Defined in the dictionary as "the betrayal of trust", Treachery is an important part of Fantasy. It has always been a core mechanic in the writer's arsenal. Recently there have been some seriously devious characters doing some seriously sneaky things.
So, inspired by my favorite advocate of the goatee, Mr Machiavelli, here is my offering on the subject of Treachery.
How do I do a Treachery?
Horses cannot be used in the same way as cars! They just can't! A horse is a living creature that requires thought, skill and core strength to ride. A car is a magic box that takes you to places that you wish to go with little or no effort. Cars also have the advantage of being able to travel hundreds of miles in a day, if your bladder can handle it. Horses however need to be rested regularly and have a maximum top speed of 30 mph which would be impossible to maintain for an extended length of time...
What!? What the hell are you on about? I thought you were going to explain Treachery?
Yup. That's exactly what I just did.
Masterfully I set up your expectations and led you to believe that I was going to perform a task which would benefit you. With no warning I turned around and gave you information that was of no use to your expectations or immediate needs.
This is the essence of Treachery. You put some form of trust in me, wonderful people that you are, and I take your simple hopes and do something unexpected and horrific with them: in this case, I stated some obvious, irrelevant and quite possibly imaginary facts.
Gudguff walked a few feet away before stopping and turning.
"So you will keep an eye on the eggs?" He stared at the campfire and at Ran. The huge yokel was prodding at the eggs in the frying pan with a long stick and grunting to himself. They were already filling their small camp with a delicious smell and Gudguff was watering at the mouth with anticipation.
"Ran, cook." The words came out slowly in Ran's glottal tones.
"Hmm...ok." Gudguff looked hard at his latest Hero. He seems to be paying attention...maybe he's changing? Gudguff thought.
Gudguff finished urinating into the undergrowth and sorted himself out before turning and heading back towards the camp.
"He's managed it. He must have, I can still smell the eggs." The wizard muttered to himself as he walked through the trees.
He entered the clearing and stopped dead.
Fire leapt from the branches of the trees around the opposite edge of the clearing and wreathed the grass around the centre of the campfire. Ran was stripped to his undershorts and holding one of the spare longswords over his head.
"Ran!" Gudguff screamed at the stripped down hero. Ran Dom McGuffin screamed at the ashes of the fire and took a swing at it with the sword, scattering more ashes and sparks from the guttering fire. One of the flying embers struck his arm and Ran screamed before lashing out again.
"What are you doing you arsewit! What have you done to my eggs?" Gudguff scrambled forward into the flames and grabbed for his staff before dropping it and screaming.
"It's sodding scalding!" The steel was red hot and the wizard hopped around waving his singed digits in the breeze to cool them down.
OK I think I understand now...
Congrats! Understanding Treachery is a useful tool. Anything can become Treacherous, literally anything around you:
- String: advertises usefulness and becomes a snarled mess at the first opportunity.
- Technology: becomes indispensable and then decides to pretend it's a Cat for the foreseeable future.
- Batteries: tiny tubes of power with a minuscule AI inside that detects when they are most needed and vents all power through a trans-dimensional twist.
- Money: speaks, promises to give you a good time, only ever says goodbye.
- The internet: advertised as a tool for...well, everything. Actually turns out to be full of porn and social media which sap your will to live, time and energy in no particular order.
- Ships: great for cruises but turn out to be vulnerable to pirates and storms.
- Cats: pretend to love you with a beguiling purr, take every possible chance to show you their arsehole. Will vomit, defecate and/or urinate in your shoes, porch, house, garden, pillow, wardrobe and face.
- Father Christmas (AKA Santa): Promises to give good children presents and abandon the bad children to the mercies of parental and familial generosity. Actually gives presents to seemingly everyone...even Benjamin Duggan, although he stole your lunch every day this term...ahem.
Riiight...so, your issues aside, I can now see that everything has the potential to do a Treachery. Great.
Fear not! Not everything will betray you. In fact only a very few things will or can. Which is why we have a special word for it rather than it being the norm.There are several things you can look out for in people and objects, which might help you to know if they have Treachery on their minds/coiled into their atoms.
You mean I can predict who will do a Treachery?
...Yes. People or animals who are likely to Betray you will do so for personal gain. Now I don't mean that they will drop you in the cacky for a few quid (not to international readers, a quid is a substance that can render the stupid attractive, but not smart).
Rather, bear in mind that these individuals might Betray you for some sense of revenge or vindication. They might do it for some sort of sense of pleasure or because your demise/tears/incoherent rage/misery will feed into some grand scheme they have been working on and give them some sort of desired outcome.
These individuals are not always easy to spot: they can be masquerading as your best friend, a mentor or even a politician. Using their positions of authority and closeness to the victim results in a yield of maximum Treason.
