"True genius lies in making one enemy fight another for you, then eliminating them both in the same stroke."

-Tethkren Faragoss, greatest of the sorceror kings. Excerpt from his book, Kingship, circa 37 Pre-YL.

"Day after day their swords harvest blood,

And their tongues spread lies,

Until all the land they would rule is poisoned by it,

And trust is a forgotten thing."

-The Teachings, Book of Orrent

Chapter 36: Orlin

Stealing the Vorendrayg.

Well. His brother did have some balls after all.

Orlin had thought of that option, but considering he himself would have hesitated to try even with a whole division backing him, he had set it aside as unlikely when there were safer deals that could be made. But, now he knew Rixken was taking it. Fact was always better than speculation.

He scanned further down the report on his screen, looking for anything else useful.

"Have you begun scouting the roads to Mirik Bay yet?"

"Yes," HarMakeg replied. "However, my units have not had time to report back yet."

"Of course."

The rest of the information was useless, or almost so. Knowing how much equipment Rixken's forces had sent back to Emprin would not substantially change any of his plans. And knowing about a few more or less units than his analysts had already given to his brother's force strength wouldn't shift how Orlin intercepted him.

Nothing more to know.


"Do you wish me to notify PirGevgen, your Majesty?"

"What is this, HarMakeg? Your agent says the report from the informant cut off suddenly at the end."

"The informant severed the standard protocol for ending a radio call, but he might have just been quick switching off his transmitter. I listened to the recording. It was only slightly abrupt. He was likely just in a hurry."

Or he had been spotted.

And if that was the case, then Rixken might know his plans had been shared. Would he cancel them? Perhaps. Or, he might move early, hoping to take the Vorendrayg before there was time for Orlin to interfere.

If that was the case, then Rixken's force would already be headed…

He pulled up some other reports and glanced at what they held.

"Call ParThanek and tell him I want his raiders ready to move on Chosa tonight if necessary."

"Chosa, your Majesty?"

"That is where the Vorendrayg is now. Move your response force into position for a landing near there as well, and send scouts to the roads running between there and Rixken's camp. Our informant may have been spotted, and if Rixken knows we know, he may already be moving."

"What about PirGevgen?"

Orlin thought of the pompous pirate king and drummed his fingers on his desk.

"Call him and tell him what my brother intends. But only once you know Rixken is on his way. I want PirGevgen to be part of this fight."

It wouldn't do to have PirGevgen pull out in time for Rixken to find out about it and change his plans. If HarMakeg got the timing just right, PirGevgen would only have time to get his defenses working, and not to leave. Then Orlin's forces could smash his brother against the Vorendrayg's guns. And if things went perfectly, PirGevgen might get caught in the crossfire and killed as well.

But that was hoping for too much.

"I understand, your Majesty. I'll put your orders in motion immediately."

Orlin considered other angles, ways Rixken could slip out of the trap, but found none. At best his brother could call off his assault on the Vorendrayg completely, but then he would still be stuck on Akati. And the deals that could have gotten him off safely would probably no longer be an option. That would be no kind of victory for Rixken, and better than a loss for Orlin. Orlin could afford to outwait him as long as he remained stuck on Akati.

That conclusion reached, Orlin closed the line, then leaned back in his chair and smiled. For the first time in weeks he felt light and relaxed. Perhaps as soon as tonight, Rixken would find himself caught in a trap with eight battalions behind and a fully functional battlecarrier ahead. Or, he would find himself stuck where he was, with no path to escape. And then, all the problems he had caused would be at an end, and Orlin could focus on more important things.

Like that satellite.