The Let's Play Archive


by TheGreatEvilKing

Part 51: Cleopatra Jones and the Derailed Trolley

Cleopatra Jones and the Derailed Trolley

Welcome back! Last time on Tyranny, Cleopatra Jones pit her power against Kyros the Overlord and won. Today we're going to see just how awful the Tiers leadership is.

Considering the hell the Regent put Barik through I can't blame him.

: [Diplomat] I've come a long way for an audience with the Regent.

:hist101:: He blinks and takes your measure. My reason compels me to doubt your words, but something in your bearing tells me you speak truth. He sighs. You've wasted your time, outsider. It is up to Kyros to end this Edict, and nothing will move the Regent to negotiate.

Herodin is a coward.

: That sounds like a challenge to me. If you wipe the grit from your eyes, maybe you'll see that we've come with more than honeyed words at our disposal.

: I think the Regent mistakes his place in the matter. He is the one who suspends this war with inaction, and we will be only too happy to strip him of that distinction.

The Regents have ruled Stalwart for 500 years. Herodin has fucked up so badly that his own people are fighting the invaders to see who gets to kill him first.

:hist101:: I suggest you turn back the way you came, however it is you got here, and inform your superiors that we will not be budged. He hesitates and prepares to speak further.

:hist101:: He looks over his shoulder and frowns. Step forward and present yourself, then. Keep a respectful tongue and you won't have any trouble.

: Herodin! Barik pounds his fist[sic] together hard enough to shake the earth. Come out and face us, coward! You've dodged this reckoning long enough.

The screen shakes when he delivers this line. It's a nice touch.

: The Regent blinks. Do I know you? Your face - what little I can make of it - eludes me.

: He sniffs and turns his attention to you. Your friend here seems a mite unstable for emissary work.

Damn, Verse.

: I came for the clear skies, but it seems I was misinformed.

Whereas Ashe capitulated and sold out his people, Herodin continued a fruitless fight he could not win that devastated the land and inflicted no real damage on Kyros. This is a hard question! A lot of countries in early World War II struggled with resisting Hitler's military, which at the time just steamrolled its way through Europe. Even the French, a so-called Great Power, fell quickly!

There are, however, wrong answers.

: What was that about a Disfavored suicide march?

: In the second year of the war, my personal forces captured one of Graven Ashe's elite legions. We divided their numbers for our own protection - some here, others at Duskwatch - with plans of bargaining with Ashe for their lives.

Shut the fuck up Barik. I get it, you hate these guys for what they did to you, but you invaded his country. Hostage trading was an established practice in antiquity, and quite frankly holding all these guys prisoner wasn't the worst idea.

Hmm. I wonder what this could mean?

: The rest, as you know, is history. Before the Disfavored could finish their desperate attack, the Edict swept up my people and Ashe's legion like they were made of straw, battering bones and iron into so much dust that now swirls about our heads.

: I remember that day too well... if you had but surrendered, then hundreds of Northerners and Southerners alike would have been spared!

Barik's not wrong here. There was no way for Herodin and Stalwart to win at that point, and all Herodin has managed to do is prolong the conflict and get more people killed. The Disfavored are brutal occupiers, to be sure, but from what we've seen of Stalwart I'm not sure that it would be worse than turning it into a wasteland without any food where everyone is in a state of constant warfare against Disfavored assholes. At the very least it would buy time for Stalwart to rearm, Herodin might be able to ingratiate himself with Tunon and reign in Ashe that way (remember, if Stalwart surrenders Kyros' Peace is in full effect) while secretly rearming and training troops. Any Disfavored atrocities are going to push people into the resistance, and we've already seen that the Disfavored are absolute garbage at any kind of warfare where they can't form a big line and wait for Kyros to hit the nuke button. Granted, this does run the risk that Ashe fell to, where Herodin is bought off by the power of Kyros, but there's a LOT of bullshit you can pull with knowledge of Kyrosian law and a willingness to pass information to the resistance.

Stalwart is dead. You killed it. The Unbroken are fighting for Stalwart-to-come, not your reign.

: What have you gained from this long stalemate, beyond the hatred of your people?

Oh, look, a strong leader who values bloodline and won't shut up about how self-sacrificing he is while he hides in the back and lets his people die? It's Graven Ashe, folks!

Much like Ashe betrayed the king who needed him to protect their people, Herodin betrayed his people by leaving them to the mercy of the storms and the Disfavored. Much like Ashe portraying himself as a hero for surrendering like a coward and letting his people get drafted by Nerat or killed fighting wars they have no business in, Herodin sacrificed his people to save his pride.

