Lessons of Richard Talbehr

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Richard Talbehr rules the land-bound provinces of the great Brecht state of Müden. His family is old and his bloodline strong, and Richard has had a relatively easy time as Count of Müden. When a popular captain of the Royal Navy, Melisande Reaversbane, distinguished herself as more than just a warrior, he made her an ally in charge of not only his navy, but several provinces within his kingdom. Now, the two work as allies and co-rulers of Müden.
Richard Talbehr grew up knowing he would inherit the lordship of Müden, one of the most prosperous realms surrounding the Great Bay. His parents and tutors trained him in diplomacy and leadership, and he took an interest in economy and political tactics. Generally a relaxed ruler, the Count of Müden delegates his authority to many subordinates, not the least of whom is his primary lieutenant and vassal, Theofold Segwardes the guildmaster.
If the count has any real weakness, it is his lack of ambition. With a vibrant ally like Melisande Reaversbane, a trained army and a legendary navy, and the resources of a powerful domain all at his command, he could probably dominate the Basin States and much of the rest of Brechtür. But Talbehr has developed a ?live and let live? attitude toward rulership ? and it has kept his realm free from war during his entire tenure. While Richard Talbehr cannot be called lazy or uninvolved with the politics of the world, he does seem unambitious. He also seems, to some extent, to ignore the development of his own provinces. Though his family has ruled Müden for generations, room for improvement of province and holding levels still exists.
Yet he has not pursued their development as fervently as many nobles and commoners might wish.
The Count of Müden?s basic governing strategies can be summarized as follows:

Develop a reputation for consistency and strength

Virtually everyone in and around Müden knows how the count will react to any inside or outside stimulus. He has declared his intention to send Melisande Reaversbane after any pirates preying on ships voyaging to or from Müden or any of that realm?s allies, and he will react forcibly against any aggression toward his realm or the domains of his allies. He leaves the training and dispersion of his armies and fleets in the hands of those who know how to use them, and he gives them support in training and upkeep. As a result, Müden has one of the most respected (and feared) navies in the region. No one, not even the Swordhawk of Massenmarch, wants to risk awakening the sleeping giant of Müden?s military ? but everyone in the region knows to tread lightly around his realm.
Respect goes further than fear

Fear of an internal or external threat might bring a populace or a hostile realm into line ? for a time ? but respect makes friends and allies. Richard Talbehr has proven an able politician and negotiator. While the Swordhawk and the pirates of Grabentod have consistently proven themselves his enemies, others in the region have responded favorably to his tactics. Should missteps in negotiation occur, Talbehr has a knack for making sure face is saved all the way around. If rulers of other countries feared Talbehr personally, he would not have the influence he does over other kingdoms:
Few states of Brechtür will casually refuse a ?request? of the diplomatic count ? whereas they might fight back against a demand by a ruler they feared.
Develop allies in the strangest places

Somehow, the Count of Müden has made friends with Justina Heulough (also known as the Banshegh) and the dwarves of Baruk-Azhik. Both have, on occasion, aided him in minor ways (the dwarves, long known for their isolationism, actually sent a contingent of mercenaries to Müden), and everyone in the region knows Talbehr has made friends with these strangers.
Make sure everyone wins

In a war, there should be only one winner ? according to most popular wisdom. Unfortunately, many Cerilian regents consider all negotiation as a war of some kind. The Count of Müden does not. He believes that for a negotiation to work, everyone should come away from the table with something. On occasion, he has used his influence (most often with the guildmaster Theofold) to provide less equipped negotiators with levers they can use against those who would take advantage of them. The count?s profit is the respect and gratitude of others. While gratitude will, in the political arena, seldom be rewarded, respect goes a long way. Few diplomats enter into negotiations with the Count of Müden (or his allies) with the intent of besting him. Instead, most take on his attitude and try to make a good deal for all around.
Even the ablest ruler makes mistakes sometimes, and the count does have a few actions on his record that point to errors in judgment or execution. A few of these mistakes may, of course, be judgment calls, but many rulers would agree Richard Talbehr?s rule is far from perfect.
Giving up power seldom wins you anything

While allies and vassals should be valued by all rulers, actually giving up part of your kingdom to someone, just because he or she may be more able to rule that portion, generally isn?t wise. Melisande Reaversbane certainly earned her position in many ways ? a competent warrior, an able and aggressive sea captain, and a surprisingly wise leader, she has made Müden?s coastal provinces the success they are today. However, the count could have made her a lieutenant or even a vassal, rather than a full ally, and gained the same effect. By giving up part of his realm, he admits to the world that he has weaknesses in rulership he does not intend to correct. He limits himself by not growing or delegating, but apparently giving up.
Non-growth appears to be stagnation

While no one would want the Count of Müden to emulate the imperial designs of the Gorgon or the Swordhawk, many nobles and even a few members of the realm?s burgeoning middle class wonder why Richard Talbehr has not begun expanding his realm or increasing his holdings at a faster rate. Talbehr himself often wonders this as well. He has not ruled up his provinces as quickly as he might mainly because he likes having a somewhat under-developed realm. While the two cities of Müden sparkle as gems in his crown, the pastoral regions of the country shimmer with the summer of Brechtür?s prosperity. Still, the Count has had more than a few opportunities to expand. If he does not want to violate his neighbor?s realms (though Treucht, Berhagen, and Rheulgard all were once Müden colonies or protectorates), he could take over Grabentod and no one would fault him. The pirates of the northern realm have provoked his navies repeatedly, and as a result, his navy has imprisoned their king. Many people believe Müden would be doing Grabentod a favor if the count gave the word to take it over.
An iron fist can crush a velvet glove

While the count?s win-win negotiating tactics do pay off more often than not, Talbehr seems to ignore the fact that many of those he negotiates with have disguised future goals. Too often, he agrees to treaties or plans that benefit him not in the least, but set up others to make grand, sweeping moves on the chessboard of politics. While these decisions seldom come back to haunt him directly, it is only a matter of time before someone out-maneuvers the political genius. If Richard Talbehr has his way, everything will continue as before. He hopes to placate Rheulgard (its leaders and people were upset at his nominal alliance with Justina) and help Theofold increase inland trade. As far as his military might goes, he wants Melisande Reaversbane to make the Great Bay safe for all shipping and travel while still a free-trading area for all. Ideally, he would like to see the Swordhawk in Massenmarch focus on some other target for his aggressions (perhaps Kiergard, since it?s controlled by the Gorgon anyway), but he will remain watchful.

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