"You don't seriously expect everyone to believe this, do you?"
Etrayos shot Issas an exasperated look. "Of course not. But they'll start believing, once Vesmos' armies wipe out a few civilizations."
They were in a small, open room, each of them situated around the table looking exhausted, having arrived by one of Morgus' holes the night before. The transition had only cost them a few days, but everyone felt as if they had been dragged the entire distance behind a herd of horses. Vorchay, upon returning, had collapsed and not woken. No one blamed her.
"I believed you," Odocorr pointed out. He frowned slightly. "Of course, when she came back glowing bright enough to light up the city, I was inclined to believe what you said." He sat next to his nephew, who refused to leave his uncle's side since they had been reunited.
"Not everyone can see flashing lights," Issas grunted.
"They're not flashing, they're glowing," the Prince replied.
Etrayos put up his hand to stop the oncoming bickering. "It doesn't matter if they can see lights or not, they need to believe us. They need to believe her. If we have to, we could have her fight to prove it. I mean, how many people have the skills she does?"
"There's always someone better," Schiard put in. "Vorchay isn't fully trained yet. She's one of the best, yes, but she's not good enough to wipe every mortal, nor is she good enough to last a minute against Vesmos."
"Besides, she'd hate fighting like that," Raedoch mentioned. "Vorchay doesn't like that whole 'fighting for superiority' thing."
Schiard grunted. "Women," she growled in disgust. Odocorr lifted an eyebrow. The others ignored her.
Morgus, looking pensively out the window, spoke thoughtfully. "I think we're forgetting something."
"What's that?" Etrayos asked, stretching his sore limbs.
"Vorchay, even in Maelurphon, looks different. I've met a few other Snow-Speakers throughout history –there's never that many of them- and she's the palest-skinned one I've ever seen."
Etrayos frowned. "What's that got to do with it?"
"She's a paper-white, serious young woman from a place few people have even heard of," Morgus said, looking to each of them. "She looks holy and foreign. Her appearance alone might help convince a few skeptics. She's not just some weird heretic we're trying to lift up to wage a religious war."
"I see where you're going," Issas said, nodding. "Use her exoticness as a sort of propaganda."
"Sort of. I'm just saying that her appearance might help matters."
"But the fact remains that she's not a strong-looking warrior either," Odocorr cut in. "Let's face it, she looks weak. Why would people want to follow a weak leader who's scared shitless of war? Hell, I wouldn't. In fact, I know she's a good swordsman and I'm still skeptical about it."
"Then we don't get her to lead the men, we just get the leaders of the men to follow her. And the soldiers will follow them," Etrayos said slowly, thinking aloud.
"You want to go around trying to convince Kings that yes, in fact, they really do want to give all power over their armies to a small woman who claims she's destined to fight Vesmos?" Schiard demanded. She snorted. "Fat chance of that. I'm still for the idea of trying to get the actual soldiers. Mobs are easier to convert than intelligent leaders."
"Point," Odocorr murmured.
"But if we get the men, who's going to lead them?" Etrayos said, pacing. "We'd be pulling people from all across the continent and throwing them together to fight on, most likely, multiple fronts. Are we just supposed to conjure up men to lead them and know what they're doing? It might be more difficult, but we need the leaders almost more than we need the grunts."
"Bullshit," Schiard said bluntly. "You don't need the leading men, you need the soldiers! That's what an army's made of. Throw enough of them at her, and Vesmos' Others will lose."
"You've clearly never fought a war," Issas said.
"Have you?" she replied.
"I have," Morgus interrupted. "And Seveiselde is right. We need the leaders, no matter what it'll take to convince them."
"But that's the problem, you won't be able to convince them!" she said, frustrated.
"My vote will carry quite a bit of influence," the Angeughvor commented.
"Something as nuts as this?" Issas asked. He shook his head. "No, it'll only undermine your position."
"Schiard and I will convince them," Morgus volunteered. "After all, there's not many people who don't know us, and the whole 'servants of the gods' thing will help the cause."
"They might entertain stories of you, old man, but very few actually believe you're as powerful as the myths," Schiard said. "And if you do prove it, then they can just call you a demon and burn you."
"Not everyone is as skeptical as you are."
"And these leaders will do anything to not throw their men in death's path. They're intelligent that way."
"Look, it doesn't matter how it gets done, it just needs to happen," Seveiselde growled. "Who cares what it takes? We're talking about preventing continent-wide genocide!"
"It isn't that black-and-white! The complications have to be taken into account now! Complications like Kings who don't want to give up their power, like men who don't want to be thrown at Nyvestein, like trying to make Vorchay appear heroic enough that they'll want to follow-"
"Why don't you just leave that to me?"
They turned to see Vorchay leaning against the doorframe, bathed and dressed in fresh clothing. The sand had been washed from her hair and the bruises covered with healing creams. Only the black-striped anklets remained from her ordeal in Lixunah.
"Are you sure you should be up?" Morgus asked with a worried frown.
"Why shouldn't I be? I didn't have any serious wounds or fevers," she replied.
Etrayos covered a smile. No matter what, she kept going, they had to admit.
"Did you have any input?" Schiard asked, leaning back in her chair.
"On this conversation? No. But I know where we're going next." She straightened as they gave her curious glances. "We're going west, to the border of Verath and Emud. To Lyeirt."
"Dare I ask why?" Schiard said dryly.
"Eondine will meet us there. I need to talk to him. And after that, we can head back up north to find out how the Karoneth Twins are doing with clearing out Neisroth for Raedoch." She gave a nod of acknowledgement to the boy-King.
"What are you going to do about Nyvestein?" Odocorr asked.
"Nothing, until I talk to Eondine," she said with confidence. "I want to find out what his schedule in all of this is, and what help I can expect from his mother."
"Did my dear mad patron tell you this while you were sleeping?" Morgus asked.
She nodded. "He did. He's not very subtle. We should leave tomorrow."
"We'll be ready by morning," the old man promised.
Vorchay nodded, then departed, disappearing as quietly as she had appeared.
"Well. Now what?" Schiard grunted.
Issas got out of his chair. "You heard the girl. Now let's get moving before the war starts without us."
And with that, the group of mismatched men –and woman- seperated to ready for whatever would follow Vorchay down the long road ahead.
W00t! Story's over. First day of summer too. I was thinking of waiting a little while longer to post these last two chaps… then I thought to hellwidit, I'd post them.
I'm tossing around the idea of taking a break from fantasy to poke at some sci fi again. Maybe that third Blue story… Not sure yet though. I'm not quite sure how to start that one. So I may end up working on them simultaneously. Or just that Blue story. How bout this: in my account info box I'll keep on ongoing status on both of them.
And if you don't know what I'm talking about when I say "Blue story", you should go read the other two stories on my account. Dogs Of a Revolution is first. They're probably my two favorite stories that I've written so far. Kek-ass sci fi with a mix of philosophy and a nice femme fatale main character with a personality complexity I'm proud of. She's probably the best character I've ever written, and if you like my characters, you'll know that means something. So read it.
Here's a thought: Vote. What do you guys, as my readers, want to see first? A new Blue story (preferably read those first) or Fire Dancer? Tell me in your review.