: You could have ended this Edict long ago.

God, fuck you. This is the kind of crap used by nationalists to get teenagers to rush machine guns.

: I took no pleasure in watching storms ravage my country, here from the safety of the eye. I have suffered the weight of that decision every day, but I would never second-guess it.

: A true leader would have fought to the very end rather than hide here.

When a fifteen year old child is dismantling your argument it might not be very good.

: I'm going to end the Edict one way or another. Will you help me or not?

: I will not, and you are a fool to think that I would accept such an outrageous proposal, given everything that it represents. The very pride of my station hinges on rejecting your impossible solution.

: He raises his voice for all to hear. As Regent of the Great Realm of Stalwart, I eject you from any courtesy or invitation that holds you to these walls, and banish you from my lands!

TheGreatEvilKing summary posted:

:hist101:: How'd you get in?


: May I have an audience with the Regent?

:hist101:: I wish I could, but our best men have failed to get his head out of his ass.

: You do realize we can probably take this fortress, right?

: I'm gonna beat his ass!

: Excuse me! I'd like to speak with the nice lady! How did you get here - oh, the badge that should be a symbol of my authority. Huh. You must be that Fatebinder who took Vendrien's Well.


: Have we met? Hmm. That was a very rude thing to say!

: Lol Barik.

: We've been hiding out for a whole year now, and the important thing is that I'm alive! Let's hear it for me!

: I came for the competent leadership, but it seems I was misinformed.

: How could you make a joke at a time like this, in front of me, a leader who should be taken seriously? Anyway, I am dedicated to ruining this land, even though I could save all its people in a heartbeat. I endured the war, the Disfavored's death march, and even being trapped in a fancy castle surrounded by servants and food while my people starved in the wasteland. I'm totally hardcore!

: Suicide march?

: Yup, they marched right into the Edict after we took Amelia and her legion prisoner. It sure would be funny if that ended up in front of Tunon as evidence.

: Hostages? How dare you? We only take sex slaves! Why didn't you surrender? Thousands of lives could have been spared!

: We never surrender! Fuck you!

: Your own people are outside the gate trying to kill your stupid ass, why are you doing this???

: I do it for the people! They need a strong leader, who believes in bloodline and heritage! It's a terrible sacrifice to sit in this storm-free castle, eat tasty food, and be waited on by servants, but I do it for Stalwart, a place which has nothing to do with the people who live in it.

: I feel like somewhere, someone said something I deeply agree with!

: You could have ended this long ago! You did this to your own people for nothing!

: By dying? That would mean admitting that I sucked, and surrendering to the Overlord's will! We would be losing the very thing that made our country great - idiotically sacrificing our population over stupid shit! Do you think I enjoyed sitting in this castle eating fancy food while everyone else starved in a crappy storm? No! I felt VERY BAD! But I would do it all over again!

: You are a goddamn monster and even Graven Ashe is better than this.

: What a coward.

: Why should I fight and lose, when I can eat food in this castle with servants? Who could have predicted that Kyros would be so mean?

: Literally everyone who doesn't eat paste?

: I am going to try to unfuck your country one way or another, you in?

: No! My pride demands that my people starve! Now out! Shoo! You're mean poopy heads, and you have to leave! Shoo!

: Lol look at this dumbass.

: Why are you so mean? It's so typical of the followers of Kyros to be mean poopy heads! Well, when faced with an impossible choice, I chose to fuck everyone over to keep my title and cool castle. History will vindicate me!

Herodin runs off behind the gate like the worthless coward he is and we get jumped by his goons.

Do these guys have families outside the castle? Serious question. The two guys from earlier literally ran at the chance to desert. I assume these are the die-hards Herodin has convinced with his rhetoric.

Cleo levels again, and I realize the Commander's Plate we traded might have been moderately helpful. Oh well! It was a two for one artifact special.

We're able to force the winch from outside because no one bothered to repair the castle! It sounds dumb, but remember, they've been trapped inside for over a year. Where are they getting stone? Presumably all the quarries are in the country they abandoned.

A bunch of boring soldiers attack us. Look, we all now how this ends by now.

Those guys were guarding a unique sword we throw into the pile. At this point we could start arming a personal army with all the crap we looted.

