Chapter 21: Reconciliation
Marrdin found Daliana at the docks.
“What have you decided?”
“What’s the matter, Daliana?”
“The father I always wanted a name for turned out to be Taren Garrenin. I think I have a right to be alone for a while to come to terms with that.” Her tears choked her voice as she said it, but Marrdin did not understand her sorrow.
“What is there to come to terms with? I would be proud to call Taren my father.”
“Yes, there is only one difference between us. You knew him. You watched him lead from a young age. I was ten years old the first time I met my father. I was almost two hundred the second time.”
“You know why he couldn’t raise you himself.”
“That means nothing to me, Marrdin. He won the war. He could have taken me back as his daughter.”
“Could he really, Daliana?”
“You had spent at least seven years believing that your mother, and apparently only parent, was Arona Marcarry. More importantly, you had already been chosen by a Dothrin Ring, though you didn’t bear it. You would have never been accepted as the true Morschcoda of Drogoda.”
Several vines suddenly bound Marrdin in place. He could have severed them easily, but he allowed them to bind him. Knowing he had made a mistake already, and not eager to repeat it, he watched Daliana go.
Kallin found Daliana next. Night was falling, and Kallin had climbed the Great Tower of Drogoda, the Topmast, to watch the ascension of Arnash, the evening star. The short Morschcoda was puffing by the time he reached the top of the twelve hundred foot tall tower. He did not even realize Daliana was there until she spoke several minutes later.
“Have you also come to tell me I should be proud to be Taren’s daughter, Kallin?”
“No. I am here to watch the night sky. As I suspect you are.”
“The stars hold nothing of interest for me.”
“But the heavens do.” She did not reply. “Why are you so against being Taren’s daughter?”
“I didn’t know him, Kallin. He chose Edya, not me.” It was Kallin’s turn to say nothing. “I’m going to abdicate the throne Taren left me.”
“I’m not meant for it. It’s a Drog throne.”
“And you are a Drog, by birth if not by Ring.” Kallin turned back to the stars. Daliana left the tower.
Erygan was the third to find Daliana. His nocturnal habits kept him awake through the night, even when he was too tired to do much. He smoked a pipe filled with a harsh Ristan weed that he had grown to prefer to the more expensive and finer weeds of other nations as he wandered through the streets aimlessly. He found himself in step with Daliana near the city’s eastern gate.
“You’re up late.”
“Why shouldn’t I be?”
“Well, you have a better reason than I do to be wandering the streets tonight.”
“I don’t need a Torridestan to tell me my reasoning is sound.”
“Of course not.” They walked in silence for a while, their feet falling on the smooth stone streets in perfect unison. “It is though. Even if I wasn’t nocturnal by nature, I would be doing the same thing as you, were I in your position.”
“I wish you were in my position.”
“You’re that worried, are you?”
She nodded slowly, the motion of her head barely visible in the faint light of the moon. “Taren respected you, you’re powerful, and you’re the king of two countries. Why could he not name you to be his heir?”
“Three countries now. Marrdin joined me. And he didn’t name me because I’m not his son … and I am most certainly not his daughter,” he added with a small laugh.
Daliana turned away. Erygan was not foolish enough to follow her.
Edya and Gelida both found Daliana where Edya had been the day before. Daliana could not hold back any more. She broke into tears. Edya sat down next to her, and Gelida sat down on the other side. No one spoke for several long minutes. Finally, Edya broke into Daliana’s tears.
“He didn’t choose me over you.”
“What?” The word was barely audible because of Daliana’s sobs.
“I guess I was more of a replacement for you. I wondered for a long time, but I think that is the reason. I even remember Makret saying something like ‘She is not your daughter, Taren’ when Taren decided he was going to train me himself. He put special emphasis on the ‘she,’ like there was someone else. I guess that’s you now.”
The same kind of vines that had bound Marrdin in place grew quickly over both Edya and Gelida. Daliana ran from the wall.
