ZEITGEIST The Queen's Speech (adventure 10)


Beware, terrible spoilers below!

Our brave group of heroes just finished Godmind (we are by now convinced that this is the best campaign ever), and my wife, who plays a Paladin of Redemption Docker and is now the Queen of Risur, insisted on attending the Forward Symposium herself and give a speech. Which she wrote, and here it is:

Speech of the Queen of Risur, Her Majesty Ruth O’Donnol, addressed to the Forward Symposium,
Cherage, Danor, on the day of 73 Winter of the Year 502

World leaders, Excellencies, Ladies and gentlemen,

We have gathered here to discuss the future. But sadly, I am here to inform you that if we do not act together, quickly and decisively, we have no future. This man, [the monarch points to William Miller], who is known as Nicodemus the Gnostic, whose real name is William Miller, changed the structure of our universe in an ancient ritual on Axis Island. He did this of his own accord, through a vast supranational conspiracy, neither consulting nor informing the leaders of Lanjyr of his intentions and actively concealing his designs. But William did not finish the ritual, he left it open, and as a result we are all being swept into the Gyre in the sky that will soon tear us to pieces. Allow me to pass around records meticulously composed by our finest Skyseers to prove the truth of my words.

William Miller will tell you that he acted with the consent of the world and that we, Risur, are the separatists, the warmongers, and the obstacles to progress and a better future. He is lying. In fact, William, the Obscurati, and Danor acted entirely of their own accord and committed every act of violence and every crime imaginable to eliminate anyone who stood in their way. They attempted to assassinate King Auden, attacked Flint without any provocation on our part, destroyed Flint’s navy fleet, and attempted to cut Flint off from Risur, organized the suicides of the religious leaders in Crisillyir, and brainwashed you with the lighthouses that they installed in your respective lands. William Miller’s crimes include, in addition to the above, the murder of sick and injured Eladrin who came to him for healing and medical treatment during the wars and whom he poisoned while they were lying helpless in his clinic, and the murder of Crisillyiri healers to prevent Danoran citizens fleeing the pandemic from receiving treatment for their illness. He also caused the outbreak of the three Yerasol Wars by pulling the strings behind the scenes. He committed all of these crimes without remorse or second thought because they furthered his so-called ‘Grand Design’. In addition, he murdered half of the high-ranking members in his own conspiracy because they dissented from his vision and he could find no further use for them. He dispensed with his own people as he would so much used potion bottles. Given this impressive resume, we should hardly be surprised that he crowned his achievements with a ritual that he botched so spectacularly that our world is on the brink of destruction and we are all on the brink of death.

To those of you asking yourselves what went wrong, I will tell you candidly - the Voice of Rot sent his minions to drop bombs on the Colossus known by the name of Born, while the Obscurati were midway through the ritual. I apologize for Risur’s part in the matter and for our failure to stop the Voice of Rot, to discover its plans and to thwart them plan before they came to fruition. Once again, please accept my apologies. I will do everything in my power to make this right and close the ritual. Yet while I bear the responsibility, William Miller bears the blame. My predecessor, King Aodhan, failed to subdue the Voice of Rot because he was preoccupied with the damage that the Obscurati’s conspiracy and its failings wrought upon Risur, including the deaths of soldiers, police officers, and civilians, one particularly disastrous failure being the eruption of Born from Cauldron Hill and the loss of life and destruction that followed in its wake. In recent months, King Aodhan was further preoccupied by the Obscurati's attempt on his life that pulled Torfield Palace into the Bleak Gate and killed dozens of palace staff and from which the King himself barely escaped alive.

Had William Miller shared his plans with us and the rest of the world leaders, we would have been prepared for the ritual and we would have kept a special eye out for any unusual activity on the part of the Voice of Rot, and we would have created several back-up plans and redundancies in advance to ensure that the ritual be properly completed and prevent precisely the disaster that occurred. So yes, you have every right to be angry with me and with Risur for the part that the Voice of Rot played in this tragedy. Once again, I apologize. But there is a difference between negligence and deceit – we share the responsibility, but the culpability lies squarely at William Miller’s feet.

Those of you who doubt my words, ask yourself why you haven’t heard of this man who calls himself Nicodemus the Gnostic to this day? Why does he go by the false name Nicodemus, and why did you need to learn his real name, William Miller, from me? If he were truly acting in partnership with the leaders of the world, if the ritual were truly a joint world-wide operation, why would he conceal himself in such a heavy cloak of secrecy and subterfuge? Why did he not tell you all upfront that he left the ritual open, that we are drifting into the Gyre, that the world is on the brink of destruction and that we are all going to die? Why did you need to hear about all of this from me? If William were your ally and I your enemy, shouldn’t the situation be reversed? Ask yourself – would a visionary who seeks nought but to make the world a better place and bring an end to war, working with the leaders of the world – would he go to such extreme lengths to keep his efforts a secret? Are such acts of goodness and benevolence generally kept under wraps? Or are the things that are kept secret evil, shameful, cruel, and dishonourable? Consider the balance of probabilities and tell me what seems more probable to you.

