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Brian Stansell



Neasa, sometimes my best illustrations come in story.
(I’d be interested to see what you think of it too, Cathy.)
See if you can spot the Communist tactics in this scene I wrote for my WIP.

“The caravan stretched for miles upon end, over the brow of the horizon, down a declivity and then rose back up to a ridge upon which Xarm, a self-styled ruler of one of the many clans, rode ahead of the masses to get a first look at the new country and mountainous lands coming off the highland plains from the great sea.
Xarm had come from a very different land many decades ago, but in this strange country, the years and the overhead sun were much kinder to aged men.  Still, in all, Xarm knew he was finally growing older and could feel the effects of the years piling upon his body, signifying that sometime soon he may need to think about his final rest and the legacy he would leave to his progeny.  He had been a cruel master, powerful in his day, and had ruled at times with an iron fist and at others with a velvet glove.
Now it was finally time to begin the transfer of his rule to his designated next in line.  There were several of his offspring to choose from.  He had not been a virtuous man.  He had not thought enough about establishing a rightful lineage sanctioned by clerics, of whom he had no use for.
His chosen favorite had died of a consuming disease, no doubt given him by some vile wench he had used while reveling.  Now he had only his second choice, and in his mind, the youth was a grave disappointment.  The young man needed affirmation too much.  A weakness for which he had been warned and chastised on numerous occasions.  He certainly was not fit to darken the shadow of his dead older brother.  The lad was full of bottled rage but unable to focus and make decisive use of it.
The king and his son rode side by side towards the cliffside and then dismounted to approach the edge of the overlook.  Xarm had commanded his attendants and bodyguards to wait for them about a league back so that he could talk privately with the young man.
The two approached the drop-off quietly, the king slightly ahead, the son dutifully following about a pace or two behind.
The sun was beginning to set on the far horizon and shadows of the evening were stretching away and behind them.
Upon the plains and valleys and lower intervening lands, various sized cities, towns, and hamlets were just beginning to light their evening fires.
It was just how the scout said it would be.  A land full and fertile, shouldered by mountain ranges, watered by myriad lakes and rivers, tilled and cultivated by generations of people who had no knowledge of what was about to happen to them.
Xarm took it all in studying it with a seasoned and calculated eye.  Measuring its natural strengths and weakness.  Its fortifications or lack thereof.  Its arrangement of towns in situ, its approximate number of residents based on size and observable boundaries.  Its roads and potential modalities of travel and food sources, and access to timber and stone.
Seeing the young man, as if for the first time within the last half hour of travel, also standing there at his right shoulder observing the land below he quietly asked, “My son, how would you move into an established land such as this and subdue them all under your authority?”
The young man glanced at his father to be sure he had spoken to him and then looked out again on the cities and thought for a moment, and then answered.
“I would take some of my most powerful warriors.  Divide them up and put hundreds of my most brutal, and dangerous men under their command, and have them ride in and lay siege to the smaller towns on the fringe, cutting them off from help from the larger cities.  I would allow them full liberties to take over the towns, striking fear into them and cowing them into submission.  Once we had control of the town, I would move in with greater forces to take the mid-sized towns until we had so subdued and struck fear into the hearts of the citizens that they feared to resist us.”
The monarch’s jaw tightened, and his eyes narrowed, as he let out an angry breath through clenched teeth.  He swiftly turned, grabbed his son by the shirt and backhanded him with a slap across his bearded cheek.
“You are a fool.  I am ashamed to have brought such an idiot out of your mother’s loins.  There is too much of her in you.  Have I taught you nothing?  You would summarily be defeated, your forces spread thin, and your head severed from your foolish body and your guts fed to the dogs.”
In disgust the monarch released his shirt and shoved the young man away from him, staring down at him with hot anger and frustration.  The prince flinched at the slaps he’d received more so from each of his father’s words than the harsh strikes.  His cheek was red and raw from the brutality of his father’s angry hand.  Though it stung and a welt was forming, he knew better than to reflexively raise his hand to his cheek showing any kind of weakness.  His father would surely break his arm for such a reactive gesture.  He’d thought to impress him but had only brought further shame upon himself and increased his father’s ire and rejection.
“Listen carefully to me, you idiot.  I asked you how you would gain control of an established land which is already self-sufficient.  You regurgitated this tripe about conquest by force, which has its rightful place but not in the beginning.  That may work with a land divided by feuding clans, but it will not work in a land living peaceably with its neighbors and sharing trade and community.  You will quickly run out of powerful soldiers because you must maintain the outer cities under an iron hand.  You will rapidly deplete troop strength and will at best only take the mid-sized cities but never the largest ones and you will subject your kingdom into a series of endless battles and wars which will ultimately cost you everything to maintain until they subdue you and overrun you and trample you underfoot for all of the atrocities you have committed in rising to power.  You will destroy everything I’ve spent my life to build for you and your siblings.  Fear is the costliest route to conquest.  You would do well to always bear that in mind.  Brutality is useful only after you have gained mass control and then you may use it with impunity as much as you like.”
