377: Lead by Example

The Fairy Queen looked at me strangely. And by strangely, I mean as an equal — can’t get stranger than that.

I was in charge of a group, didn’t matter what kind of group. My role was ratified by the misplaced faith of others, nothing to do with me. Made it so I didn’t even have to prove myself. I could be a bad leader, you still needed to accept me as the major-domo (might be using that term incorrectly but it sounds right which is the important thing). You had to respect the office, not the incompetent person sitting in the big chair.

Peer pressure at its finest.

That whole thing with teenagers drinking and smoking because everyone else is doing it, that’s not real peer pressure. They would do it anyway, just out of boredom, it’s just more fun getting trashed with friends.

Real peer pressure is voting the same way as your neighbours because that’s how you vote where you come from. Pretty much every form of government relies on this idea. You assume the person nominated is the best candidate because everyone else seems to think so.

In reality, of course, no one thinks that. How the fuck would they know?

“I’ll put my people to work getting everything ready here,” I said, sounding very much like someone who had a firm grip on matters.

“Which people?” said the Fairy Queen.

The problem with relying on mass-presumption for support is that it is easily taken away from you. Once the people leave, so does your credibility.

I looked around the square. It was filled with undead faces, no sign of any of my avid supporters. No sign of my un-avid supporters, either, of which there were a lot more. There was, however, still the ship. It was hard to miss, a galleon in a city square. The wings had disappeared so it just looked very out of place.

“Hey, on the ship!” I called out. “Anyone there. Captain Somya?”

A single head appeared looking nervously over the rail. It was Damicar.

“Oh, hello there,” he said rather timidly.

“What are you doing?” I asked him.

“Hiding,” he said. Good answer. This was why he was such a key member of my organisation. I was definitely going to integrate him into my transition team as I pretended to take over the city.

“What happened to the crew?”

“Ah, well, you see, Captain Somya and his men went to the docks to get another ship. One that was on the water. And the other sailors, the ones not so dead, they went to get drunk. I don’t think flying agreed with them.”

“Good, good,” I said, making it seem like I approved. I turned to the Fairy Queen, “The men need their rest so they can face the future refreshed.” She didn’t say anything, just stared at me. “Where did the union guys go?” I shouted up at Damicar.

Damicar stood up, still nervous but bolstered by my presence. I’d have to do something about that. Misplaced confidence can get you killed.

“They went to prepare for your inauguration. You’re the new Lord Protector.” He said it like he thought I might have forgotten. That was actually a nice move. Made it look like I had so many positions of power it was easy to overlook one. The Fairy Queen was nodding. I decided to make Damicar head of my fake transition team, the boy had talent.

“Excellent,” I said, like this was all according to my instruction. “And the dragons are ready for deployment?” Damicar looked confused. “Great, great. And Grayson is taking care of that other thing?” Damicar shrugged, even more confused. “Perfect.” I gave him a thumbs up. He gave me one back that seemed to have a question mark attached.

I was trying to make it look like I had plenty going on. Too busy to be distracted by fairies and their unsanitary needs.

Apart from having people treat you like you knew where you were going, leadership also required you to have a definite plan. It didn’t matter what the plan was, you just had to have it.

That was probably the hardest part for me. As a person who really didn’t give a shit about what was next or how to get it, acting like you had strong ambitions and clear goals was very hard to fake. Money, power, status, none of it really gave me a hard-on like it did for most people. The admiration and respect of a bunch of retards did nothing to swell my ego. I don’t consider myself any better than the people around me, but my self-loathing doesn’t make me think people are better than me. My them-loathe is just at a higher order of magnitude.

But you have to act like you have goals. Have to. If you don’t, they’ll try to slip their cringe-inducing desires into your path, and pretend you’re going where they want to go.

It’s like if you have a kitchen cupboard that’s a mess. Full of out of date cans and jars, boxes open at both end and spilling their contents. Stuff at the back you can’t see and can’t reach. If you take the time to clear out that cupboard, make space, put everything in easy to find groups with lots of room, what happens?

