Chapter 24: The Captains

Hira tapped her chin in thought after hearing James' three conditions. "I can agree to three of those. The last one though... I can't let an opportunity like that go to waste. I'm keeping any of the Holys you find."

"Then the deal's off. Your Majesty." James bowed at the end and turned towards the door.

"Don't walk away from me." Hira commanded. She didn't even raise her voice or change her tone, but James listened.

"I'm sorry, but unless you let me keep any and all Holys that Cykik has, then our deal is off."

LiLith spoke up. "Why don't we just give him one of them, Mother?"

He turned back around. "I'm not bargaining with a Greed Demon, stay out of this." James couldn't say what was different about the way the two women talked, but LiLith simply wasn't as terrifying as her mother.

"Neither of us is in a great position to negotiate." Hira paused. "Okay. We'll give you half of the Holys we find."

"If there are any Mythic Blades, I want one of them to be included in my half."

"Deal." The two shook hands to cement their agreement. "Now, James, we have a lot to do before the wedding, let's get started."

The point finally hit home for James. I'm getting married to LiLith. I'm... Getting married... To LILITH. Why am I doing this again? Oh, right.

LiLith, the Arie that smelled like Mxxen and Hira brought James down several flights of stairs to the throne room. Room was a loose term, a football stadium and some houses could have fit inside the room with space to spare. There were over a hundred well-dressed demons standing around the throne in a disorganized jumble. Around the perimeter of the room stood about twenty Aries and thirty regular guards. The door James entered the room through was right next to the two ornate chairs, so he had a clear view of everything.

Of the two thrones, one was much smaller and less decorated than the other. A man even taller than LiLith was sitting in it. Despite his height, this man seemed fragile, like a stiff breeze would blow him away. He stood when the others entered. "LiLith, Hira, I'm glad you're here, the others are beginning to get rest-"

"We were called here from our homes all across Myre because your wife had something important to tell us, Anto." One of the men in the crowd near the thrones said loudly. "No one here is interested in hearing your ramblings about-"

"If we're talking about ramblings, I'd point to you as an example." James interuppted. He turned to the Empress. "What's this about, Hira?"

"Patience, everyone." She commanded. She turned on her heel, walked over to the larger throne, and sat in it. "My friends, you're here from all the houses of Myre, Tolleh, Redeek, Buro, Yon, but we are much fewer in number than we were thirty years ago. Some houses have been wiped out, Weddol, Vorted, Seritz, all gone forever. Many of us have had children in an attempt to restore the nobility to it's former strength of numbers, but as we all know, only one in twenty demon women are able to conceive twice, one in one hundred can do it thrice." Members of the crowd shifted uncomfortably. "Cykik knows this, and they're slowly whittling down our numbers. Didn't you find it strange that Lorit Tolleh's assassin was never found? Or Erip Redeek? Who do you think it was that killed them?!" Her voice boomed through the room like a megaphone. The nobles murmered assent.

She continued. "That's right, it was that Revolutionary group. They are far more powerful than any of us want to admit, it's possible that they may have ammassed more strength than even me, the Empress." A few members of the crowd spoke up saying that that was impossible, but Hira's stares shut them up. She kept talking. "There is only one name these people fear, one name they respect, Doryu. It was Ryvek Doryu's attempt to restore Demetrius that inspired Cykik to do the same thing twenty years later. A member of the Doryu family would be able to help us not only get Cykik to stop attacking us, but to forge an alliance, the strongest one since the Treaty of Herth that bonded Dorva and Myre in a fellowship long since disbanded. 'But, Your Majesty,' you may want to say, 'what does this have to do with us? The Doryus are all dead.' Well, I'm here today to tell you that that's incorrect."

James shifted his feet uncomfortably. This could go very wrong, very quickly. Hira stood up and walked up next to James. "My friends, this is James, the last surviving member of the second most powerful noble house in Myran history."

Brian shifted nervously after giving his report to the captains. He knew that he sounded completely crazy, lava changing to water, Ragnarok, but what else could have happened?

"So let me get this straight," Captain Picton of the Tenth Battalion began, "you're telling us that Mount Asmett erupted, an event that would have been felt in every corner of Myre, but only you witnessed, then the lava that killed all of the other Wytch Hunters on the mountain changed to water after you felt a massive source of magic power appear. And it did so just in time to prevent you from dying." The tall man leaned back in his chair with a skeptical look on his face. "And above all else: You think that this source of power was Ragnarok, the Spear of life and Death."

"Well, I'm aware how it sounds, sir, but that's what happened." Brian swallowed. He knew that if Picton seemed suspicious of the deaths of the other men and women sent to search the volcano, then at least three or four other captains were thinking the same thing.

"Watch it, Picton." Elijah said, drumming his fingers on the table. "McCafferty is still a member of the Fourth Battalion, you have no authority over him unless he's convicted of treason."

The Captain of the First Battalion spoke up. "Quiet, you two, we aren't gathered here so you can bicker." Even though the fifteen captains were seated at a round table, Captain Damian's voice carried far more weight than anybody else's. He was the longest currently serving captain, as well as the oldest. And even with the recent death of his daughter, he was more than competent at his job. "This is worrisome news, whether what Private McCafferty said is completely true or not. What we know for sure is that we lost eleven of our people yesterday, and if they were betrayed, we have to find out who they were betrayed to. If they were taken by surprise, we have to find out who did it. Either way, I have a propose we have a word with Empress Hira."

Murmurs rose up around the table. The captains spoke amongst themselves, some questioning the proposal, others agreeing wholeheartedly or objecting vehemently. Damian slammed a gavel on the table for silence. It took several hard swings, but the other captains quieted after a few moments. "Private, you are dismissed." Brian saluted and walked out of the conference. Have a word with the Empress. Why would that be so controversial? Unless... Well, he must have meant something else, but what?

"Damian, we can't vote on something like this without all sixteen captains present." Captain Selene of the Second Battalion objected.

"We need to have all currently serving captains present. Captain Marci isn't curretly serving. Besides, we have to leave at least two battalions in Earth at all times. Now, all in favor of capturing Qerth, raise your hand."

Author's note please read:

I'm not going to update this very much this month. I'm sorry, but I just can't participate in National Novel Writing Month and do a chapter of Neither Gods Nor Masters every week. If you're lucky, I might do one or two updates this month. I'm sorry, if you crave more of my writing, I'll be updating TWINS daily.