As we reach the right side of the courtyard, we get a cutscene that I fail to screenshot where the Earthshakers blow up the wall with a big boulder. All the Disfavored rush in because they are still trying to rescue Ameila.

This meteor spell is worth its weight in iron.

The castle is also filled with loot chests just lying around for deserving Fatebinders.

These guys try to hold us back. It doesn't go well for them.

Here we can see that Cleopatra and the gang have broken through the Regent's men.

Who killed that guy?

You know, if you'd been this competent at taking fortresses in Act I we might not have kicked the Iron Marshal off a cliff.

Dmitris is still a petty, cruel idiot like the rest of the Disfavored. The more we see of them the clearer it becomes that only Barik has anything resembling honor. Here we see him toying with an old man and trying to make him beg for death.

Dammit Verse! You're stealing my job!

Um, Barik, did you not hear what Dmitris just said? You could drop that into the Godfather with Michael Corleone's revelation that "it's always personal".

: If you want to see me on my knees, you'll have to prop up my corpse for the delight of your inbred cohorts. But don't speak to me of cowardice and bravery. The Disfavored needed Kyros' arcana to prevail in the end. I'm sure that an army of lice-bitten rats could have succeeded with those odds on their side.

DAMN! As despicable as Herodin is, just this one time he calls it like it is.

: You took a legion hostage, and didn't have the nerve to meet us on the field of battle. Coward! Dmitris advances a step. I will earn Ashe's favor when I bring him your head, and no one in Stalwart will weep for your demise!

Wow Herodin really is just dunking on this idiot.

: Who are you again?

This would be so much more effective if this guy hadn't just tried to bully Herodin and started whining about how killing Straydus would win Ashe's favor. What a loser.

: You should have done the right thing and ended the Edict yourself, Straydus. This is on you.

: I will not stand here and countenance another moment of your judgment! I have acted for the interests of Stalwart, and if I die today, I die a patriot!

It turns into an awkward three-way melee where Team Cleopatra pulls all the aggro as we fire storm all these idiots to death.

I do show off the Cairn staff. That purple ring is its massive AoE petrify that buffs allied armor.

: So this is to be the end of my... my reign. Come, then. I would meet these last moments with dignity.


Meet Amelia Ashe, folks! Just wait, it gets better!

Remember, the entire Disfavored suicide march and Barik's torment has been based off the pretense that Amelia needed rescuing from the evil Unbroken torturers who were holding her hostage.

: Some of us could use an explanation.

: And some of us could use a stiff drink, but you don't see me breaking into your home and slaughtering my way to the decanter, do you?

: She shakes her head. Provisions without end in the cellar, but nothing to distill.

Oh cry me a river.

: Why do I get the impression that more than just the Tiers have rubbed off on this one?

: I'm not the Northern warlord I once was. She winces at the very thought. Sitting out the conflict made me see this conquest from a different perspective.


: You were a prisoner. What happened?

: The Regent is beaten. The Keep is ours. Will you cooperate?

: Never. I know what atrocities you and the rest of Tunon's ilk are capable of visiting upon us. I know what my father does to traitors and deserters.

: My father... Her voice catches, and it takes a moment to find her words. I love my father, but it's nothing compared to the love I felt for the father of -

: Amelia, please be silent! Straydus looks to her with desperation. It's over. You understand? I'm dying. Save your strength for... more important things.

Looks like there's a bit more than Stalwart pride at stake for Herodin.

: I'm sorry, Regent. This has to happen.

The game is building up to something here, and Straydus is the mouthpiece.

: Before you can take action, you catch Amelia begin to raise her weapon from the corner of your eye.

I kind of wish they'd removed the frost effect from Herodin's model.

: [Say nothing and kill him.]

: You take up a fallen sword from the floor and drive it through Straydus Herodin's heart, killing him instantly.

Have you figured it out yet?

: What... Barik shakes his head. Kyros' storms are only supposed to rage while the blood of the Regents lives on. He scans the room with a suspicious eye. Did we miss something?

: From across the hall, you hear a faint cry. A baby's cry, and realization dawns on you.

Let me get in some quick looting first.

Guess it's broken now.

Yeah, I'm kind of putting off the trolley problem here.

It makes sense for this game - as we discussed with the Cold Equations, the usual trolley problem moral dilemma is the result of some awful system, and here we have Kyros.

It's a nasty trap for Cleopatra - do you end the Edict and save the land, or do you kill a child and become tainted as a baby killer?