The young man bowed his head, not daring to meet his father’s eye in challenge.  He knew his father was a brutal man, and that he thought little of killing subjects or using them as he wished, so his father’s reaction to his statements bewildered him.
“How then would you do it, sire?”
The king turned his gaze back upon the distant fields, glancing sidelong at his cowed offspring, “Here is how it must be done.  Listen closely.  These people do not know you.  Your reputation must not be known among them.  You must carefully control how they see you and come to know you and the people you lead.  It will cost you much at the beginning, but in the end, it will amass great fortunes into your kingdom coffers.  Send emissaries representing you into their towns and communities.  Live among them.  Meet with them, learn what their problems are.  Their concerns.  Their big plans for the future.  Listen especially to their suspicions.  Their complaints.  Sympathize with them.  Offer to help them.  Make them think you care about them personally.  Gain their trust through empathy.  Look for those who feel ostracized and outside of the community.  Befriend them.  Include them.  And learn what it is that causes them to feel marginalized.  Encourage them and others of like mind or circumstance to form groups defined by those differences.  Create sub-cultures and divide them by those definitions.  Fracture the community, by these self-defining groups.  Marginalize the older generation who built the society with labor and traditional values.  Make the younger generation distrust the older one, so they refuse to learn from them.  We cannot have those old ways carrying forward.”
“Validate the angst of the youth.  Encourage them to resist and rebel against the old-fashioned ways.  Exchange the concept of fact-based structure to a feeling based structured society.  Feelings can be manipulated, facts cannot.  The more these groups make decisions based on feeling rather than fact, the better for you.  Use their passions and later you can use their aggressions and frustrations to serve you as well.”
He gestured outward to the small twinkling lights in the more remote areas.
“Those smaller towns will be your hardest people to subdue because they need the least from you.  They are perhaps the most self-sufficient of all that can be seen from this vista.  They are more agrarian.  They plant.  they harvest, they make do with what they themselves are able to produce by their own industry and hard work.  They have the most to lose where there is no external threat to their existence.  So, with them, you must either create some external threat which causes them to believe they need something from you, or you must subvert their self-sufficiency and lure them into dependency.  Only then will you have the leverage you need to rule them.  Understand?”
The young man stared hard out in the direction the king indicated.
“How do you make a self-sufficient people depend on you?”
“With overly generous gifts.  You trick them into doing so.  You slowly lure them into wanting what you have to offer, rather than taking the time to produce it themselves.  You trade with them and take initial financial losses until they stop producing and start consuming more than they produce.  You make their life easier for a season until they lose their ability to do what generationally they have taught their children to do for themselves.  You wait until the time is right, to begin to slowly raise the cost of the wares you offer them.  You convince them that the honorable thing to do is bring together their dwindling produce into a communal storehouse and ration it back to them in fairness to all.  You secretly undermine their industry.  You buy out the trade of artisans who may become capable of producing superior products and avert competition.  You convince these promising young and naïve artisans to go to work for you and then you bury them in monotonous duties until they either lose initiative or you have a chance to discredit them in the eyes of their peers.”
The young man’s brow furrowed, “That could take years.”
The king smiled, “It can happen sooner than you think, but you are correct, it does take time to plan and orchestrate such a shift in thinking, but the rewards are immeasurable.  A quick rise to power is a fast fall out of it.  You must think progressively.  A slow eroding of old ways of thinking.  Eventually, your might will have been gained by those who become zealous for your rise to power.  In the beginning, promise them everything.  Be overly generous.  Gain their confidence.  If your fortunes are in risk of depleting before you reach your objective, secretly organize loyal brutes to maraud and steal what you have to from the unsuspecting to continue the cycle of generosity until they trust you implicitly.  Promise to deal with these vandals and marauders, which are secretly under your orders.  Recover and restore some of what was stolen to the people.  They will pay it amply back to you in power.  In the end, they will become your slaves to do with as you wish for their very lives and welfare will depend upon your benevolences and continued power.  The larger cities who are already sharing resources depend upon the outlying communities for food and clothing.  These will fall faster under your rule if you are widely seen as a beneficiary.  They volunteer their services and their very lives in exchange for what you offer them in the beginning.  Only when you gain control of all they produce; can you show the might and violence of your true power that they unwittingly yielded to you.”
“Sounds like a very complex plan.  Can this actually work?”
“It does every day, where I came from, my son.  Back in an entirely different world than this one.  It is working even now.  Create their need for them.  Give them what they want for a season, and these fools will surrender to you the keys to their kingdoms to secure for yourself an empire without end.”

Brian Stansell (aka O'Brian of the Surface World)
I was born in war.
Fighting from my first breath.

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