Norrin saw Daliana, but he did not even try to talk to her. He knew she was upset, even a blind man could see that, but he was not overly sensitive. He was more like Taren. Overly blunt, except he did not scheme and plot the same way that Taren had. He was surprised, therefore, when she came to talk to him.
“What do you want?”
“I want someone to talk to who doesn’t remind me of Taren.”
“Well, sit down then.” She did, but she did not look overly relaxed. “By Lasheed woman, if you’re going to sit, you might as well be comfortable.”
“I don’t know if I can be comfortable again, now that I’m Taren’s daughter.”
“You always were Taren’s daughter. You just know that now.”
“It makes a difference.”
Norrin took out his pipe and filled it with deliberate slowness. Daliana recognized the smell, and knew that the weed came from Dothoro’s southern plains. The smell of the leaf was one she had grown up with, and it comforted her.
“I’m going to be blunt, Daliana. It’s what I am good at. Your parentage doesn’t make you who you are. You don’t necessarily have to be proud to call Taren your father, though by all accounts, you should be. You don’t even have to think of him as your father if you don’t want to.” Norrin stopped talking and lit his pipe. Daliana stood and walked away, slower than she might have, but Norrin did not mind. He had done his bit to help Daliana see sense. Now he could smoke in peace before finding a place to sleep.
Xari quietly fell into step beside Daliana. They walked for several long minutes before Daliana even realized Xari was there.
“Why are all of you hounding me? I want to be left alone.”
“Good bye then.”
“I know what it’s like to feel this kind of pain, Daliana. Guinira was only thirty five when she ran away in the middle of The Councils. She had been gone for two months before I returned home. For almost two hundred years, I thought that my only daughter was dead. And then, I found out that we had spent almost the entire time living in the same city.”
“It’s different with me.”
“Yes, you are seven hundred and something, and I am only four hundred and twenty two. You spent seven hundred years believing you had no father, I only spent two hundred believing my only child was dead. Yes, Daliana, I can see how it’s not at all the same.” This time, Daliana was the one left alone.
Ranny was the last person Daliana wanted to see that night, but she knew that since the other eight had made an appearance, not a long one in Galeth’s case, and not that Gelida had said anything, Ranny was sure to follow soon. She was surprised though, when Ranny did not come looking for her. Instead, she sat on a bench on the walls, facing the east, where the sun was just rising.
“It’s been a long night for you, Daliana.”
“A short one, actually.”
Ranny simply nodded in silence.
“What are you doing?”
“I am watching the sun rise. I thought that was obvious.”
“You mean you are not here to tell me all about how proud I should be to be named Taren’s heir, proud that he was my father, and all the rest that everybody has been telling me all night?”
“I was here first, so, it I think it must be the other way around. You’re here to tell me why you don’t want to be Taren’s heir, and everything else.”
“Why should I?”
“Because you clearly want to.”
So Daliana did.
“It seems to me,” said Ranny, when Daliana had finished, “that you have nothing really against what has happened. It is only the circumstances, and the fact that Taren didn’t tell you in person.”
Daliana groaned. ‘How can this woman not understand me?’ Out loud, she said “I don’t want to rule Drogoda!”
“Yes, I think that’s about the only thing you made clear.”
That both sat in silence for several long minutes. Ranny broke the silence.
“Daliana, I never particularly liked Taren, and I don’t think that he was overly fond of me. But, even I can’t pretend he was any less than a great man. He was … unconventional, to say the least. He was an unequaled warrior, and depending on whom you ask, an honest and fair man. If you can’t reconcile the man you knew him to be to the man who was your father, the man who at least tried to be part of your life, then you don’t have to. But he did try, Daliana. Maybe you should too.”
Early in the Caladean woman’s reign, Daliana and most of the other Morschcoda had often found Ranny to be little more than annoying. Her plots never had any real effect; her voice more often detracted from an argument than added to it. But, for all of her history of failed manipulations, her subtle plotting, and her arrogance, Ranny’s was the only voice that Daliana found any comfort in. Maybe it was because she was simply talking, not scheming or attempting to trap people. All Daliana knew was that Ranny’s voice had reached her, when not even Kallin could.