It's the kind of Machiavellian crap beloved of these kinds of rulers. Kyros is probably planning to dispose of us when we're no longer useful, and wouldn't you know it, we killed an Archon's grandchild.

1984 posted:

'If you are a man, Winston, you are the last man. Your kind is extinct; we are the inheritors. Do you understand that you are ALONE? You are outside history, you are non-existent.' His manner changed and he said more harshly: 'And you consider yourself morally superior to us, with our lies and our cruelty?'

'Yes, I consider myself superior.'

O'Brien did not speak. Two other voices were speaking. After a moment Winston recognized one of them as his own. It was a sound-track of the conversation he had had with O'Brien, on the night when he had enrolled himself in the Brotherhood. He heard himself promising to lie, to steal, to forge, to murder, to encourage drug-taking and prostitution, to disseminate venereal diseases, to throw vitriol in a child's face. O'Brien made a small impatient gesture, as though to say that the demonstration was hardly worth making. Then he turned a switch and the voices stopped.

: Stay away from my daughter! You will not have her.

: Your daughter is the Regent heir?

The United States Constitution posted:

The Congress shall have Power to declare the Punishment of Treason, but no Attainder of Treason shall work Corruption of Blood

: How is this possible?

Not a good time!

You'll notice the language she uses to describe Stalwart is very similar to the Disfavored's "pride of the North" speech.

: Did you know this would prolong the Edict?

: We suspected that the bloodline would implicate my baby in Kyros' eyes, but I knew nothing for certain until this moment. She shakes her head. Don't ask me to interpret the Overlord's heartless design.

: I have no love for this Edict, if that's what you're asking. It's torn a noble realm to pieces, fractured the pillar of their culture, and ruined countless lives.

We're going to have to chat about this.

: Calm yourself, Amelia. There must be another way.

: Amelia still has her guard up, unwilling to move from the doorway.

Unfortunately, the game is going into trolley land, so I need you all to vote on whether to kill this baby to end the Ed-

AHAHAHA! It's a perfect rebuttal to all of these stupid trolley problem games, and it's what the game has been building up to this whole time. We've learned that the laws do not work as a means of morality, and that following them will screw us over. Now we're learning once again that if we stick to the options given by Kyros we will destroy ourselves. Either we destroy a country, or we commit an act of unspeakable evil.

So we go off the rails.

: [Lore 85] Abdicate your line. As Regent-mother, you have the authority. You must merely say the words.

Kyros had a pretty good fork going. Either the country - and the disloyal Disfavored - were going to be destroyed by storms, or someone was going to murder this entire family. The storms would eventually end after the castle denizens starved to death (at the latest) or fell to infighting, there would be no power centers left as the Unbroken, Disfavored, and Scarlet Chorus destroyed each other, and any meddling Fatebinders breaking Edicts would either be unable to morally bring themselves to do this or hauled before Tunon for killing an Archon's granddaughter. So we blow up the tracks. Fuck trolleys!

Incidentally, Mattias the Unbroken leader will totally consider murdering that baby.

That second option isn't a joke, either, by the way. There's two ways to do it - you can read the book we found on Stalwart royalty in the Vellum Citadel, or go ask Calio for help.

And lastly, yes, you can murder the kid.

: I, Amelia, formally abdicate my daughter's claim to the Regency of Stalwart - dissolving all ties, compacts, vassals, and holdings. We forfeit all protections and advantages granted to us by the ancient bloodline. She pauses. Was that enough?

: Fool - you ask as if this has ever happened before. The only thing I can guarantee is what happens next if this doesn't work.

I don't think Verse is evil enough to kill that baby. She rescued that lady from Krokus the rapist, there's no way she's going through with this.

By yeeting that trolley right into the trashcan we get even more power for our maxed power meter. Oh well!

Hmm... we have Fire, Stone, and Storms. I'm sure none of that will be useful.

: Thank goodness it worked! You spared my daughter... and here I had come to expect nothing but cruelty from the servants of Kyros. Amelia looks to the crib. Now we have a chance at what might never have been. A life outside of these walls.

: I was here when these storms began. It brings me pride to feel them end. His chest swells, and some of the ingrained rust and grit flake away from his pauldrons, their absence leaving marks that remind you of epaulets.

: I've always taken pride in breaking things - skulls, shields, helms, the occasional heart - but you just broke the Edict of Storms. I'd say you're ahead of me by a few points.

: How nice to see the Overlord's arcane tantrum silenced at last. It will take an Edict to dig the grit from under my crown.

