Do you remember when we first met Davenant?
Diane noticed how handsome he was. He was charming. There was a little mutual flirting. He didn’t make your skin crawl, or sound any warning bells in the depths of your subconscious.
How do you feel about Davenant now?
Davenant is very intelligent. He’s excellent at any game, be it Chasse or Social Graces, or Getting Away With [Spoilers]. He loves a challenge and he hates to lose…and that’s what makes him a little stupid (that special kind of profound stupidity found in people who are a bit too aware of their intelligence).
He can’t back down, even when common sense dictates that he should. Rather than focusing on what’s important, Davenant can and will get distracted by an opponent who forgets their place within his understanding of the hierarchy of power.
Watch Davenant playing cards with Micah. It amuses him to let her win. Why not? He believes she is still his inferior in all the ways that count. But watch Davenant playing Social Graces with Diane. Suddenly he’s not sure what he wants. The challenge Diane presents intrigues him, but a woman who acts like his equal or better is not a situation he is conditioned to tolerate for long. He will desire her even more for the chance to break her.
The news is full of Davenants these days, but they are not a new phenomenon. They have been with us a very long time. They always do well in societies that shelter them and reward them. The Davenants of this world are presently newsworthy due to the paradigm shift which has left them no longer sheltered, but exposed and vulnerable. Their power is neither innate nor earned. It is a promissory note from society, easily revoked if and when society redefines the boundaries of appropriate behaviour.
A society can be measured by how its most vulnerable members are treated. A functioning society should consist of people supporting each other, especially the weak and marginalised, not out of self interest alone, mutual or otherwise, but out of a sense of fairness, a belief that Might doesn’t make Right.
This is the core lesson of The Once and Future King, this is what Merlyn tries to teach Arthur, and what Arthur tries to put into practice during his rule. I recommend a (re)read of The Sword in the Stone, published on the eve of WWII and terribly apt for our times. We know how it all ends for Arthur and his Round Table, but a world of Might ≠ Right is still worth striving for even as we fall short of the ideal.
What will Diane make of this lesson? Is her own safety enough when cherished others (Micah! Esha!) remain in danger? How do you fight an opponent who treats every counterstrike as an escalation? Do you ramp up to scorched earth tactics, or back down as common sense dictates?
And is there any functioning part of the City’s society that will look at Davenant’s actions and say ‘no, this is not acceptable’…or is Diane on her own?