All the Morschcoda or whoever stood for them congregated later that same morning. Daliana now wore not only the green and brown of Dothoro, but also the blue of Drogoda and the red of Armanda. It was a strange combination, and one almost never seen, especially not on one person. Erygan found Daliana difficult to look at, her bright clothing hurting his light-sensitive eyes.
“I am Daliana Marcarry, daughter of Taren Garrenin and Nemira Gundara, Morschcoda of Dothoro and Empress of Drogoda.”
With the exception of Erygan, everyone within hearing bowed to her, such command and authority was carried through her voice. Even Norrin and Marrdin, who called Erygan their King, bowed to her as they had never done to Guinira. A single tear rolled down Erygan’s cheek, which he let fall in reverence to the past. Her voice was a painful reminder to him of what Taren had once been; full of life instead of the dark almost god-like being he had been at the end.
“Now that we have a Queen again, we must decide what is to be done.”
“I agree Kallin. We-” Erygan was cut off.
“Rider approaching.” The call came loudly from the sentinels on the eastern wall and the edge of the camp.
“One of mine,” said Edya, listening intently out of the flap of the tent, and hurried off. She came back, several minutes later, leading two Drogs supporting a Mordak Rider who was more dead than alive. She gave the Rider her own seat, and explained the little she could. “Rider Lieutenant Regath Encarthian. Taren sent him as a messenger to Makret just after Makret left for Agrista.”
“So why is he here? He should be interrogated.”
“He is my Rider, Morschcoda Erygan. I will decide his fate.”
“Enough,” Daliana’s voice, already carrying the strength of command that reminded many there of Taren, broke through the argument before it began. “Edya, what reason do you have for trusting this Rider?”
“Taren trusted him. That should be more than enough. But he had earned several promotions, some recently. He was to supposed to be appointed to the Spear as a Captain, but he was sent to Agrista. He would have been my second in command, a position he earned many times over.”
“We will hear what he has to say.”
Edya nodded, and bent down so that her face was level with his. “Rider Encarthian?”
The man could barely look up, and his voice was weak, but he answered “Yes, Captain Reeshnar.”
“What news do you bring?”
“News from … Agrista.” He was still breathing heavily, but his voice had started to gain strength. “Four Riders, besides me and … General Druoth … were there. The others … are dead. I think they were hoping … that I would turn.”
“Yes, Regath. But what actual news?”
“Sorry. The Kindler” he started to cough. Edya grabbed an empty glass, filled it with water, and held it to his lips. “Thank you. The Kindler … Only has fifteen thousand men, but wishes to march on Dishmo Kornara.”
“How do you know this?”
“Raised voices carry far over water.” Edya nodded in understanding, though the others looked puzzled.
She explained. “It is a Drog technique to enhance hearing. Sound carries naturally over calm water. Drog magicians found a way to duplicate the effect over land. Now, carry on Rider.”
“Makret is holding out against attacking Dishmo Kornara until he has no more excuses. I think that there are more Morschen, but no Morschledu in The Kindler’s service. No one but Makret can lead him to Dishmo Kornara. I think that the fall of Dishmo Kornara is all that stands between Makret and his own death. Rumours spread quickly, and they couldn’t be kept quiet. There’s a running battle of wills between the two of them. The Kindler can’t kill him, Makret is his only general, but Makret is living dangerously. The two argue almost constantly.”
“So, is Makret our enemy?”
“I don’t know. He fears and hates The Kindler, and The Kindler hates him. I think that if Dishmo Kornara falls, or if The Kindler captures someone he can torture the information from to both find and take the city, Makret won’t live out the day.”
“So, we are safe for now.” Daliana sounded hopeful.
“No, we aren’t.”