TheGreatEvilKing summary posted:

: Ha ha ha! I can now bully an old man!

: Wow the Disfavored are just honorless butchers, surprise!

: No we're not...right?

: Oh, look, it's Incest Boy. Let's all clap for Incest Boy, receiver of the Kyros Pity Edict. If Kyros cast an Edict to help a bunch of hobos I bet they could have succeeded too.

: BAWWW! Take me seriously! BAWWW! Fatebinder, will you take me seriously?

: No.

: Lol.

: Man who ruined his country says what?

: You can't judge me! BAWWWWW!


: :commissar:

: You got me. Strike me down with some dignity, please.

: What! No, you can't die!

: Amelia? What the fuck?

: Well, some of us could use a drink! This nice castle is full of food, but we don't have any booze! But I didn't break into your house and kill everyone!

: She's cray-cray!

: I've gone native! Kyros was wrong, and she's led the Disfavored to dishonor and evil! Don't you see? We can turn this!

: No, you don't have to, Amelia.

: I'm sorry, are you a prisoner or what?

: No exposition until the weapons go down. I know how evil and cruel Tunon's court is, and I know what my father does to deserters and traitors. I love my father, but not as much as Straydus Jun-

: Amelia! You gotta shut up so the Fatebinder buys that I'm the last regent!

: Forgive me, I have no choice.

: We can always get off the trolley tracks. Something Kyros needs to learn. Do it! Kill me, coward!

: :commissar:

: Why aren't the storms ending?

:baby:: BAWWWWWW!

: I will not let you have her!

: Oh, noooo! This is awful!

: Wait, your kid is the Regent? How did this happen?

: Well, when a man's penis goes in a woma -

: I loved Straydus the Younger! He was super kind when I was a prisoner, and he taught me all about Stalwart culture, which is very similar to the North before my father fucked everything up! He was killed by the Disfavored in the third year of the war.

: You do realize that would keep the storm going, yes?

: I suspected, yes. But don't you dare kill her! She's an innocent child! She doesn't deserve to be run over by a trolley! If we live, we can put Stalwart back together. I owe it to the people whose lives my father ruined. The Regent only remained in the fortress to protect her, please.

: You know you can just abdicate, right? Thus the Regent bloodline will "fail" and no one will want to harm the kid?

: Huh? That works? Well, uh...we don't want to be regent any more.

: :sparkles:

: YAAAAAAAAAY! The storm stopped!

: I can't believe that worked! I thought we were totally fucked!

So, quite a bit going on. We've got Herodin, the secret love child of Stalwart and the Disfavored, the revelation that Herodin's holding out to protect the baby - oh, and the revelation that Barik and the rest of the Disfavored dead in the Blade Grave died for nothing. Let's go through those.

Straydus Herodin comes off as a proud man willing to sacrifice his people for nothing except his own pride. He sells it pretty well in the meeting at the gate - he's going to let the Edict ravage the land, and it's a big twist when it turns out that he's actually just trying to protect his daughter-in-law and his grandchild. I think the writers had the idea that they were going to railroad you into killing Herodin to end the Edict and then spring the big twist that actually Herodin mandated all these sacrifices to protect an innocent baby and he didn't tell you about it because you're a Fatebinder who's committed unspeakable atrocities. The problem is that the game then turns around and introduces the idea that the Regents can just abdicate and that satisfies the conditions of Kyros. Even if Straydus couldn't abdicate the entire line, he presumably can abdicate himself and then ask Amelia to do what she just did for us. It does leave the realm without leadership at the mercy of the Disfavored but that's literally what we just saw from the Unbroken. The writers try to give him a noble death in an attempt to undo his earlier characterization as a prideful, spiteful idiot who sacrifices the people of Stalwart to keep his position, but he's still a prideful idiot who sacrifices his people to his refusal to abdicate. I'm not sure what to make of the idea that it never comes up - it seems plausible to me that regents never abdicate based on a bit of flavor text.

Loot I omitted last update posted:

Looks like you had a lot of backstabbing for council seats, we know the old First Regent was killed when he went into the Oldwalls looking for power (we got the Insignia off his corpse even) so it is entirely plausible to me that Straydus the Elder and Amelia (who learned the culture from Straydus) are just not culturally primed to resort to abdication until the Fatebinder brings it up as a legal loophole. Unfortunately, you don't have the ability to run it by Straydus outside the castle (and not one of the soldiers thinks to mention that "Straydus is fighting for the kid"). It appears you had to be part of the right bloodline to have a seat on the Regent's Council at all, and the only reason Straydus is in charge is that he's the last adult Regent. Symbolically, Cleopatra is first regent. She went into the Oldwalls to recover the Insignia, and while Straydus just kinda sat in his castle staring at the storm she used the power of Stalwart's regents to overcome it. Amelia even abdicated all the privileges of the line, so that's Cleopatra's pin now!

