Rising Vengeance

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Chapter 3: Gathering Clouds

Erygan literally stormed through the halls of Pentailia Morschcoda. The cloud which hung over him was large enough and dense enough to blot out all light for ten feet, aside from the occasional flashes of lightning. He was in a good mood. It mattered little to him how Taren had known of his army inside of Meclarya. He also suspected Taren knew that Erygan had purposely withheld the knowledge of the arrests, but as not even Taren could prove that, nothing could be done. The storm cloud did have advantages though, which was why he kept it. It ensured that everyone, except for those who knew him well, would get out of his way. It also served another purpose; Dalasin could not help looking upward at the storm that raged over his head. As the two men walked slowly through the halls, Erygan began to speak.

“What do you know of Eliish Del Anaria?”

“The Throne of Anaria? Almost nothing, aside from the name. I’m sure I have heard the name of the last King of Anaria, but I can’t remember that either, or where or when I would have heard it.”

“Well, since we don’t need any real information, your knowing nothing is more than enough. You will mention tomorrow that you feel that Eliish Del Anaria should be filled once more, as it has been almost twenty thousand years since Anaria has been united under the banner of the High Kings and Queens.”

“Should you not be the one to mention it? After all, you are well established on the council. Something like this needs to have a powerful person behind it. I am not that person.”

Erygan stopped and looked Dalasin in the eye. “That you are on the council at all means you have power. You are just reluctant to exercise it. You need to show the others that you are not intimidated by them. You only need to say something that will make them take you seriously in the Council Chamber.”

In another part of Pentailia Morschcoda, the three women were debating the day’s events thoroughly.

“Can somebody tell me,” Ranny was almost shouting, “what in the name of the Seven Devils just happened?”

“We would,” said Xari, drawing a circle around her heart with the finger that bore her Ring. “But we do not know what just happened any more than you did. And anyway, it doesn’t really matter.”

“It does not matter? It does not matter, she says, Daliana. We have been working for almost twenty years to try to cripple Erygan in that chamber, and just when we get our chance, Taren stomps in and lets the Lurnax into the Crundark pen. How does it not matter?” Her voice had reached a pitch normally reserved for calling dogs.

“Lurnax do not eat Crundarks,” said Daliana, fighting off exhaustion. She could not help her response.

“Calm down Ranny.” Xari caught the taller woman just as she was about to turn on Daliana for her remark on Ranny’s metaphor. “When has Taren ever done anything that he did not think was necessary?”

“That is not the point. He ruined twenty years of effort to remove Erygan from the council, or at least cripple him.”

“Do you honestly think that Erygan would have been at all damaged by this?” asked Daliana, rousing herself. “It would have done more to the one who mentioned it than it would do to Erygan if Taren had not stepped in and removed the issue. And your twenty years is not wasted, because it was not specifically leading up to this one specific issue.”

“Well, this was the first time anything potentially damaging has so much as appeared in those twenty years.”

“Did you not listen to Daliana at all, Ranny? She’s right. Whoever even brought this up would have been more hurt by this than Erygan would have been if it was not handled exactly as Taren handled it. Daken knew that, which is why he said nothing. This whole thing would just have bounced off of Erygan.”

“What I want to know,” broke in Daliana, “is how Taren knew about a second Torridestan army? Not even Norrin knew, and it passed through Norrin’s land.”

“Taren always seems to know everything about everything that is brought up in The Councils. I almost despise him for it, though I almost have to respect him for it also.”

“And besides,” Ranny had finally calmed down enough to say something logical, “Norrin and Erygan are allies dating back to Norrin’s first sitting as Morschcoda. Norrin knew perfectly well that the army had gone through his lands.”

“Is that not a breach of The Anarian Treaty?” asked Xari.

“Taren and Erygan have been searching for every loophole in The Anarian Treaty since they were named Morschcoda,” answered Daliana. She knew it well. Taren’s too large Brotherhood of the Mordak had met her army on several battlefields since he had danced neatly around the part of the Treaty that limited its size.

In yet another set of rooms, Taren and Kallin were in deep council together. The Drogodan rooms were the perfect place to conduct secret councils, because the ever present sound of flowing water could drown out almost any other noise.

“Erygan is going to make at least one move soon, Kallin.”

“What makes you so sure?”

