Something rotten stalks the Cloud Kingdom
The Empire of Sadness is coming for YOU and your licenses
Sysadmin Blog A good lord builds his castle to both serve as the center of commerce for his lands and to offer protection to his people in case of an attack. The peasants have neither the resources nor the knowledge to defend themselves, and they look to their lords for help.
Against most foes, this model works well. Should the land come under attack the peasants flee to the castle. There, the lord has provisions enough to wait out a siege and a standing army to defend the walls.
Unfortunately, the lands of the Cloud Kingdom are cursed. No matter how noble the intentions of the lords, no matter how much he cares for his peasants, the true terror stalking the lands are agents of the crown to which the lord must himself be loyal.
In the beginning, these agents of the crown were simple tax collectors, but this was before the holy book of Licensing was written. The tax collectors, finding much in the holy book of Licensing that appealed to them, became convinced of their own righteousness. They began a holy crusade against all the people of the land – from peasant to king – to ensure that all worship, all pay tithe and all do so exactly as described in the book.
Paladins were sent forth to ensure compliance, each bearing a copy of the sacred texts. Priest and acolytes were dispatched to preach to the peasantry. Over time each of these ended up with different versions of the holy book of Licensing, but all preached the book they had as the One True Text.
These taxmen, their paladins, priests and acolytes collectively became known as the Empire of Sadness.
Protect not the peasants
A good lord, we have said, builds his castle to both serve as the center of commerce for his lands and to offer protection to his people in case of an attack. In the holy book of Licensing however, it is written that while a lord may be a Service Provider to his people, he may not use his resources to protect them.
If a lord attempts to protect his people then paladins from the Empire of Sadness will pay him a visit. No matter how meticulously he has built his castle, the Empire will inevitably prevail, slay the lord, his family and all the peasants he sought to protect.
In the book it is written that houses may not band together for protection. Each must face the world on their own. Each must count their harvest alone and each must prepare the tithe alone
At night, the paladins come.
It starts with arguing; shouts of anger that echo across the land. Next comes "negotiation": there is begging and there is pleading. Even if one cannot hear the individual words, the cadence is well known, the content always the same.
"We tried to build a shrine exactly as it was written in the sacred texts! We spent half a year's harvest on it! The sacred texts are vague and contradictory! We go each Sunday to see the priest and we constructed everything as he said! We've done what we're supposed to, why are you here?"
Eventually, the "negotiation" stops as the "Lord" realises that nothing they can say will make the slightest bit of difference. The Empire will have its tithe and that tithe shall be what the agents of the Empire determine it to be at that time. The holy book of Licensing is never wrong, even when no two agents of the Empire interpret it in the same way.
As the negotiation ceases, silence descends upon the lord's domain. Abruptly, and without warning, the screaming starts. Unearthly shrieks of fear and terror tinged at the edges with anger, disbelief and incomprehension. It can continue for minutes, or hours. It's different each time, but it always ends the same way.
In the end, the peasant is broken. The Empire has won. The peasant's hovel is stripped bare of everything valuable. In some cases they simply disappear, never to be heard from again. Most are left broken and defeated; their only real value to serve as a warning to others.
Harden your heart against their plight
It does not take long for a good lord to become depressed by these events. Everyone interprets the sacred texts differently, and very few peasants have the resources to make sense of them, let alone determine how the local paladins view things.
Most peasants only barely make enough to be able to be able to pay the Empire the tithe they imagine to be their due; a good lord will yearn to be allowed to combine the resources of those on his land for the benefit of all his people.
Were enough peasants and enough lords to work together, it might be possible to challenge and defeat even the Empire of Sadness. Tragically, few lords are good and few peasants are willing to risk anything at all.
Each has an irrational belief that the Empire will always choose someone else. "It will never be me", they think. While at the castle, peasants engage only in the allowed types of commerce with the allowed types of people. They believe their shrine is properly built, the amount retained for the tithe is just right. The Empire won't come for them, it will always come for someone else.
"It won't be us...We've done right and we're good people." Peasants tell themselves lies or pretend the issue does not exist.
Until the sun passes beneath the horizon, and the Empire seeks tribute again. ®
Check the comments for a prequel from Trevor, posted after publication.