This leads me to my next point, the dramatic irony of the whole thing. I've been pointing out that the Disfavored and the Unbroken are extremely similar in outlook, to the point where Amelia uses "the pride of the realm" to describe the people of Stalwart - which is similar to Barik's "pride of the North". She's absolutely right that Kyros led the Disfavored into shame and cruelty, and she's correct that her child doesn't deserve to die, but she's absolutely wrong about everything else. It's telling that her second line is complaining about not having booze while the cellar is well-stocked with food in a land where the people are literally being starved for her sake. She claims that she and her baby can help rebuild Stalwart, but she's a foreign invader - not just any Disfavored, but the daughter of Graven Ashe - and her child represents the regent bloodline that the people of Stalwart absolutely despise. Straydus Herodin may have been a good patriarch, but he was a terrible politician and an inept leader. It's not even clear anyone knows about Amelia's liaison with Straydus the Younger - but it makes perfect thematic sense, because these are very similar societies. Graven Ashe is short on troops and fighting a civil war, and Amelia handed him this alliance on a platter! Remember, this happened before the Edict of Storms was cast! If Straydus and Ashe had somehow been able to negotiate a peace, they could have formed an alliance based on this, come up with some fiction to keep an alliance together, and it would have solved all of Ashe's problems that he's having right now. Even Hitler could bend his own stupid race rules for the Japanese. Ashe is supposed to be a military genius, yet he doesn't realize Sun Tzu's old maxim that the greatest victory requires no battle.

Instead we get an idiotic suicide march to rescue Amelia and the elite legion - that Straydus is explicitly holding to get Ashe to come to the negotiating table - that ends up killing the entire elite legion except that one guy in Duskwatch fort and Amelia herself. Barik's torment - that he continues to endure every day - isn't because of Kyros' grand plan or in service to some noble goal, it's because Graven Ashe is an incompetent idiot who ruins everything he touches. He's currently got much of his legion tied down fighting a battle he doesn't need to fight, and he can't replace any losses because he's too stupid and racist to do it. I wonder what Amelia has to say about this?

: Tell me of the final days of the Stalwart campaign.

: They took my unit in a night ambush - killed our lookout and overwhelmed the rest of us before we could stage an organized counterattack. When they took me prisoner, I was the picture of disobedience the entire time, and paid back much of the Northern blood they had spilled.

The irony is that all of those bad things are concentrated in the Scarlet Chorus, which was brought from the North.

: You were lucky. Some of us actually come from the Tiers, and have been around long enough to know better.

So yes, this confirms that Amelia did not want to be rescued! She got to become a princess.

: Shortly after, I heard an ironclad force assemble outside of the fortress. Had I a voice in the legion, I would have told them to pull back. I was being treated with dignity, and we suspected that Kyros' Edict would come in short order... not that any of my father's simpletons would have listened.

TheGreatEvilKing summary posted:

: Well, I was captured, but then I fell in love with Straydus Junior and had his baby. He was killed by the Disfavored, because Graven Ashe was determined to rescue me even though I was very happy here!

: How many men did Graven Ashe send to their deaths, only to hear this?

I cannot repeat this enough. Amelia could have handed Stalwart over to Graven Ashe on a platter if they'd played the political situation right - leave the country nominally independent under Kyros (they didn't lose a war), play up how the military genius Ashe gave his daughter out of respect for the Stalwart customs, maybe give Stalwart some territory taken from Azure or something. Stalwart gets a powerful advocate in the Kyrosian regime, the Stalwartians get left alone (or maybe some Disfavored marry in, who knows), and if Ashe gets into the war with Nerat he can bring Stalwart into it because by killing Ashe's son Nerat also attacked the Regent family. Stalwart is set up so the entire citizenry can be mobilized into the Unbroken, who are capable fighters that even the racist Disfavored respect. Just make up some shit about them being "honorary Northmen" or go back to the histories where they emigrated from the North! This is not hard to do! Ashe is just dumb.

Next time: We finally break out the power bar.