By the same token, if Risur were truly the violent aggressor, if Risur were the obstacle to world peace and the threat to you all as William Miller and Danor would have you believe, would I be standing before you today and risking my life, explaining the situation to you as it is, openly admitting our failures and taking responsibility for them, apologizing for them, and giving you my word that I will do everything in my power to make them right? Are these the actions of a hostile country? Are these the actions of an enemy? Or are these the actions of an ally warning you of a common threat that endangers us all? Once again, consider the balance of probabilities and tell me what seems more probable to you.

William Miller will protest that he does not crave power, that he is merely an advisor. He is lying, not least to himself. Power is exactly what he seeks, but he is clever enough to understand that power comes in many forms, that power is found not only in a large army or high-level spells or weapons with miraculous abilities. William Miller wields power of a more subtle and quiet sort, but no less destructive and considerably more poisonous. His is the power that manifests itself in whispering the right word to the right people, bending people to his will and shaping their beliefs, their desires, and their actions. His is the power that organises a wide-ranging conspiracy in which every member will murder, torture, destroy, and betray their country and their loved ones for William Miller’s vision without even being aware that they are not acting out of their deepest-held beliefs, never once suspecting that William sees them as dispensable pawns and will get rid of them without batting an eyelid when he decides they are no longer useful.

William Miller has no respect for human life. He styles himself an idealist, but he is unable to feel compassion or empathy, and in their absence, his ideals, such as they are, have been warped into a cold, barren, cruel, and murderous worldview. He says that the ends justify the means, and that his ends are to bring an end to all wars, but he has brought about all wars since the Malice. The truth is that what motivates William is not some deep-seated idealism or intellectual depth, but simpler feelings – egotism, an overwhelming desire for control, a terrible fear of a future in which he is no longer needed, and a narcissism so all-consuming that he truly believes he is the only person with the right to decide the future of our world.

Whenever you find yourselves tempted to lend your ear to William Miller, whenever his words sound compelling, remember Langua Varal, the daughter of Kasvarina Varal who was William Miller’s closest and most loyal ally – I believe that Casvarina thought of herself as William’s best friend, but from his point of view, he has no friends, only pawns. William arranged for a dragon to capture Langua, torture her in front of Kasvarina's eyes while her two comrades in battle betrayed her, and then had the dragon murder Langua as she screamed for her mother’s help. Why would he do such a terrible thing? Because William Miller wanted to regain control of Kasvarina. He wanted her to witness the torture and murder of her second daughter in the most terrible manner one can possibly imagine – the only daughter she had left after Dala was murdered in an equally horrifying manner in the Malice – because he wanted to cut her off from everything that she held dear. Not only her daughter, but also her enclave, her comrades in arms, and her Elfavaran community. William wanted Kasvarina to lose everything so that she will be his and only his.

And this is what he did to his most loyal ally and closest companion. So every time you feel yourself captivated by William Miller’s words, every time you are tempted to believe this man who claims to seek peace while waging war, remember that act of betrayal and ask yourself if a person who did something like that, no matter how charismatic, no matter how logical and persuasive his words may be, is the person you want as your leader in the new world.

We have one final chance at survival, if we put aside our differences, pettiness, rivalries, and hatreds, and work together. In order to save the world, we must recruit 60,000 people and draw on magical powers the likes of which Lanjyr has not seen in tens of thousands of years. We must bring these 60,000 people to the Island of Axis, now controlled by Danor, finish the ritual and close it with the enormous gold plate that William removed, which is 200 feet in diameter, three feet thick, and weighs tons. If we fail, we will all die - enemies, friends, and loved ones alike. William Miller assumes that we are unworthy – unfit to govern, unworthy of leadership, and unworthy of the trust placed in us by our peoples. He looks at us and sees selfish, corrupt, violent, power-hungry leaders who behave like the heads of the clergy before the Malice. I look at us and see leaders who will do everything and sacrifice everything and work together to save their countries and their peoples and their world. I hope I am right and he is wrong. Your decisions now, and your actions now, will prove which of us is right, and what kind of leaders you are. Thank you.


After this, the dignitaries became so suspicious of the Obscurati, the a hivemind was formed, bent on destroying the Obscurati (and because anyone might be a secret agent, anyone who is every slightly suspicious must be disintegrated!). This led to a mindscape scene in which the heroes had to try and convince the paralyzed state leader that maybe it's better not to destroy the Ob!

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holy naughty word. that's an amazing speech. good job on your wife's part.

edit: huh, i guess the naughty word thing i've been seeing around is automatic because i didn't do that. weird.
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