A Silent Game of Spies

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Romand walked the halls of ArkenHeights restlessly. He had known the day would arrive, it had only been a matter of when. The Ice Queen had finally sent her communication. His infantry and naval forces were to be made ready for her use at her command. Interestingly, he had not yet heard from Hewett, and it had been Hewett with whom he had most often communicated. Bother.

The Ormon Queen’s communication was short and demanding, and told him that details would be sent forthwith, only to have his forces mobilized and alert.

Well, Romand had been fighting in wars since both monarchs’ parents had been children and he knew a thing or two. All of Corstarorden’s major cities were fortified and had been for years. After the Twenty Years War, Romand had seen to that, for troops from every nation had marched through Corstarorden to resupply. War was hardest on the little people, the commoner people, and while he could not protect his farmers, his parishes, and his villages because of this centuries-old Northern-Coastal Partnership, he could at least see that the towns and cities were stronger so that the farmers, parish folk and villagers might seek refuge there.

Romand expected he would be following his army into battle in Clemongard. Ah, he was too old for war. At sixty-five, he had no interest in it. His sons, Niall and Mandard, would be following him into war, for they were well-versed in war themselves, both being veterans of the Twenty Years War. Except this time, Romand would allow them far more latitude than when they were merely princes with rounded eyes, staring with amazement at the world about them. They had grown up in the era of the Twenty Years War – a painful way to mature, to be sure, watching men die at your hands. War changed every man, and twenty years of war made its mark upon his sons.

Romand had yet to inform his lady wife. Though a strong soul, Normandra, too, had lived through the Twenty Years War, and it had made its mark upon her. Such a kindly woman, he mused as he observed her across the morning table where they had begun taking their morning meals since he had arrived back at ArkenHeights. At sixty-five, she had aged admirably. Her hair, once platinum and shining, now was a beautiful white, and her cheeks were hardly lined at all.

Suddenly, Normandra smiled at him across the breakfast table. “Romand, you’ve been so quiet of late. What troubles you?”

Romand shook his head to shrug off his concerns.

“Romand, I know you better than that. I have been your Queen for almost fifty years now and I can tell when you’re hiding something.

“It’s the war, isn’t it? Has the North asked for troops finally?”

Dumbly, Romand stared at her.

She tittered and set her napkin down on the table. “Romand, Romand. In all this time, you have learned so much about the land but never a thing about women.” She stood up and placed a kiss on the top of his head. “I’ve been through twenty years of war already, I think I can handle a few more years.”

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