“Over six hundred years of dealing with him on the council makes me sure. He’s usually aggressive through the first week, and then backs off for one or two days and attempts to hammer the council with something that can tear the north apart. The last time he succeeded it was because he claimed an army of Garnothen barbarians from the wild lands west of the mountains were attempting to invade Torridesta. He gave both Norrin and Marrdin permission to cross his lands, without telling either of them, and then, when the Stone Warriors met the Crystal Sword, it was terrible. I claimed the excuse of war-time laws to bring the Brotherhood northward. Six thousand Stone Warriors against ten thousand of the Crystal Sword. At least half of the Warriors were dead, and there could have been only four thousand of the Sword left. We were lucky though. We only had to show up before they stopped.”

“I will assume that Erygan used the weakened borders to his advantage.”

“Torridesta’s borders moved out almost fifty leagues in four weeks.”

Kallin’s eyes widened. “So, what will he do this time?”

“That is a good question, Kallin, a very good question indeed.”

“You have to agree with us about Taren, Xari.”

“Why do I have to agree with you, Daliana? Tell me that.”

“If we do not get Taren on our side, then we are vulnerable. Taren is the only one who can hold Erygan in check.”

“Morning draws near. We will see what today’s council will bring. And what Erygan will do to disrupt The Councils this year,” Ranny said, standing.

Taren slouched in his chair as Norrin and Erygan attempted to appease the northern Merchant Clans by forming any sort of trade agreement. Norrin had just proposed construction of a new trade route through the Garuthen Mountains. Erygan was just about to say something, likely in agreement, when the midday bell rang, instantly ending all discussion. Taren was walking slowly back to his rooms when an errand boy dressed in the green and brown of Dothoro ran up to him and bowed.

“Morschcoda Garrenin,” servants were rarely allowed to address a Morschcoda with their first name. “My mistress, Morschcoda Marcarry wishes for you to meet with her in her rooms during the midday break from The Councils.”

Taren considered refusing, but Daliana was one of the only Morschcoda that he actually liked enough to invite to Alquendiro on a regular basis, though she rarely accepted.

“Tell your mistress that I will be there when I get there.”

The boy bowed and ran off as quickly as he could. “This is probably that bloody Armandan Xari’s idea, and if she is there, I will leave.” He enjoyed that private thought. Of course, if it looked as though it would take more than a few minutes of his time, he would probably leave anyway.

Meanwhile, Daliana was almost out of her mind. “I just asked the most powerful man in all of Anaria to come to my rooms for a private meeting. How do I get out of this? If I send another messenger saying that I can’t meet with him, he may get angry, and then he might … I don’t know what he might do. But if he comes, which he is going to, and then I ask a favour of him, he might be offended and do it anyway.” Her private misgivings were interrupted when one of her guards pushed her head through the door and informed her that Morschcoda Taren Garrenin had arrived.

“I can’t do it Daliana.”

“If anyone can stop the Garuthen trade route, you can.”

“But I don’t want to stop it.”

“So you will just stand by while Erygan takes control of the north.”

“The north holds little that is of interest to me, Daliana. And besides, I know only too well what Erygan and Norrin, and most of the other Morschcoda, will say if I do step in and keep this trade route from being created. They will say ‘Oh, look. Taren is doing his best to keep the northern nations poor so that he will have an easier fight when he tries to conquer the world.’ And if I speak in favour of the proposed route, they will say ’Taren just wants the road there so that he will have an easier march through the mountains.”

“Taren, you have power, so it is only natural that others will envy you, and because they envy you, they attempt to discredit you, to make you seem weaker, by telling themselves that you intend to rule the world and them with it.”

Taren sighed. “You are too old to be this naïve, Daliana. You know as well as I do that there are few people in all of Anaria who do not fear the Warship of Drogoda as much as or more than they fear the Coiled Serpent of El Darnen. They fear the day when I will realize that I am stronger than my supposed peers on the council. They fear that I, who they know is the reason El Darnen is held at bay, will decide to unchain him at last. They fear that I will let loose the Brotherhood of the Mordak to win me the world. They fear that the Drogodan Morschledu and Tai-Aren Coda will fall upon them as rain falls from the heavens. They fear that I will simply cast off the other Morschcoda and take Eliish Del Anaria for myself. They don’t understand that if I wanted the Throne of Anaria, I would have been sitting upon it long ago.”

