Pavis back

What happens next?

Godsday, Movement week, Fire season

Graylor, satisfied that nothing untoward was happening, breaths a mental sigh of relief. He gives Kallyr and Illig several minutes to reaffirm their bond. Before anyone becomes embarrassed by the show of emotion he clears his throat quietly. "Excuse me warleader. I hope it is not impertinent, but what happens next?"

"A good question." Illig releases Kallyr from his embrace, though keeping one protective arm around her shoulders. "Returning to Whitewall becomes an immediate objective, rather than the trip to the northern mountains we were considering."

Kallyr nods: she has, once more, recovered fast. "You personally need to get out of Pavis in any case, or innocent people are going to get caught in the crossfire when Harthdaran catches up with you: your Raven team know why, they can fill you in later. But there's possibly also a third reason for you to come to Whitewall."

"To finish your quest in support of Broyan," Illig agrees. "I take it he will summon you back fairly soon, and you will want to have the various named allies with you."

"Ideally, yes, though I still have one to collect: I have a Uroxi to wrestle. It's what happens after that... and that's so secret that I'd originally planned on only telling you. Or rather, asking you, since the first thing I need is advice on whether what I have in mind will work. Now, though, having seen how good some of your people are, I'm going to expand that. You've got some remarkably inventive minds here when it comes to finding another way, and it would be silly not to make the most of them. Graylor, Dori, and young Abul, please."

"If that's what you're after, add Egil to the list, please," Dori says: then at Illig's raised eyebrow, adds, "Simple does not mean stupid: he's got a remarkable ability to cut through to the heart of a problem while the rest of us entangle ourselves in complexity."

When Abul hears his name as one of the reliable resources, he feels another burst of joy and pride, this time very personal and a faint smile appears on his face, but soon he realizes that someone important, at least for him, is missing from the list: Yenda... Only Yenda is educated enough to understand complex background. Only Yenda uses cleverness before strength. Only Yenda has such glamorous and tantalizing shapes... hmmm... well... perhaps Yenda is only Abul's choice, but if mental suggestion has any power then Dori and Graylor should hear him and add Yenda to the list.

Wrestling an Uroxi... looks like Orlanatus is gathering his warband again. Does Kallyr know how to wrestle?

But it seems his mental plea goes unheard - no-one suggests Yenda accompanies them back to Dori's office. Vindana is shooed out, Illig gets the one chair, and Kallyr perches on the table, where Dori had been before. Egil puts the wands of his Sphere of Silence back in place and activates them. Illig watches as he tests the result, and nods. "So, you wanted to discuss what happens after you get back to Whitewall. I take it Broyan is fully aware of what you're doing?"

"Of course - most of this was his idea. Part of the result, the part we're admitting to a select number of people after the event, is that it strengthens his identity as Vingkot, strengthens his magic, and we get to hold Whitewall that bit longer. But that's only part of it, and not the most important part."

She looks round at the group. "Most of you were at Whitewall, I think? Not Graylor, but everyone else? You'll remember, then, the way Orlanth is present at the temple there, the permanent storms round the high towers, the way his magic is stronger in the city? It started when we summoned the Six Storms and Seven Winds to take out the Bat, and it's been getting stronger since. This, a quest that explicitly calls Orlanth back to the city, will make it stronger yet."

"What gets interesting, though, is that the Lunars are also trying to strengthen the link tying Orlanth to Whitewall. You see, they're thinking through what will happen when they take the city and destroy the last great temple to Orlanth. They seem to have the idea that it won't do Orlanth any good at all, and they're right."

Illig nods. "In the medium term, you need Orlanth strong, to defend Whitewall. In the long term, such a link is a disadvantage to us. But we have to hold Whitewall, there is no other stronghold left to us. An interesting paradox. So, you need advice on strategy?"