“Makret didn’t refuse to attack Dishmo Kornara for reasons of strategy. He said that didn’t have enough men, and he’s right. Fifteen thousand couldn’t take one gate of the Capital, let alone the city itself. The Kindler just laughed and said ‘that will soon be amended’. Apparently, four hundred thousand Deshik soldiers are sailing from Alega.”
“The Kindler said a month. If I’m right, that gives us two days.”
“Norrin,” Erygan began. “Your army is the closest to Dishmo Kornara. Take it there. Edya, how fast can the Brotherhood be gathered?”
“The Spear: two hours. The full Brotherhood will take almost a week. When Xari surrendered Armanda, Taren sent the Brotherhood home, so it’s a scattered force right now.”
“That doesn’t matter. Gather as much strength as you can by the end of the day, and send them to Airachni.”
Gelida spoke up. “Why Airachni? They should go to Dishmo Kornara.”
“Four hundred thousand are landing. They’ll strike in several directions. The one target that makes most sense is Airachni. It’s weak, with so many of the Dragon Hearted slaughtered at Agrista.”
“There is something, or maybe I should say someone, we are forgetting.”
“And who is that, Kallin?”
“You want me to beg El Darnen to come to our aid?”
“Not you Erygan. I want Daliana to go.”
Galeth seemed to understand what it was that Kallin meant. “As Taren’s heir, Daliana, you take on the responsibility of dealing with El Darnen. He was tolerant of your father’s commands. I think that he would be useful, if we can reach him before he becomes offended for not being thought enough of to be told of the news of Taren’s death.”
“He’ll have heard it already.”
“That I don’t doubt, but that we thought, or didn’t think, to inform him of it could win or lose us the Serpent.”
“I’ll go with you, my lady.” Everyone stopped to look at Gelida. “My father, before his death, apparently held El Darnen in respect, and that respect was mutual. My father supplied El Darnen Greshida with weapons, armour, and other supplies that the Greshida could get no other way. El Darnen smuggled my father’s body out of Galzeen while it was occupied by Guinira, and I believe that El Darnen holds me in that same regard he held my father, so my going makes more sense than anyone else except for Daliana.”
Kallin nodded in agreement. Then Regath Encarthian spoke again. “There is another force we can use.” Everyone looked at him. “The Imperial Navy. Drogoda’s navy hasn’t always been as large as it is now, but it’s always been powerful. If we send it to where this army of Deshika lands, we can have our ships attack the boats, so that they are caught between two armies. It will also trap the Deshika here, meaning that they can’t send any messengers back to Alega if there are other armies waiting there.”
“It’s a good plan.”
“But will Makret see this attack coming?”
“I would say no.”
“Yes, really. The Grand Admiral of the Imperial Navy answered to Taren alone. The Admiralty will not sail at my command, nor would they have at Makret’s. I doubt that Makret will think of it before the navy has attacked.”
“We still don’t know where they will land.”
Edya grabbed a map that showed the coastal regions of Anaria in detail. Pointing to various places as she spoke, she wove a net of strategy that few present could follow. “Even though they’ve conquered Rista, I doubt they will land there. The coastline is treacherous, even Drogs avoid it unless they have no choice. There aren’t many decent harbours for large ships of war, and only three for a fleet of that size: The Dragon’s Head, in Meclarya; Grathen Harbour, in Drogoda, and Beruthien Bay, in Caladea. Grathen Harbour is the most well-defended. The army, the navy, dozens of mercenary and pirate ships all call its waters home. Beruthien Bay is the smallest, but it would serve, except for two things: one, the island in the middle. The bay is wide and long, but that island makes it difficult to navigate, especially for ships of deep draught, as most warships are. The second is the tide. That bay becomes a lake at low tide, because of how shallow the channels are around the island.”
“So, what is your opinion, general?”
“My opinion, Morschcoda Erygan, is that the only likely port is the Dragon’s Head, or between the Dragon’s Claws. It’s the largest, which they will need with enough ships to carry four hundred thousand soldiers. And it is both the closest to their lines, not that they really need to worry about that, and the closest to Dishmo Kornara.”