When the Morschcoda reconvened, Daliana would not even look at Taren. It mattered little to him, however, as he thought he saw a way of doing everything that Daliana had asked of him, and more, because the first thing that Norrin did upon reseating himself was look at Taren and say “El Darnen Greshida has attacked and taken an iron mine in southern Eschcota. I thought you kept their leader on a tighter leash, Morschcoda Taren.”

“How is one to leash a serpent, Morschcoda Norrin? If you put the collar on one end, it will only slide off of the other.” He rarely made jokes, especially during The Councils, but his comment got a general laugh at Norrin’s expense.

“Be that as it may,” Norrin’s words were strained, as he was attempting to hold in his anger. It would not do to insult one of the most dangerous Morschen in Anaria, whether he deserved it or not. “It was long ago decided that as El Darnen is a Drog, he is your responsibility to control.”

“I can bargain with El Darnen, but I control neither him nor the Serpent’s Fang. However, I may be willing to remove the iron mine from his control, if you cannot do it yourself.”

“I would rather not waste men’s lives unless I have no choice.”

“Alright, I will speak to El Darnen about the movements of the Fang, but” Norrin had allowed himself a small smile, little more than what others would call not quite a frown, which faded with Taren’s next words, “I want the Garuthen trade route continued south of Eschcota to Galzeen.”

“What could you possibly hope to gain from extending the trade route?”

“I do have other interests in Drogoda besides its armies. Noldoron is one of our largest trading partners.”

Norrin looked sideways at Erygan. “Because of course, Noldorin-forged metalwork and Eschcotan mined ore have nothing to do with your armies.” Norrin and Taren looked into each others eyes. Erygan and Makret were the only two people in the room who had done that before. Norrin broke first. “And if we refuse to continue the trade route south of Braldish?”

“Well, Morschcoda Norrin, I am sure that El Darnen can find a use for that mine.”

Norrin considered before saying anything further. “What does Morschcoda Dalasin say? Surely he has the right to decide what goes on in his own lands. He may not want the road to go all the way to Galzeen.” The threat in Norrin’s voice was unmistakeable. If Dalasin did not refuse, then he would have to face Norrin sooner or later. If he did refuse, he would have to stand against Taren. Dalasin looked from Taren to Norrin and back again. Norrin’s face was unreadable; a dark mask with a thick beard. Taren was just the opposite; relaxed, confident that no sane person would go against him, given a choice. ‘An arrogance well founded’ Dalasin thought. “Of course I want the Garuthen trade route extended to Galzeen, as I am sure the Torridestan Merchant Clans do as well.”

Dalasin had added a painful blow to his acquiescence. The Merchant Clans would, of course, be funding the construction of the new road, and while the mines of Eschcota were rich with gold and silver and all manners of mineral wealth, the metal craft of Noldoron was unequaled, and a greater prize.

Norrin let out a defeated sigh. “The Garuthen trade route will continue on to Galzeen. Now, Morschcoda Taren, I believe you have business with the Serpent.”

The nighttime private councils were full of heated discussion that day. Ranny, Xari, and Daliana were desperate to figure out what was happening.

“I thought your spies told us that Dalasin was in Erygan’s pocket, Xari.”

“They did. I have no idea where this came from. Nor do I know if it means that Taren has won Dalasin’s loyalty away from Erygan.”

“Why are we jumping to this conclusion? We all share a border with Taren, and we all know what he is willing to do if we make the wrong choice. How long do you think Dalasin will stay Morschcoda if the Great Houses of Noldoron found him willingly refusing to side with Taren Garrenin the Second in the Council Chamber?”

Ranny and Xari looked from Daliana to each other, knowing that they had gotten carried away. Ranny could not let the matter drop though. “Well, we have to do something. Daliana, you know as well as we do that Taren has a strong hold in Dothoro through the Tobacco trade. If he has won Dalasin, then he practically controls western Anaria.”

“Kallin is not in Taren’s camp, Ranny.”

“That is what you think, Xari, and unfortunately, you’re wrong.”

“What do you mean, Ranny?”

“The stargazer may not stand with Taren yet, but he is wavering. He has been seen often in the company of Taren after the day’s councils are done.”

“So, Taren will take the west.”

“I think, Ranny, that if Taren had wanted those lands, he would have taken them under his own banner long ago.”

Ranny laughed. “Is that what he told you, Daliana?”

Daliana shrugged, but her voice was heavy and she sounded tired. “Taren knows that he has the strength to conquer the world. If he wanted it, he could have it without having to bother with all of these political entanglements. It just is not logical Ranny, and Taren prides himself on his logic.”