"For once, no." She smiles. "Broyan has strategy covered. What we have to do is accept the unthinkable, and go on to the next step. Whitewall is going to fall - just saying that is one reason why this has to stay secret. We know when the main Lunar attack will occur, we know roughly how it will work, we know our chances of defending against it are similar to those of an icicle in Fire Season. Whitewall is going to fall, and we need to think about what happens after that, because that's where the Lunars have made a mistake."

"I presume that you have strong intelligence to be sure of such a thing. If you can survive the bat then surely you can survive almost anything." Graylor interjects.

"Almost, but not this. Not the Crater-Makers. There was more, too, but a lot was more technical than I could follow. The ranking professor of the College of Magic down there wants to see what happens if you kill a Great God, as an experiment, and he's got all the funding he needs to do just that. Common sense, no, funding, yes."

"They certainly don't lack ambition, do they?"

On these words, Abul spits an apparently disdainful insult in Carmanian. "Sorry," he recovers himself. "Lunars playing at Godlearners. My father Jamal used to say that Lunars mixed the Hubris of both the Godlearner and Nysalorian empires..."

"They've got the idea that destroying Whitewall means a dead Orlanth, and they think that just means we don't get any more magic. They worship a young goddess, they don't remember. The last time Orlanth was - well, not exactly dead, but in the Underworld - was the Great Darkness. If he dies again, we're pretty sure it'll happen again."

"The Lunars probably plan to expand the reign of Entekos, the solar goddess of Air, but if they were Pelandan or just listening to the humbles, they would know that Entekos is too pure to get so close to the mundane affairs of the surface... Being the Border and the Balance between Life and Ideal is a full job in itself. Entekos was the Mediator when Yelm and Orlanatus negotiated just before the Great Compromise and a mediator can't chose a side, even as the mother of the Moons..." Abul remarks.

Many of the group look blank at all these strange foreign names, but Kallyr accepts them with no sign of puzzlement.
"Maybe... the idea that a Lunar mediator would cheat isn't exactly a surprise, though. I still think their main aim is very simple: Orlanth is a dangerous enemy, destroy him. Yes, different factions will argue over who gets to control the Air afterwards, but they all agree on that much. Tatius is providing the funding, and who knows which faction he's supporting this week?"

Egil sits quietly until the end, his mind churning through the information before he speaks, "So, Orlanth dies and goes to hell, he gets resurrected and comes back to the world and time starts. There's a couple of points I'm not too clear on here. He went to hell to rescue Yelm, who or what is he going to rescue this time? Didn't all the gods swear the Great Compromise last time? Is the plan to tie the Red Moon into another pact or compromise this time?" He shakes his head, "I may have missed the point but it seems this is the way it's going."

"I think you have hit the nail on the head." Graylor says admiringly. "In this case I don't think that the main point is to rescue Yelm or anyone. The point is that Orlanth survives and comes back to the world. He was the first to do so. The Lunars are going to a lot of effort to kill Orlanth, to have him come back to life would be a major blow to them. All that effort wasted to no end. Having said that, Orlanth returned with the salvation of Glorantha, the means to rebuild the world back as it was before."

"Exactly," Kallyr agrees. "The only problem is that they've realised that, and they're taking steps to stop it. Did you realise they have their own version of Hell, and anyone sho goes there gets trapped? That's what they did to Hofstaring, at the end of the Rebellion. I'm pretty sure it's what they did to Sartar when they put out the Flame. And now they plan to trap Orlanth. A Great Darkness with no way of ending it - they really haven't thought this through."

"Excuse me, perhaps I'm too novice or too foreign to understand and if the answer is a secret then just don't tell me," an embarrassed Abul asks shyly, "but how is it possible to have your Storm God lose his last Great Temple, get killed as he was in the Great Darkness, and still come back as he did before, when he doesn't have the support he did then? There were other Lightbringers, then, this time he's alone? Surely that's impossibly difficult even before we add the complication of a Lunar Hell?"

