria, Helena isn’t you, Georgina, or Dominic, and Klaus is most likely not in Dolovai at the moment, so that’s a bare minimum of four places above Helena before she can take the top spot.

    And even then she wouldn’t be, because Helena is actually trustworthy.


    1. Indeed, notably in the history of the story the only people who have steadfastly maintained that Helena is untrustworthy are the least trustworthy people around, almost as though they have a reason for maligning her…

      Thank you! 😀


  2. Another claimant to the Dolovin throne!

    …wait, is this the one that Scott broke the fourth wall to tell the readers about directly? Because that does make Sam the illegitimate grandson (or “grandcum”, as Scott put it) of a king.


    1. As a matter of fact yes, Solomon was the person Scott was ever so obliquely telling you about that one time! 😀 This does indeed put Sam in that position, as well as his siblings, of course.

      Thank you!


  3. So Gloria is about to, or is seriously considering, having one or more of Sam, Franz, and/or Gavin killed.

    This will of course backfire on her, as she isn’t a main character and all three of her potential targets are, but the fallout should be interesting in the Chinese sense nonetheless.

    Also, did Helena just admit to being behind Gerard’s death?


    1. Yes, it seems very unlikely that will go well for her in either the short or long term given their relative degrees of importance to the story, but it will definitely create some interesting fallout (in the nuclear sense, possibly) if nothing else.

      I think that admission can be interpreted in a few different ways. She could be behind it, but at the very least she’s known about the plan and hasn’t said anything at least to any of our PoV characters. She’s up to something, that’s for sure. But what else is new? 😀

      Thank you!


  4. It’s a good thing for Isaac that no one outside of the spiders and Ariel seems to have picked up on the Chosen One and the Leader being the same figure. The sneaky skullduggery types who might have him killed just to be on the safe side are all looking in the wrong place.


    1. Yeah, I think it’s very much to Isaac’s benefit that nobody who knows that information has chosen to share it, because given how much (perhaps rightful) concern there is over the apocalypse being very impending, it seems that just having a random academy student assassinated would be an easy task for some of these people who mostly only aren’t killing their other candidates for the political ramifications. So let’s hope it stays that way!

      Thank you!


    2. Wait a second. I got it mixed up. The chosen one is the Liar, not the Leader. The Leader’s identity hasn’t been revealed yet.


      1. Yes! Now I’m embarrassed because I didn’t notice you’d mixed them up either, haha. But no, the Leader’s identity is a secret still. In my mind there are about a half dozen characters who have an equal possibility of having the title attached to them (but not really because I do in fact know who it is, haha). So yes. 😀

        Thank you!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s