In another part of Dishmo Kornara, Dalasin was being interrogated by Erygan and Norrin.

“Why did you have to agree with Taren, Dalasin?”

“Because, Norrin, I fear Taren more than I fear you.”

“That is no excuse.”

“Calm yourself Norrin.” Erygan sat well at ease, smoking his pipe. “Dalasin has little experience with Taren. I often wonder what I would not do to avoid trouble with the Warship of Drogoda. He is a dangerous man, and not just because of the forces he controls. Although his armies are formidable, he is himself a far more dangerous an opponent. What I am more concerned with, Dalasin, is your failure to bring Eliish Del Anaria to the forefront of the council’s mind, though that is less of an issue than it might have been. Taren has given you a far stronger position. I suggest you use it.” Exhaling, he filled the room with the scent of smoke.

“So Kallin, now that Dalasin has more strength, do you think Erygan will use him to end The Councils, or will Erygan end it himself.”

“I half thought that Norrin’s mentioning El Darnen might be the end of The Councils this year. Since Erygan let that pass unchallenged, though, I am afraid he has something more dangerous up his sleeve.”

“I would assume as much, if for no other reason than that this is Erygan, and he always attempts something large.”

“I think that, now that Dalasin has strength behind him, Erygan will use him to strike a blow. That could be far more dangerous, especially since you are the one who is responsible for Dalasin’s increased power. Erygan could pretend to be against whatever it is that Dalasin will say.”

“Yes, you’re probably right. This makes it far more interesting. Now I only wonder what Erygan will get Dalasin to do.”

“One thing is certain, Taren. Tomorrow will be a day long remembered by the council.”

“And the decisions made tomorrow, Kallin, will change the course of the future forever.”

Ranny was droning on about taxes on Caladean exports or some other equally boring topic, so no matter how hard Taren tried to focus and pay attention, he found himself drifting ever more easily into the world of his waking dreams. He was only spared the agony of seeing Alquendiro once more burned to the ground because Dalasin interrupted Ranny. Nobody interrupted Ranny, mostly because everybody needed a time to catch up on the sleep they had missed the night before. And just the simple fact that it was Dalasin, not any of the council’s members who actually had power, made it all the more interesting.

“We have discussed in depth everything that must be gone into,” he began. “But what about subjects the Morschcoda have left untouched for years? The time has come when the Morschcoda must decide whether or not we are answerable to anyone. We must discuss Eliish Del Anaria.”

Everyone was shocked at Dalasin’s approach to the topic of the Throne of Anaria. Taren and Marrdin, who had each long felt that the Throne had for too long lacked an occupant, were no less shocked, but they were more pleased about Dalasin’s proposal than they were willing to let on. Erygan looked almost horrified. Interrupting Ranny would already lose her support, not that that mattered. The words Dalasin had chosen would offend the rest of the Morschcoda anyway. Taren exchanged brief glances with Kallin and Marrdin, both of whom nodded, and then decided he must crush Dalasin before he could do any more damage.

“Morschcoda Dalasin, this is your first year attending The Councils as the Morschcoda of Noldoron. What makes you think that we who have been on this council for years or centuries have not discussed the Throne of Anaria? And what makes you feel that the Morschcoda should be answerable to anyone? We rule the nations entrusted to us as we will, not as others deem fit. It has been that way since the fall of the High Kings and Queens over twenty thousand years ago, and this council was in place before they existed at all.”

“I didn’t think that the Morschcoda should have an authority any higher than they, but …”

“Then why did you bring up the Throne in the first place?” He did not wait for the answer that he knew would not come. “Surely you did not think that you could take it for yourself if you were the one to present it to the council.”

“No Morschcoda Taren, I didn’t, but …”

“Then you had no reason to bring it up at all, and I move that Morschcoda Dalasin’s demand that we discuss Eliish Del Anaria and any possible occupants of it be removed from the records of this session of council.”

“I second the motion,” said Daliana.

“Good, now let us forget Morschcoda Dalasin’s demand and instead focus on what we came to Dishmo Kornara to accomplish. Is there anything that any of the Morschcoda have not said before today that cannot wait until tomorrow, which is to be our final session of this year, thank all the gods?”

“No, there is not” said all of the other nine Morschcoda together.

“Excellent. Council is adjourned for the rest of today.”

Searching with his mind for that of Taren’s, Erygan asked him to the Torridestan rooms that night.