"A very sensible question," Kallyr agrees. "There's a few possible answers, and I don't like any of them.
"First option is that we arrange for him to have his full set of Lightbriniger support. So all we have to do is persuade a few more Great Gods to do an errand for us, and we've got several weeks left to do that. I'm not going to say that's impossibly difficult, because nothing's impossible, but there are probably easier ways.

"Second option is to treat him like a over-sized version of a dead human you want back. The White Ladies have ways of doing that provided it's within seven days, but I asked them, and they say it would take Chalana Arroy herself to manage it. All right, that's only one Great Goddess to persuade, not six, but I still don't see how to do it in the time.

"Third option... if you want a hero back from the dead, a Lightbringer Quest will do it. It hasn't always worked too well in the past, but at least it's possible, Harmast managed it, and he was human. There's no need to make it immediate, and we're only trying to collect human heroes as Lightbringers, not Gods. It won't be easy, but it's the best chance we've got. My only objection to it is that I know who'd be in the lead, and I'm really not looking forward to it.

"Finally, your point about not wanting to add the complication of a Lunar Hell is one I completely agree with. That's definitely something we want to avoid, this is going to be quite hard enough as it is."

Graylor interjects. "That is no understatement! So your plan is that Orlanth will choose to go on the Lightbringers Quest, just before or just as the Lunars finally take Whitewall. Thus making look like the Lunars have vanquished Orlanth. However, by choosing to leave and not actually being killed Orlanth can avoid being trapped in the Lunar hell, vastly increasing the chances of survival."

Graylor turns to Kallyr. "At least that's the way I would play it. Or am I way of the mark again?"

"You're very close: what you describe is more or less what we're aiming at, and almost what the Lunars are aiming at, with one critical difference. There's some Lunar plot based out of Esrolia to put Ernalda to sleep. Combine that with removing Orlanth's last tie to the surface world, and off he goes looking for her. They make sure his route down is on their terms, and redirect him. So, we need to make sure his route down is on our terms, and so far I can only see one way of doing that. We're going to have to out-do them in terms of being ambitious."

She turns to Illig. "That Sword of yours... it's known, though not too widely, as 'God-slayer'. Have you ever considered using it to slay a god?"

Graylor snorts loudly. "Only last week! It did the job nicely."

"Yes, as one does, very funny, now - " She stops, suddenly hit by realisation about Humakti and the chances of their lying even in jest. "You're not joking, are you? You mean it. You really did kill a god? Which one? I didn't notice any go missing, but I suppose it's only immediately obvious to their worshippers."

Egil flushes a little at the remembrance of what happened and more particularly what caused it in the first place. "His name is not important, he was the light with no heat held up to a shining mirror. He betrayed the legion and got his just punishment. As you can see, even gods aren't safe from Hereward's justice."

Then shrugging off the question he continues "So what quest is the legion to do? Are you going to ask our Warlord to kill Yelm so Orlanth will go to hell to rescue him again?"

"Not quite. The Lunars are already arranging for Orlanth to head in that sort of direction. All the reasons for him to want to go looking for his wife, his place on the surface world destroyed, attacking him personally and weakening him. No, I want Illig, with the Legion's help if necessary, to make sure Orlanth goes to the right Hell. I want you to kill Orlanth."

Egil lets out a snorting laugh, "Sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast, but I think this one impossible thing beats them all."

"So persuading gods is out of the question, but killing them is easier!" Graylor manages to keep himself in check. "or are we talking starting the quest style of killing gods?"

"No, we're talking really, genuinely, giving a coup de grace to Orlanth. Which is easier depends on who you know, and I don't know anyone who can persuade Chalana Arroy to do them a favour on that scale, but I do know someone who's got a fair chance at killing gods. If you can think of a better way or an easier way, great - that's why I'm here asking for advice."

"Oh OK." Graylor sounds somewhat shocked, but a smirk plays round his mouth. "Well at least we have had a recent practice run and it is only a minor deity you want us to dispose of. I thought it might be something difficult."

