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Wanted: plot help

So you have a group of rebels who want to take down the government of a country (in this case a kingdom) to keep them from being able to conquer a neighboring country. They don't necessarily want to take over the kingdom (not that interested, and it's kind of beyond their capabilities at this point) but they do want to cripple it enough so that it can't conquer anyone else. What do you do?

Along those same lines, if you had someone within the royal family who was your ally, how could they help you? If they could get you inside the palace while the king and most of his people are gone, what could you do to further your goals?
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It depends on a) how much time you have, and b) what your technology is, and what theirs is.

If you have decades to play with, start a pacifistic religion that emphasizes civil disobedience and resistance to authority. (Personal violence is okay, war isn't.)

If you have high technology and the kingdom is crca 20th century, introduce a petroleum-eating nanovirus. Remember that Imperial Japan's war machine shut down for lack of fuel - they still had plenty of tanks and planes and untrained but eager pilots, but the machines sat useless for lack of oil. Ditto Nazi Germany - their failure to capture the Baku oil fields was the beginning of the end.

If you don't have time and you don't have technology, assassination is your game: Take out the warhawks at court, the top generals, the King himself if necessary. (If. Remember that Louis XIV couldn't marshall a barn dance, but he had excellent generals. Without them, Le Grand Siècle would have been a fizzle. Conversely, Peter the Great was himself the driver of Imperial Russia.)

Thanks for the ideas :)

The story is a fantasy, thus far with a kind of early 1800s-Europe feel. And incidentally the rebel group is religiously motivated; the conquering king is part of a growing splinter religion that basically puts him as the head of the church, and the rebels are old-school hard-liners who find this to be an intolerable heresy. Their fight is as much about stopping the spread of this religion as it is about keeping the national sovereignty. They've been in the conquering kingdom for the last fifty years or so, encouraging people to not pay their taxes and dodge the draft, and generally fomenting rebellion amongst the lower classes. Lately, as the kingdom has begun to push into their country, they've gotten more desperate. They would definitely be okay with assassination, and I think when the story starts they have made several attempts, but the king also has some pretty nasty magicians on his side as well. That's why I was trying to plot something more indirect, i.e. gaining access to the palace. I don't think the rebels are organized or prepared enough to start a coup, but maybe I can get enough factors going so that the people themselves rise up against the king. It would be very topical, no? ;)

This sounds like a job for biological warfare, a k a The Gods Must Be Angry. You know what they say, “No country is more than three meals away from a revolution.” Introduce grainrot fungus or the barnyard scourge - a couple of bad harvests with the appropriate propaganda spin will put paid to this upstart “splinter church.” The king will either be overthrown or make a humiliating deal for food with Mother Church. Either way, you've shut him up or shut him down.

[If Spain had thought of this, by AD 1600 the C of E would have been toast. This wouldn't have stopped the German Protestants or the Dutch, and they might have lost the game a generation later, but Mary Stewart would have been Queen.]

If you want to take down a kingdom, or cripple it, you want to sow dissent. You want to create and maintain distrust and betrayal. Is the king a hardliner on morality that has a dozen lovers and illegitimate children? is he a drunk? do drugs?

you want to find out some well loved person that he kills - such as putting to death an innocent person.

you want dirt on him, you want to make people question him. you want to magnify any flaws, embarrass the person in public.

if you can get into the castle, you want to mess with the king. Perhaps replace a beneficial drug with LSD or a hallucinogenic, so that he acts out and people think that he's nuts. If he's a womanizer, lace his food with salt peter so that he suffers prolonged impotence...you wanna make him angry and frustrated...which will make him stupid.