“Well, Erygan?” Taren said as he arrived in his own particular way. “Hello, Erygan?” He tried a second question, trying to get some kind of response.

“Why did you practically destroy Dalasin today? Why lend him strength yesterday only to crush him?”

“No hello Taren? It’s good to see you Taren? Nothing?” Erygan took it as natural, though Taren knew well that any other Morschcoda would be baffled by his opening. He sighed, and then laughed. They both laughed. And then sitting, the two men pulled out their pipes, filled them, and began smoking. Taren’s peculiar blend from El Redro Delshoi mingled its scent with Erygan’s harsh Ristan weed to form a not unpleasant aroma. “You know perfectly well why I did that Erygan” Taren said around the pipe clamped in his teeth. “Dalasin is weak. Perhaps too weak even to be Morschcoda. Those who cannot hold their own on this council should be removed from it before they can do damage either to the Morschcoda Council itself or to the country that they represent.”

“Dalasin won’t be removed, not by the council at least.”

“No, but now Dalasin knows his place in the chamber. He is barely old enough for the position, and I can’t see how the Great Houses in Noldoron chose him to be Morschcoda.”

“For the rest of his House, and not him personally, I assure you. But you were younger, far younger, than Dalasin when you became Morschcoda.”

“I was my father’s heir.”

“Your father was removed from the council.”

“Yes, by me. Since House Garrenin continued, and I had stood against him in the acts that lost him both his seat and his head, I was named Morschcoda by my people. There was nothing wrong with me taking the seat.”

Erygan shrugged. “Aside from you being the one to take his head, you mean. And aside from the reason that your sword has a name? Oh, and aside from the many reasons you used to be known as the Prince of Chaos?”

“At least I am not in the pocket of the Merchants’ Conclave.” Erygan groaned. Taren never failed to bring up the fact that it was the Merchant Princes and not the Night Council that controlled the daily happenings of Torridesta. “Now, Eliish Del Anaria, I ask you?”

“You want the Throne of Anaria filled more than I do.”

“That makes no difference. Dalasin was not the man to start that argument, nor is it my idea of a topic to end The Councils.”

“Well, The Councils end tomorrow regardless.”

“Without having degenerated into a war. That makes twenty-one years now.”

“I would not count so soon. You have done more damage to me this year than I think you realize.”

“I know exactly what I’ve done to you, Erygan. Besides, we both know what the other Morschcoda expect of us. I had to mention that second army in Meclarya. It keeps the others wondering about how far my power truly stretches.”

“And when are the Elven mercenaries you hired, which do not really exist, going to attack Dorok-Baan?”

“I expect news of the attack that will not happen to arrive tomorrow.”

“And, naturally, you will offer to send reinforcements. What will they be this time? The Brotherhood, or just a force strong enough to occupy the city?”

“Actually, I was planning on sending about two hundred Aren Coda.”

Erygan started laughing. “Which will remain in the city to ensure future protection from paid, non-existent, Elvish war bands.”

Taren started laughing too. “Of course. I couldn’t leave Kallin unprotected. You know how dangerous Elves can be. Especially when you can’t see them.” The two men roared with laughter.

Their discussion was interrupted by Makret’s entrance. “My lord, El Darnen has arrived in the city. He demands an audience with you, today. He is in the Drogodan rooms.”

“I wondered how long it would take him to get here. He must have Portallers as part of the Greshida. I will see you in the Council Chamber tomorrow, Erygan” said Taren, standing.

A tall bearded man, heavily armoured, stood to greet Taren as he entered the Drogodan rooms still smoking his pipe. He wore armour resembling that of the Drogodan army, but he had a cloak fastened on the left shoulder with a silver broach in the shape of a coiled snake, and his belt was fastened with a buckle bearing a serpent’s head carved in gold, with a white field on one side and a black field on the other. His helmet was on the floor beside his seat.

“Guards, leave us.” Makret started to protest, but Taren cast him a sharp glance and Makret left with the other guards. Turning to the man, he spoke again. “You are not El Darnen.”

“No, Morschcoda Garrenin, I’m not.”

“Since he obviously sent you, I assume you have authority within the Fang.”

“I do.”

“Good. Now, the Fang has taken an iron mine in southern Eschcota. You will return it to Eschcotan control.”

“What do we get out of it?”

“The iron you have taken from the mine already will not be missed. Take it to your hold in the Garuthen mountains.”