He addresses Illig. "Are we going to accept the challenge sir?"

"We may do. This is rather too important a matter to decide on the spur of the moment: and while I personally do not know of a better way of arranging for someone to be properly dead, I know a God who might. Consulting him would seem to be the obvious next step."

"Oh, yes, of course." Kallyr brightens suddenly with all the signs of an Idea having struck her. "Do you suppose you could ask him to do the job for us?"

"I could - but he usually responds to such a request by ordering one of his servants to act on his behalf. I think we can guess which servant would be given this particular task."

She sighs. "Yes, they all do that, don't they? Then it's a case of trying to channel their power and still survive long enough to make use of it."

Graylor looks from one to the other with open admiration. To see two such Heroes talking blandly about channeling the full power of their gods. Sometime in the future he hopes to be good enough to be able to attempt such a thing.

"Surviving this particular encounter will certainly be an interesting challenge," Illig agrees. "In any case, asking Humakt's permission before killing his younger brother is a requirement of courtesy, quite apart from surivival."

She laughs. "True. You'll come to Whitewall anyway, though?"

"Oh, yes. We have some regalia to retrieve, as well as supporting your return."

"And the regalia will make the whole thing more popular with the rest of your Legion... Illig, how much of a problem is that going to be? I know they're loyal to you, and will accept your decision, but I'm sure it would be easier for you if they actually agreed with it."

"Those most vehemently against you previously were won over at least in part by your agreement that Humakt rules in time of war. They may be expecting me to take that rather more literally and thoroughly than will in practice be the case."

"Humakt rules...? Oh, yes. I'd almost forgotten that."

"Seledd will not have forgotten it. She probably sees this as the Legion having acquired a Vingan warband, to be treated as expendable."

"Well, with the exception of the word 'expendable', you had that anyway for the asking. There's a little more to it than Natalina's Vingans. though." She grins. "Looks like I've finally got something I've been trying for for years. 'Humakt rules in time of war' - and getting rid of the Lunars most definitely counts as war. Have a rebellion to run, I've always said you'd make a better job of it."

He nods gravely. "Quite possibly true, and as such, it is also my duty to assist my subordinates to overcome their weaknesses. Have a lesson in leadership. There is a technique called 'delegation', which you should make yourself aware of. As a demonstration of this important principle, consider yourself delegated to in matters concerning this 'rebellion'."

Graylor smiles to himself. Even to a heroine like Kallyr, Illig is the teacher. He wonders idly who Illig considers his teachers.

Egil is slowly nodding his head. "Whitewall sounds lovely, at least it won't be so hot there. I have a question, though its more for my own amusement than anything else. Which units have the Lunars got there? See we've been playing marbles with them since we've been here but that's almost finished now as they appear to be running low."

"They're not running low at Whitewall, unfortunately. The roster keeps changing, but I'm pretty sure you'll have the Jaspers to play with rather than the Marbles. Assorted lighter infantry, some cavalry, though they're only relevant in terms of breaking supply lines. There's a lot of them, but as long as they're outside the walls and we're inside, they're almost irrelevant. Then we've got various engineers, some of them saner than others, and some flying troops, The important unit, though, is the College of Magic."

"Yeah, we don't really have any answer to them yet." Graylor comments. "We Orlanthi value our independence too much to allow ourselves to meld our magic on a large enough scale to match the College of Magic."

Abul boldly tries a comment after Graylor. "I think I see a way of finding out how to do that."

Everyone looks at him expectantly and takes notice.