If he rides, find a way to rig his saddle so that he falls off. Lace his clothes with itching powder or something he's allergic to, to make him look ill.

weaken him in the eyes of his people

If you really want to trash his army, taint their water or food with something....conveniently after some hired prophet promises doom for the army.

basically, discredit, embarrass and belittle him...all the while you keep your hands clean. People can't blame you, because you'll just be the enemy that picked on their precious king. It all needs to be discreet and unblamable. it has to appear to be coincidence.
Ooh, I like these, because one of the main characters ends up agreeing to marry the king basically so she can find out information and pass it on to the rebels. But she can also engage in some of the subversive activities mention above ;)

The king is pretty corrupt... it's presumed that he had his first wife killed when she didn't conceive an heir, even though it's kind of an open secret in the court that he's shooting blanks. (This does not bode well for the new queen.) He had his brother summarily accused, convicted and executed for being in league with the rebels. Plus he, and his grandfather and father before him, essentially took over the church.
So the queen will come with her ladies in waiting. They help her. Sympathetic people from her home kingdom get employ with the king and serve ad her agents. Perhaps the queen is out riding and is attacked, this random person saves her, and refuses all rewards, reluctantly agreeing to stay in court - at the king's request...it was all a setup but it is the king's idea to hire this person. this way the person is unconnected to the queen, yet works on her behalf.
The queen must have plausible deniability. since we know the king is sterile, salt peter helps save her or if he continually denies his issues, she has someone help her get pregnant. depends on how far the king will let the falsehood stand.
perhaps this person that helps the queen ingratiates himself with the king, becoming a trusted advisor, pandering to the king, perhaps even covering for him once or twice to build trust. to suceed in undermining him, he needs to be trusted.

If you want a primer on royal intrigue, watch some of The Tudors. there were multiple examples of peoplle being set up for failure. Anne Bolyn was taken down largely on rumor and innuende augmented by Henry's ego.
Okay, I like the idea of the rebels finding a way to ingratiate someone with the king -- I had thought about him getting in disguised as a servant but I think I like this better.

I had thought of the queen turning to one of the king's advisers (someone who knows the king's sterile) to help her get pregnant, so she doesn't face the same fate as the first queen (because the king's kind of in denial). But that would definitely be a darker, more angsty route because she hates the guy.

The rebels have also installed some people in the palace as servants or slaves who were captured abroad.

So assuming the queen and her allies are able to set up the king, to make him unpopular with the people, what's the fatal stroke? What ultimately brings him down?
What if the queen ingratiates herself with the people. feeding the poor, healing the sick, etc. she can possibly even rig up a few miracles...her touch healing a person who'd been conveniently poisoned - and she delivers the antidote.
the king then falls sick, and the queen sacrifices herself to care for him. she won't leave his side, etc. she's selfless and kind. she sends out calls around the world for people to save her husband, etc...when she's really poisoning him on a daily basis. something like cyanide poisoning or arsenic poisoning, slow and painful. the king seems to fall ill and nothing can save him.
a sadly incapacitated king and his selfless wife caring for him until his tragic and untimely death. if he really as hated as you say, most of his advisors will be glad to see the back of him.
That definitely sounds like something from the history books, but I can't help but want something a little more showdowny and explosive. The queen (before she was queen) and the king's brother (before he was killed) were in love and planned to run off together before he was falsely charged and executed, so she would probably enjoy watching him die a long and painful death. But I'm not sure if his advisers would let something like that happen... he's a known quantity, they can kind of control him. Whether or not the queen ends up getting pregnant, she wouldn't have had the baby by this point so there's no defined heir.

Maybe the real baddie of the story is the adviser (he's the only who executes the brother). Or has that been done too much?
the advisor can be the orchestrator of things...or, the king can be sick, and the queen smothers him with a pillow. before modern forensics, it'd leave little to no sign, certainly in a case of people not caring that the despot is gone.

a sick king succumbed to his illness, and no one can prove otherwise. bonus points if the queen is preggers at the time...and she has never given suspicion to who could be the daddy, she's only spend time with the king, so - especially with a co-conspirator religious figure - that declares the unborn child a miracle and gift from god!!!!!! ;)

especially if there's any sort of future savior myth going around (someone finds an old story in an old book and 'leaks it to the press', so to speak.
*rubs temples* The wheels are turning... I took Max out on a walk, but he was so excited I couldn't really let my attention wander and disect the problem. Now I'm back home, still confused and wheezing ;)