Corthos and Lena Scene 2
“Lena.” Corthos waved the girl in to his writing room with a grin. She entered, shutting the door behind her. “Good work, kid. You got me everything that I needed on that two-bit hack. But I think we need to talk about what comes next. And a few other things.” He raised two envelopes from the desk, marked for MB and GT. “These are two letter that are to be released under very specific parameters. This one…” He handed her the GT letter. “To be taken to Guinevere Thrune, in the event of my untimely death or mortal wounding. That’s the easy one.” Lena nodded, putting it into her bag as she made a mental note of the distant look in Corthos’ eyes. “And the other?” Corthos paused. “This must be a secret. On my signal, this letter goes to Merrigold Brownlock at the Crooked Lion. When the time comes, I will leave the signal on this writing desk. It will be a single rose left in the vase. That letter is not to be given to any of the other girls or the madame…and don’t stay there long. You’re a good girl, you don’t need to stay in that place for long.” Lena nodded slowly. “Might I ask what the letter is about?” Corthos stayed silent for a moment. “I would rather you didn’t at this time.. And please, don’t let Rexus know. I’m certain he’s already going to have several words for me.”
Lena cleared her throat. “I understand. I’ll watch for the signal. Why would Rexus be mad at you? You’re bringing attention to the cause.” He leaned against the desk as he spoke with a chuckle. “That’s the problem. Rexus is someone who wants to stay in the shadows and wait. He’s….timid, with a dream of revolution. He thinks that I have no foresight. Sadly, I think Maxwell might be of a similar mindset. I suppose that I hope you share mine. Hiding in the shadows is fine, but if we don’t have the ability to take the fighting to the nobility, we will never be seen as a viable threat. And the nobles don’t care what we do in the streets – but to finally force their hand, to force a response, that shows that they have started to notice their grip slipping. And while they sent that twit Fleming to write, it meant that they had noticed. And then it came to our retaliation.” He smiled widely. “Wherein we did not so much wound his arguments as we destroyed them, burning the remnants to ash. The response is being passed through the streets. Delronge has egg on its face because it didn’t respond itself, and the writer they sent was thoroughly outclassed.”
“But our advantage cannot last for long. I have always had eyes on me as Mondragon, but now they will be far more keen to decipher me. And no House sits alone for long – I would anticipate them reaching out to the other Thrune loyalists, the Tanassens included. I will vote for inaction, but I know that I will find myself diametrically opposed to my House. So…..strategy meeting.” Lena held her words for a long minute, running a hand through her hair as she thought. When she did speak, her voice started quiet yet determined. “We can spread lies about Aldo Mondragon. Mix it in with truths, so that it will be harder to suss out. I know several actors, we can pay them to dress as Mondragon throughout the city. Make them think you are in different sections of Kintargo at once. Overwhelm them with information until it becomes nearly impossible to determine what is legitimate. I would anticipate that Delronge is not done – they will try something to ruin his name before they let you pick up a pen against them again. So we will do the opposite. Instead of attacking Delronge, we solidify the name of Aldo Mondragon. Take a handful of gold, move it about the populace – buy contracts, spread it to the Bellflower network, but make certain that the word gets out. False Mondragons passing out real money in his name. But this would take an investment, Corthos….”
He raised a hand, then reached into his pocket to pull out a small bag of gold. “One hundred pieces. My riot bag is full, so I don’t need this. Set to your work getting disguises and spreading the lies. I only ask that you do not draw attention to the Crooked Lion or this coffehouse, obviously. And Lena…” He rested a hand on her shoulder, his expression oddly warm. “….be very careful out there. I know you are clever, possibly more so than even myself. But please….take care to protect yourself.” She nodded, turning to the door and taking a step before stopping and glancing back. Corthos had turned to look away from her again, looking out the window with an expression that showed a blend of sorrow and frustration. She stepped back towards him lightly, embracing him briefly as she spoke. “Thank you for believing in us, Corthos. You’re a good man. Sometimes it takes someone who is willing to draw the attention for a plan to succeed. I’m sure the others will understand eventually.” Corthos stayed quiet, somewhat taken aback as the embrace ended.
He stood still as she left, then looked back to his desk. When he had first started as Aldo, he had not been ready for the high-end political games. The closer he came to them, the more it felt like he was wandering through the woods, followed by feral beasts waiting for him to trip up. They were all watching him now. The nobility had their eyes on him, and they did not understand the struggles of the commoners. The common man had eyes on him, and they didn’t see the sharp and bloodied blades hidden under the silken words. He had watched Maxwell during negotiations, and while the boy had a good heart, he was oblivious to the threats and insinuation. And the Ravens had their eyes on him, even though they certainly didn’t understand. He stood at a conflux, his pen the match that intends to start a fire that could burn all of Kintargo.
History would speak of Corthos, and of the words he was brave enough to say. And he would not let these words die. He sat down, taking out his response and Flemings letter, starting to pore over them for anything he may have given away.