"Studying Carmanian History showed me that Nations may have their ways changed by War. It was obvious for the conquered peoples like the Pelandans, the Spolites, the Woriani, the Dara Happans... but even the westerners conquerors had to adapt to their new subjects and Karmanos taught us that during a war, traditional rules were challenged by the reality of the Confrontation and had to evolve... and since, we have scrupulously studied our ways and changed them when it was necessary because of the Confrontation..."
He continues after a glance at the assembly, who are looking somewhat blank at this apparent non sequitur. "For example, the Spolites lost not only because they were the ones with the weakest strengths and lesser morality but also because they were the ones with the lower inventiveness... Since I got interested in military topics, I always wondered why Orlanthi people who pride themselves on venerating a God of Change and Mobility were now relying mostly on conservatism and traditions."
Kallyr looks a little indignant at this, but doesn't interrupt.
"Lunars have a too easy play by saying that Orlanth is, in fact, just noise and drafts.. During my travels with my father from the North, we have noticed how the Lunars were skilled to unite what seemed irreconcilable, but if I understand your religion enough, this is nothing new... isn't Orlanth who built his own tribe with foreign gods? Not all were from his family at the beginning... Elmal, Ernalda, Heler, Issaries, Lhankor Mhy... were all different. My supposition is then that the Lunar College of Magic will be overcome by the Orlanthi hero who will be able to reenact this... before that, Independence stays Lack of Direction, if I may say without any insolent intention..."

"So what you are really saying is that the Orlanthi should get off their arses and do something different. Just like Orlanth did when he created the Wind tribe."

"With the 'something different' being uniting people who are very different from each other," Kallyr agrees. "But what's that got to do with merging magic? Differences make it harder, not easier."

Abul seems a little bit embarrassed, realizing well that a direct critic is never the best diplomatic approach, but after a thought, he also realizes that he doesn't want to lose the chance to get answers from important and clever people to his personal strategical calculations and interrogations. "Excuse my questions because I'm a probably just an ignorant and a fool but I would say that yes Graylor, that's the point. Losing battles after battles is for me the sign that the global method is wrong. Your individual value isn't the question here, just because each Orlanthi tribe member is smaller than the whole Lunar Empire is facing. The Lunar College of magic is a good example: all Orlanthi peoples I have met during my exile travels, boast on the capacities of their champions, leaders and local heroes... and probably they're right because during the last years I have seen you all achieving wonderful deeds... as individuals, but really no one can oppose the Lunar College of Magic alone whatever the Orlanthi individual qualities and whatever these qualities."

Kallyr raises an eyebrow at that suggestion of impossibility, and seems about to speak, but then glances at Illig and stays quiet.

"The fact remains that the Orlanthi side seems now trapped in a single city with the only best hope in a quite desperate plan where you wish to kill your own main god, doesn't it sound foolish to your ears..?" Abul shakes his head with an apparent disapproval: "I'm not able at all to judge if it is the best next tactical move, even if it seems to me quite crazy... as I trust you as wise leaders, I must think you're right... but it remains a desperate plan and even if it succeeds, you will still face an empire with your always diminishing strengths. I know that my opinion has no importance, but to me the free Orlanthi should review their global strategy because what they need is a global strength greater than all the coordinated resources of the Lunar Empire. Arkat vanquished Gbaji Empire through many allies, Shah Saman vanquished the Dragon Empire with many allies, but I still wonder if you have ever studied in detail a way to oppose an united magical force in front of the College of Magic? Since decades of war they have learnt from your magical strengths and weaknesses but it seems that you haven't from them... I wonder if you have ever studied all the magics of the Empire's enemies and the possibility to ally with them or if you still think that somewhere Orlanthi will save the world alone because your god Orlanth did so in your glorious legends..."

"We've learnt from them: we've learnt a lot from them. From their enemies, though... that's an idea."

