Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Taking the Long View

"I am an abomination?"

"Well, no, I mean, that is, I don't think so, of course, but the church teaches-"

"The church? Roberte, let me tell you something about your church. It is false. It is corrupt. It is not a servant of your gods, but rather of petty, corrupt men."

Roberte Leguise, my financial manager, sat across the table from me, blinking in startled bewilderment. Like all good men of the Free Cities, he had been raised to believe in the wisdom and infallibility of the church and its bishops. It provided moral guidance, interpreted the will of the gods, and guided men how to choose good over evil. I, however, had shed such illusions centuries ago.

I sighed dramatically. "Roberte, I will tell you how little you should trust your church. Two hundred years ago, I, Alecksander Liyosh, served as the Bishop of Borleon for over a decade. If the church leaders truly thought I was an abomination, would they have allowed this?"

"What? How? I mean, how could you...?"

I waved my hand in a dismissive gesture. "I was bored, and the church elders needed money. So I bought the bishopric for a decade. It was slightly inconvenient, with the daylight issues and all, but it did provide me an opportunity to serve as a patron of the arts in some very different and exciting ways."

I was fucking with his head, of course. I would rather confine myself to a monastery and eat nothing but wretched old monks for the rest of my days than to serve as a middle manager in a giant religious bureaucracy. But Roberte held considerable power over my life, should he ever screw up the courage to exercise it, and I felt it was best to keep him slightly off-balance. Nothing too profound, just keep him slightly in awe of me for as long as I needed him. All part of taking the long view.

It was six months since our escape from the sack of Caylindra. We had established ourselves in the island city of Ventorri using what remained of my emergency cache of gold. I insisted that he keep two-thirds of it for himself, and only one-third for my investments and support. This made him rich beyond his wildest bourgeois dreams, and me practically a pauper. I had to live in a house so small it was practically a shack - only fifteen rooms. In place of Tibbens and his son who had lived with me and taken care of all my household needs, I now had to make do with an old shrew of a woman who came by to clean and launder four days a week. My wardrobe was a mockery of what it once was, shabby and plain and much of it cut in last year's fashion. But such sacrifices were necessary in these desperate times; three or four decades from now, Roberte's management would have built my funds into something more reasonable. During that time, I wanted him feeling very well taken care of. All part of taking the long view.

We returned to reviewing my investments. Roberte calmed down as he discussed that which he truly understood - assets and risks and dividends. There were shipping firms, and smithies, and houses of prostitution. Even some stage production called a "light opera", which as far as I could tell was as about as far from true opera as yodeling. But the details did not matter. To be honest, the details bored me. I was primarily interested in Roberte, watching his pulse, his capillaries in his cheeks, his pupils. I wanted to be sure he was working honestly with my money, that he was putting it into the same businesses that he put the money I had given him into. I knew he wanted to build a small fortune to improve his daughters' marriage prospects. As recently arrived foreigners, marrying some minor nobleman with a respected family name was of course out. A couple of enterprising young merchants or investors, much like a young Roberte, would be much likelier matches. And these young men would take take the girls' doweries and over time grow them into real fortunes. And most likely it would be Roberte's grandchildren or great-grandchildren who would marry into the Ventorri nobility. He understood that - it was all part of taking the long view.

And then, when the investments had born fruit, and the descendants were living on large, beautiful estates, everyone will have forgotten Alecksander Liyosh. That is when I will appear, and eat Roberte's descendants and take all they have. After all, it will in truth be my money. Waiting for such long-term investments to mature is a painful sacrifice, but ultimately well worth it. It is all part of taking the long view.