“I was commanded to return with a better bargain than iron we already possess.”

“I know. That is why I forced Erygan and Norrin to extend a trade route through the mountains to Galzeen. Your leaders should find that satisfactory.”

“You will do nothing to stop raids on the trade route?”

“The Fang is the reason I had the route extended. You can’t raid every caravan that goes through the mountains; people will think that I had it extended just for the Fang to attack tradesmen from the north. And if you raid it too often, Norrin or Dalasin will now that you have a hold in the mountains, and they will search them for you. But even if I would want to stop raiding on the Garuthen route, it is not in my land.”

“I will agree on behalf of my master.”

“It is wise of you to agree, for you will get nothing better.”

The next morning in council, everyone was alert. It would not do to make a fatal mistake now. There would be no tomorrow coming with a chance to rectify any poorly conceived plans. Taren waited through Erygan’s discussion with Dalasin about why Eliish Del Anaria was a poor choice of closing topics. Finally, what Taren was waiting for occurred. A Storinean soldier came in quietly and whispered in Kallin’s ear.

“I may be forced to withdraw from this council early,” he said, returning his attention to his peers. “It seems that Elves have launched an attack against Dorok-Baan. The city is calling for reinforcements.” Daliana looked puzzled. She and many of her people were supposedly Half-Elvin, but barely a handful of people outside of Dothoro actually believed that Elves still existed.

“There is no need for you to go yourself, Morschcoda Kallin.”

“Why is there no need for it, Morschcoda Taren?”

“I have a strong force of arms permanently stationed on the southern plains of Moredo. Among them are several hundred Aren and Aren Coda. I could easily have three or four hundred in Dorok-Baan in four or five days.”

“My city needs reinforcements now, Morschcoda Taren.”

“It will take you at least a month to travel from here to there, even if you could leave at this moment.”

“It will take your man almost that long to reach the southern plains, and then the five days on a fast horse to get to Dorok-Baan.”

“One man alone will travel much faster than a whole army together. And among my retinue, I have a Torridestan Morschledu who is capable of making a portal large enough for himself to pass through. If I send him now, he can be on the southern plains in under an hour.”

Daliana leaned close to Xari with her mind and made the impression of whispering as she shared thoughts. “I thought Kallin was practically controlled by Taren already? It seems as though he is attempting to say no.”

“It is strange, I grant you,” replied Xari.

“Alright Morschcoda Taren, send whatever force you see fit to Dorok-Baan. I will likely need them again.”

“I doubt that,” said Taren, looking up from a letter he had just received into the confused faces of every other Morschcoda. “And it seems that I will need all of my men before long. I doubt the Elves will trouble you anymore anyway, supposing they really exist, once they hear the news I have just received. I am surprised, though, that Morschcoda Marrdin is not pouring over a similar letter to the one I have just been given.”

“Would you care to explain your riddles, Morschcoda Taren?”

“I shall certainly do so, Morschcoda Erygan. My sister, Anyana Garrenin has recently married a Ristan prince, the Lord General of the Crystal Sword, to be specific. Roughly two weeks ago, as I judge from this letter, a Ristan patrol along the borders of the Icto-Rista came across a recently abandoned camp. It was neither Ristan nor Torridestan, so they examined further. They returned to Agrista as quickly as they could to report that a force of Deshika warriors, no less than one thousand, but no more than three thousand, had entered into Anaria.” Everyone paled visibly at the thought of Deshika once more inside of Anaria’s bounds. “There is more, and it gets worse. Apparently my sister’s husband took ten thousand of the Crystal Sword north to deal with them. Not even four thousand came back.”

The Council Chamber was silent. You could hear the rock walls groaning under the weight of the thousands of tons of rock that they supported. And then everyone began to speak at once. The Crystal Sword was not the strongest of the Ten Nation’s elite armies, but it was not the weakest either. And the fact that such a small force, compared to the armies of the southern empires, could do so much damage to half of the Crystal Sword was possibly more disturbing than the fact that the Deshika were once more in Anaria.

“There is no more time for discussion. We must once more fill Eliish Del Anaria.”

“You said it yourself, Dalasin, we don’t have the time. Marrdin must leave at once, and so must the rest of us. However, if we all still live in one month, I agree that we must meet back here and decide who is to lead us. We can’t afford to have ten leaders who each want something different.”

The chamber was deserted in seconds.

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