Abul knows now that he has said much too much, but if he wants to know, he has to ask all his questions, after all even a punishment for insolence will be useful answer... and as a Herw'Ardi, isn't he allowed to question his hierarchy and requests for truth? "Orlanth didn't save the world alone because he couldn't. The Lightbringers story was also told in Carmania before the Seven Mothers replaced it in the White List and it is still told among the traditionalists and the exiles and it says clearly that the breath of Idovanus had to gather the support of many other forces to regenerate the world... even worse, I have crossed countries where the stories says that the world was saved by many other powers, not at all by Orlanth. So no, I don't believe that the Universe is only requesting Orlanthi to save it from the Red Moon themselves alone... and don't think you're alone and condemned to more and more desperate plans. Many hate the Empire as it has evolved now... even within the Empire: traditionalist Carmanians, submitted Pentian tribes, peaceful white moonists, Tarshite rebels, imperial slaves... with my father we have visited a few before joining the Legion.... so why take the risk to kill Orlanth if you will just have to flee again after that?"

"Why take the risk? Because we have no choice. Orlanth is going to die anyway: the decision is how, not whether. We can deflect their magicians, but defeating them... I wish I knew how. If the other enemies of the Empire knew how, they wouldn't have been defeated, and they were."

Egil listens and ponders over the talk of magicians, "Could we not take the college out of the sum? Let's not try to fight them on the battlefield where all of them can combine their magic and use it against us. We could either infiltrate their camp and kill them a few at a time until there are not enough to cause too much damage, or find a quest and pull them onto the heroplane and kill them there."

"That's a good idea, a nice simple idea, and we've been doing that to some extent. Straight infiltration and assassination - yes, that's why Randella got sent up here instead of working Whitewall, she got her cover blown doing just that. Pulling them onto the heroplane, even one by one..... yes, well. It's been tried. Didn't work out too well, though we got some interesting information out of it. Don't get the idea that they're only powerful when they're merged, they're powerful in their own right as well, some of them."

"You must have some other surprises for the Lunars. Given the way you are thinking are you going to sack Whitewall yourselves?" Graylor laughs.

She actually pauses and thinks. "Why not? It's something to consider. We know it's going to fall, we know we'll have evacuated all but the last few, so we don't need to leave it fit to live in - I wonder if we could booby-trap it in some way? Have those walls - cliffs, even! drop on them? Come to think of it, I know exactly who to put on to looking into that."

Graylor looks pleased, even though his words were meant in jest. "Have you any mostali to help? I'm sure that they would be able to do stuff with stone that you wouldn't believe. The ones here are supposed to be more accessible than most, perhaps it is worth talking to them." He looks pensive for a moment. "I seem to remember my father telling a tale of the dwarves where they turned their skin into stone. Wouldn't a trick like that be useful in wrestling a Uroxi?"

"It would, but I have problems with Mostali - or rather, they have problems with the House of Sartar, going right back to Saronil. Something to do with using Mostali techniques to build Orlanthi holy places, so Whitewall's likely to be a touchy subject, You're right, though, the ones here are more friendly. Maybe put Natalina on to that...? no, I need her back in Whitewall. Someone who understands local politics... well, there's plenty of options there. Good idea, though probably won't come to anything fast enough to help with this."

She's still thinking over the various ideas offered. "That whole concept of non-Orlanthi, non-humans... there's a lot in that. Too long-term to help us at the moment, but yes, definitely something to think about. Joseph Greenbeak had some ideas along those lines, years ago - he and some friends wanted to revive the original First Council." She laughs. "And you say we're being ambitious. I wonder if they got anywhere? They had one thing right, anyway - no dragonnewts this time. Uz, Mostali, Aldryami, yes, but no dragonnewts. Abul, if you ever meet anyone from that group - I think they called themselves the Fourth Council - you should talk to them, you've got a lot in common."

Abul bows and just agrees: "I will, Madam. The Fourth Council, I will not forget it." He tries to hide his relief as much as he can and finds that his admiration for Kallyr has grown because instead of a sharp rebuff for his charge against the Orlanthi values, the Kheldon Queen gave him consideration and interest.

