Degradation Road

I was once seduced by someone who represented everything I thought I wanted to be. A regular charmer. Somebody who looked and sounded and acted the way I wished I could. It’s an insidious thing to love someone like that. It gives them the power to maneuver around your defenses in a way that regularly leaves you vulnerable.

It wasn’t always bad, but it was never healthy. To onlookers, we became indistinguishable; walking, talking, even thinking the same. I was desperate for approval. When he lavished me with praise, it made me feel amazing, capable, invincible. By the end, none of it was authentic. Odds are, we weren’t even friends. I was the puppet; he was the puppeteer.

Nothing lasting ever stood on such a foundation.


Power isn’t a mystery to unravel. It has been the source of brutal ends for tyrants on a multitude of worlds since time began. Something about inscrutable power leads even well-intentioned monarchs into corruption. Corruption inevitably leads to revolution.

So, the circle turns.

The most insidious thing the corrupt can do is learn from the mistakes of those who came before. For some, that means speaking softly; for others building bridges.

Despite his unexpected reserves of cunning.

When Brin Rasik murdered his elder brother to become Hierarch it was with the thunderous applause of an empire. As a young man, Brin, a second-born, lived in a world without consequences – and why wouldn’t he? Despite his unexpected reserves of cunning, he had no interest in power. For him, the world was full of temporary pleasures, and he was determined to taste them all.

On the other hand, the elder Rasik, “Coil curse his name,” loved only power. From atop his gilded throne, he surrounded himself with sociopaths and sycophants, turning a blind eye to the world. Whatever he wanted he simply took. Whomever he disliked, he marginalized or killed. All in the wrongheaded belief that none within the palace posed a threat to his reign. His death was inevitable.

Virtues of the Vicious

So long as you remain loyal to even the most unscrupulous tyrant, everything’s fine. But the second you develop skill or curry any favor that might pose a threat to their dominance, they turn on you with unimaginable viciousness.

All the while reminding you it’s your fault as they bury the knife deeper and deeper into your spine.


Beset on all sides by his brother’s enemies, Brin knew he had to insulate his reign from the sins of the man he deposed – his ingenious solution? To make the people comfortable. He gave them money and security, and while it didn’t rival his own, they certainly prospered. In doing so, he bought their love. Knowing full well that if any of his allies among the Treaty Lands or his enemies abroad declared war, the people would give their lives to protect their newfound prosperity.

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