Do the other people you live with see this well-organised and simplified system as something to applaud and maintain to help sustain an uncluttered life? No, of course not. Next time they come in with shopping, they’ll see all that space you created and dump everything into it with even less care than when they had to squeeze stuff in.

If I wanted the Fairy Queen to leave me alone, I had to convince her I had too much important shit to do to waste time on her pet projects. You have to act big if you wanted to get nothing done.

“I see,” said the Fairy Queen. “Then I will leave one of my subjects with you to make sure you can be as efficient as possible.”

“Fine, I’m down. I mean, good idea. What about Joshaya? He’s one of yours, isn’t he?”

The Fairy Queen nodded. “Yes, that will do.”

Joshaya was a powerful entity, but one I was at least familiar with. I had fulfilled my end of the deal with him so I felt I’d have some bargaining power against whatever he tried to get me to do. And I fully expected him to bother me, anyway. Might as well keep him where I could see him.

“Right,” I said. “Good. That’s sorted, then. I’m going to head over to my residence, where I sent the dragons off to, and get started. You, um, carry on.”

The Fairy Queen snapped her fingers and the crowd of undead suddenly dispersed. They set off in all different directions at once without having to be told what to do. That’s too much power for one fairy.

In a few seconds it was just me, the Fairy Queen and a small group around her, and one huge ship. I felt the ship was pulling focus, but that was okay. I didn’t mind being upstaged by a galleon in the middle of a city. It’s like when a girl with a really big butt walks by. Everyone’s gonna look, it would be weird if they didn’t.

I moved towards the big-bottomed boat with the Fairy Queen watching me. It was hard to give off an air of power and authority when there wasn’t anyone around to convince but myself. I guess the real leaders, the ones who really do know the way, have something extra that works even when no one else believes in them. I’d have to settle for blagging it.

“Just need to get a few things,” I said, pointing at the ship. “Underpants, socks, you know, essentials.” I climbed the gangplank. “Toothbrush. Washcloth. Sunglasses.”

The Fairy Queen looked mildly baffled, which was fine by me. She wasn’t attacking, that was the main thing.

I got to the deck and turned around. The Fairy Queen was going back into the temple with her retinue. I took that to mean she considered me within her grasp so unnecessary to be too concerned about. And what I’d said about her having been away a long time and needing to see how things had changed was undoubtedly true. I had a small window of opportunity to get the hell out of Dodge.

Good thing, too. It wasn’t easy pretending to be a man of great passions and appetites. It was exhausting.

“Snack?” asked Damicar, holding out a tray of small pastries. He tended to cook when he was feeling anxious, so he’d spent a lot of time in the kitchen since he’d got involved with me.

“Thanks.” I scooped a bunch off the tray and deposited them in my gob. Still warm. “We’re headed for Arthur’s house,” I said while chewing. “It’s a bit of a walk. We’ll need… some… this is really good. We’ll need to get going… as soon as…” I kept eating. It was nice to feel pleasure for once. It had been a while. I looked forward to taking a really big shit later. When you live a life as devoid of joy as mine, you take the small pleasures where you can find them.

“We could use the cart,” said Damicar. He pointed at the other side of the ship.

The ship was sitting at an angle, the hull resting one side so the deck was sloped downwards. I carefully made my way to the rail so I wouldn’t be pitched overboard, and looked down. There was a horse and cart down there.

“Commander Grayson left it for you,” said Damicar.

I really should have used Grayson more, he was actually a bona fide worthwhile person. But I liked him, so I tried to keep him out of my affairs as much as possible, for his own good.

I’m sure there have been people who thought I turned my back on them because I hated them, but in fact I paid them the biggest compliment by removing myself from their lives. Sometimes the best you can do for a person is not take them down with you, especially when you know they’d come willingly.

We clambered down the other side of the ship, which was tricky without a gangplank, and set off, noisily clip-clipping across the square. There was no one to hear us. In fact, there was no one all the way to Arthur’s place. Grayson had done an excellent job of clearing the city centre.