"Still, we have more immediate concerns. One thing I do know for sure about merging magic, and supporting each others' magic, is that you have to trust each other. Although how the College of Magic manage it is beyond me, because they certainly don't... but for us, at least, trust matters. If you're going to kill Orlanth, you're going to need all the support you can get, and so all the trust from your Legion you can get. I've messed that up for you, getting them so divided over what to do about me, so I need to put it right. Don't tell me there isn't a problem - when Dori's said it's only your orders stopping her from killing me, preferably slowly, then clearly you've got at least one of your senior officers disagreeing with you where they didn't before."

"Dorinda?" Illig looks a little startled at that. "That is not how I understood your opinion on the subject."

"Well in Dori's defence that was an opinion held while you and Kallyr were at odds. As you know Dori holds you in the highest regard and therefore people who distress you are likely to be high on Dori's list of people who should be taking a one way trip to the planes of judgement." Graylor interjects before Dori gets a chance to open her own mouth. "I don't think there is any lack of trust on her behalf. In fact quite the opposite, her trust in your decisions and orders is such that she worked hardest to bring about this reconciliation."

"Absolutely right, in so far as it goes," Dori agrees. "It seems possible, though, that what I said was misinterpreted, since I don't recall having said any such thing. That misinterpretation has now served its purpose, and should be corrected." She grins, looking much more cheerful than she has for hours. "It's a useful exercise for my trainee Eyes, in fact, so it's a shame Yenda isn't here to join in. Graylor, I take it you remember exactly what I said, even if Abul won't recall every word?"

"Yes I can if you give me a moment." Graylor closes his eyes and enters the meditative trance that aids the Jalmari so much. In a few moments Graylor speaks again. This time his voice is subtly different. Those that were there realise that he is reporoducing the way Dori was speaking as well as the words.

"Illig is missing it because he's in too much pain to notice anything beyond the very obvious black and white. That is entirely your fault, and not something I'll forgive any time soon. What I'd like to do about it is forbidden by Illig's orders - my next preference is forbidden by Humakt even if I had the three weeks or so it would take."

His voice returns to normal as he asks. "Is that enough or do you want more?"

Abul just looks at Graylor astounded... and remains speechless.

"I'd have skipped the first part myself, but yes, that's presumably what was being misunderstood. At least, it was certainly meant to be misunderstood, and Kristen picked up an entirely spurious reference to the three-week timescale exactly as I thought she would. Believe it or not, Illig has given me more than one order in the past, and you didn't have to pick on "keep her alive" as the one I was referring to, despite it having been the only one mentioned recently."

"Nice! As always you are the mistress of misdirection." Graylor complements Dori. "Would you like to enlighten us as to what you really meant by those cryptic statements, as opposed to what we assumed they meant."

"You could also explain what you meant by intending to be misunderstood, and it having served its purpose," Kallyr says. "I can't think of any reason for that beyond hurting me for the sake of it, and that still isn't like you."

"I'm afraid that's exactly what it was for," Dori answers almost apologetically. "We had to make it clear to you just what the results of your actions had been, fast, and make you feel bad about it. This, at least, was something I could do that could be easily corrected and healed afterwards, rather than lingering for seasons. I hadn't expected it to have much effect... maybe I underestimated that."

"But yes, the dodge to avoid actually lying... the other order we'd all been given was to be polite. Courtesy, respect, and so on. What I wanted to do was call you a lot of very rude names, and that was against orders. The second option I was refering to is part of Hereward's Code, so only really forbidden by Humakt indirectly, as part of oath-breaking. Yes, Humakt forbids torture, but Hereward says 'Do not preach or claim to know the truth'." She smiles. "Egil's probably the most recent one to suffer - how long do you think I could witter on about the philosophy of Truth and Honour, assuming nobody had the sense to gag me? I've had a lot more practise than Abul, three weeks seemed entirely possible to me."

At Dori's remark, Abul says nothing and keeps motionless but his eyes concentrate intensively on some invisible crack in the floor while his ears blush until carmine.