- Politicians: These bastards will sucker you in with promises of free jobs and Bonbons. What happens is that no matter who you vote for, the government gets in and announces more taxes, no more jobs and new legislation involving the death penalty for the production, ownership, consumption or distribution of Bonbons.
- Viceroys/Most Trusted Advisers/Anyone with "Vice" in their title: Seriously! Have you ever met a single Vice-anything who didn't Betray the person they were closest to for a sniff of power so thin it might as well be a gnat's fart. They might be as close as a brother/sister but I tell you right now, they will turn on you quicker than a children's roundabout.
- Closest friends: Normally these are something to treasure. In the world of Fantasy however, they are likely to Betray you for the sake of gaining a woman, making an ideological point, rejecting the colour of your scarf or because they just don't like the way you cook the eggs.
- Benign Demons: These are a total oxymoron. They don't exist. Just trust me on this, they really don't.
- Animal sidekicks/pets/trusty steeds: These are the most benign of all betrayals and universally motivated by comic timing and mischief rather than evil or a corroded sense honour that has finally given way to full blown bitterness, hatred and malice.
So now I know who might do a Treachery on me can I do one on them?
YES. Yes you can if you want, however I'd be careful about who you BETRAY. There is literally no upside in BETRAY-ing a demon from the deepest level of hell who has been your sponsor. Just because you feel like being contrary is no justification for going back on an infernal contract with Vath RA Trogothoz The Internal Face Devourererer.
If you are going to BETRAY anyone then you really need to know who it is that you are betraying, why you're doing it and what the outcome is going to be. Most importantly you will need to grow a goatee. Proper Treachery cannot be undertaken without access to a nifty goatee. It is a vital part of your attire, providing you plentiful mustache twirling opportunities and terryifying Pogonophobes everywhere.
Gudguff looked at the slumbering form of Ran Dom McGuffin and pondered their recent misadventures. In the space of a week, one single week, this gargantuan cretin has destroyed no less than three campsites. Flattened my hat twice. Ruined the etching on my staff of power. Accidentally set fire to half of the Wood Elve's realm and caused us to be chased and shot at by a horde of angry tree hugging arseholes. He looked around the rocky plain. The prat could set fire to those boulders.
Gudguff made a decision and stood. He snugged his hat down a little further onto his head before wrapping his cloak tightly around himself and struggling into the wind. What he was about to do weighed heavily on his mind. It was a monumental decision that would effect their relationship for years to come.
Gudguff smirked and let out a manic giggle.
This'll sort him out! "Ha!"
He strode toward the gibbous moon.
The tower reared into the night sky and blocked a large chunk of the bloated sphere that was the moon. Giggling to himself, Gudguff stopped and ducked behind a bush. He paused, noting the puddle and smell of urine.
"Probably not the best bush for this..." He stood and moved over to the next bush along, crouching behind it and taking out his writing gear.
"In the woods west of this stronghold I would bring to your attention...dangerous miscreant Ran Dom McGuffin...noted critic of the Dark Lord Sorebum..." He muttered the odd word aloud as he furiously scribbled his note. Stifling his laughter with a hand he ran toward the door of the tower, note in hand.
The tower was festooned in spikes and spines that seemed to almost have grown from the stonework as an extension of the Darklord's manifest general bad temper. Gudguff ran up to the door and rammed the note onto one of the spines that protruded at roughly eye level. He stood back and re-read his handiwork again.
The door opened and Gudguff found himself staring into the craggy and slightly jaundiced face of sergeant Shagrat.
"Oh. Hello," Gudguff burbled at the henchman.
"Hello." He looked from the Wizard's slightly panicked face to the note that was fluttering in the mild breeze. "That for me?"
Gudguff looked around at the note and then over his own shoulder, gauging the distance to the stinking bushes, trees and freedom.
"I take it you're working out how far you could run before I catch you."
Gudguff's head span back toward the minion and he took a half step backwards.
"Right." The sergeant sighed and raised his bow. "You realise that a bolt from this bow will travel at around 310 feet per second. And that at a distance of, say sixteen feet, if you were quick off the mark I could puncture your liver in about a second or so."
The wizard paused and looked at the bow.
Snagrat continued in an easy tone: "Or I could just as easily shoot you through the arse and skewer your bollocks."
Gudguff sighed and twisted his hands around in his manacles. The view from his cell was uninspiring to say the least.
"Well..." He addressed a rat sitting in the meagre pool of light that spilled from the high barred window above. The rat licked its whiskers and eyed Gudguff's dangling toes.
"I'd say that backfired pretty fucking spectacularly."
The rat chittered to itself and shat on the filthy straw.