If I’d intended to stick around, I would have given him a distinguished service medal. Giving out medals was another way to establish you were in charge.

“I’ve decided you’re number one, have a shiny.”

People loved getting that kind of shit.

“The king thinks I’m brave!” Yeah? My cat thinks I have a warm lap, so what?

People really shouldn’t give a fuck if someone decides you’re special or not, but they do. They care a lot. Ultimately, most of us are dog people. We like a pat on the head and told we’re a good boy.

If I ever did have to become a proper leader (wouldn’t be by choice, I can tell you that) I’d have to look into starting my own line of medals.

The Medal of Colin, for side-stepping an oncoming threat. The Grand Order of Colin, for gallantry in the pursuit of a good hiding place. The Purple Colin, for those who have been wounded in the back while running away.

I’d award them all to myself first, of course. That’s how people will know what a great leader I am, a chest full of self-pinned medals.

The gates to Arthur’s place were wide open and dragons roamed the grounds like prehistoric beasts, chewing on the dahlias and dropping steaming turds. Majestic. They looked refuelled and ready to go.

No sign of any druids, I wondered what happened to them. Another thing to put on my not-to-do list.

Damicar pulled up outside the front door and I jumped off. The front door was locked and I had to knock, shouting ‘Hellooo,” through the broken glass.

There was some loud stumbling noises and then some footsteps running. The door opened to reveal Flossie and Dudley, soaking wet, wrapped in towels. They were both very red in the face, which might be from steam, or possibly other activities.

“Really?” I said as I walked in. “Right in my face? Couldn’t be a bit more discreet? Have you any idea how long it’s been since I enjoyed the touch of a gentle and loving hand, even my own?”

They looked embarrassed, probably for me rather than themselves.

“Well, put your knickers on, we’re leaving.”

“We are?” said Flossie. “Where we going?”

“Yes, where?” said Damicar. “I thought you were going to put Gorgoth back in order.” He seemed disappointed in me.

“I will. But first I need to take care of matters. Collect magic items. Summon otherworldly assistance. You know, optimise my build for the coming DLC.” I tried to make it sound like it was all for the cause, whatever the fuck the cause was.

“I see. We will return soon?”

“Actually, you should stay here, Damicar. If anyone comes calling, tell them I’m indisposed and they should come back later.” The longer he could stall, the better chance I’d have of getting away.

“Indisposed doing what?” asked Damicar, willing to put his trust in me as always. Yes, I felt bad abandoning him, but it was worse for me. I was stuck with Flossie and Dudley, both terrible cooks. At least Damicar’s strawberry tart left me feeling happy. Dudley’s never did.

“I don’t know, having sex with my secretary.” That’s what powerful men did, after all. Kings of industry and heads of state, they loved to shag a gullible woman earning minimum wage. Another sure sign of greatness.

“He convinced his employee to blow him, who better to negotiate peace in the Middle-East?”

“Yo’ don’t have a secretary,” said Flossie, a bit put out at my imaginary sexual misconduct.

“Okay, my underlings.” I looked at Flossie popping out of the top of her towel, and then at Dudley, also popping out of the top of his towel. “Tell them I’m fooling around with him.”

“Him?” said Flossie, even more put out she’d been overlooked. “Why him?”

“Trust me, they’ll find it easier to believe.” Politics was like judo, you had to use the strength of your opponent’s prejudice against him.

“You should probably start kissing him now,” said Damicar. He pointed through the door.

A train of carts and carriages were rolling through the gate, loaded with sparkling treasure. The guild leaders were sitting up front.

The other way to gain influence was to use corruption. Buy yourself a seat at the table. Absolute power corrupts absolutely, but second-hand power tends to do quite nicely, thank you very much.

I was immune to that sort of thing, of course, but it wouldn’t hurt to have a look at what they’d brought with them. We might need a few gold bars in the next place.

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