"Dorinda," Illig isn't exactly disapproving, but there's a certain formality to his words that those who know him usually take as a warning. "It seems that we need to discuss the distinction between the spirit of the law, and the letter of the law."

"Yes, sir." She isn't quite as subdued as an almost-reprimand would have left her a few days ago. "At the moment I'm working on the assumption that since my geases haven't killed me yet, I must be on the right side of the line as Humakt draws it, but it isn't a good area for experimentation."

"I guess that there isn't much left for this meeting. Unless you want to discuss which units you want to take to Whitewall and which units are staying, Sir?" Graylor asks.

"You are correct in your assumption that I intend to split the Legion for this purpose, yes. Purely magical support does not depend on distance, and this may be regarded as another high-risk activity, with the same considerations as before. There is also the question of who will be of direct use, apart from in the retrieval of the regalia of theThird, and there I require more information. Kallyr, while I am running this minor errand, what will you and Broyan be doing to defend the city, if anything?"

"Broyan will be handling the evacuation, as Vingkot - the last part won't be mundane. I'll be running the defences."

"As Rigsdal, or as Vinga?"

"Rigsdal - we've got a few things already set up, and I'll finish that while you're off with Natalina. Then we find out if it really is impossible for one person to hold off the College of Magic, given enough preparation."

He nods. "In that case, I know who will be coming with us and who will be staying here, but breaking the news to them is going to be interesting, and probably best done after you have left."

Graylor raises a questioning eyebrow, but knows better than to ask the warleader to either expand on his decision or give it before he is ready. Wisely he shifts topic.

"Perhaps it would be wise if you and Kallyr show yourselves. We have been down here all day and there may be some suspicion on behalf of the men Kallyr left up top." After a slight pause Graylor adds somewhat hesitantly. "And it will disperse any possible dissatisfaction in the Legion as well if you are seen to be friendly with each other."

"I'd hope they've been told by now that everything's fine, but yes, better to be sure. And being seen to be friendly... yes." She grins. "Time to do a bit of play-acting, I think, demonstrate a few things. Illig, when we get up there, you're going to give me an order. Doesn't matter what, as long as it's something I wouldn't take from anyone else. I object, you overrule, I give in. Once they've seen that, things should be quite a bit easier."

Graylor snorts. "Hmph. Not too sure about that. We're not a troop of skalds putting on a play. Whatever is done should be truly meaningful and not just a charade for the masses."

Egil has an evil grin on his face, "Well then, that's a simple order, 'Kill Insterid!'"

He gets a withering glance for that. "Good job you're not skalds, you wouldn't be much good at it. A story has to be believable, and Illig being petty and vindictive isn't. No, the idea isn't deception at all - the opposite, in fact. Telling them the truth by demonstration, not just words. Pick an order you were going to give me anyway - I'm sure there's something, no matter how minor - and give it publically, not in private. I'd suggest you forgo your usual courtesy and omit the 'please', to make it quite clear that this is an order, not a request."

"I did not have anything particular in mind in the immediate future, but now I think of the possibilities, and how resources can best be used - yes. Not exactly latrine duty, but.... yes." Illig's slightly amused smile is probably a lot more worrying than Egil's evil grin.

Egil gives a resigned shrug, he's very much used to being in the shit. At least with his silence of the mind he won't notice what he's be ordered to do.

"'Not exactly latrine duty'", Kallyr repeats. "Sounds wonderful. Ah well, whatever it is, let's get it over with."

Illig regards her almost affectionately. "Yes, I had an idea that would be your preference. Let us go, then - and all of you, remember. Nothing spoken of in here is to be repeated to anyone outside this group. If anyone tries to insist, refer them to me."

"Do you want the Legion assembled sir?" Graylor asks. "Or is this to be an informal send off?"

"I rather think you will find the Legion is already assembled, with no formality, but possibly some elaborate pretence of disinterest by a few. Let us find out."

Back in daylight

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