“A point that is valid, you may have,” Entrik said. “The truth that is undeniable, however, is that our affair, war is not.”
“My good, Sir,” Sadow’s hollow voice echoed. “Matters of warfare concern us all. There are issues of alliances, trade agreements and many other factors. All of our peoples are connected through complex political arrangements. Even more importantly, we’re connected by the fact that we’re all sentient beings.”
Hearing someone like Sadow spew that completely insincere idealistic rhetoric actually knocked me a bit sick. I didn’t say anything, though.
“Part of being sentient is coming into conflict,” Solan stated. “That has always been the way of this world. Only the draconians took all measures to rebel against that truth, and they are no more.”
He wasn’t quite correct, I knew. Not that I could tell them that. The draconians had always managed to avoid wars and major conflicts, though. Which made Sadow’s slaughter of them all the more heinous and baffling. Why attack a bunch of people who are virtually guaranteed to never harm you?
“I respect your opinion, Sadow,” Pran said. “But we must approach this rationally. Alliances are irrelevant, unless the elves or trolls choose to make them a part of the situation. Trade agreements may be suspended, but the long term effects on them will most likely be insubstantial.”
“What of the connections between peoples?” Sadow asked. “Can we justify ignoring them?”
I almost vomited in my mouth, hearing him of all people say that.
“You are over-stating the extent to which all peoples are connected,” Pran said. “It does not please me to say so, but it is the truth. As Solan has said, wars happen frequently. Only rarely do they have a significant impact on those not involved. It would be highly illogical for us to become involved in every war that takes place.”
“This is a special case,” Sadow argued. “Larick is involved.”
“This whole thing is nonsense,” Squen said. “When Hecate made us Magi she asked us to provide council to other races when asked, and to leave them alone otherwise, unless the situation was severe enough to need us. A war between elves and trolls is hardly important enough to warrant our interference.”
“Involvement, Larick is entitled to,” Entrick said. “The people who are his, involved are.”
I sat quietly. The Magi hardly paid attention to me and never stopped to ask for my perspective. They were more interested in their argument. I might as well have been completely absent. Still, their argument did concern mother and listening was one of the duties she’d left me with. So, I sat and listened.
Lan walked into the elven council chamber. There was a circular table with seven chairs. Six of them were occupied by the elven elders, advisers to the Royal One. The last chair, traditionally reserved for the reigning monarch, was empty.
A white-haired woman stood up. “You may approach the council table, Lan Elfblood.”
Lan bowed. “Thank you, Lori Bloodoak.” He strode forward, stopping when he reached the edge of the table. He stood there with his hands behind his back.
“The deaths of your father and brothers have saddened the entire kingdom,” she said. “Unfortunately, there is no time to mourn. The trolls are marching. Soon we will be in a war. With the Magi fighting against us, it will be a most difficult situation. Perhaps even the most dire we’ve ever faced.”
She stopped speaking for a moment. Lan bowed his head. “The council has reviewed your qualifications,” she continued. “We have determined that you are worthy of taking the mantle of the Royal One.”
“I thank you for the kind words,” Lan said. “But I have not been prepared for this. Wouldn’t it be better for the people if the council maintained control?”
Lori shook her head. “In this difficult time the people don’t need a council. They need a head, someone who they can rally behind. You are the only one suited for this role. The people love you and will follow you during this difficult time.” She walked over to him and knelt. “You can ask for our advice at any time. So please, accept this position.”
Lan stood in silence for a moment. The six wizened faces scrutinized him. “Very well,” Lan agreed. “If it’s for my people… for my family’s legacy and future… I will bear, not just the circlet and the robes, but the weight of our nation as well.”
“I must hurry,” Michael said. He slung his bag over his shoulder and fixed his hood. I was still annoyed at him for what he had said to me. It was unfair, I knew that. He hadn’t meant any offence, he was just being honest. Still, I couldn’t help but feel insulted. It was going to be difficult to stay mad, though. For all his rough mannerisms, he was very pretty and had a habit of looking at things with the most innocent of expressions on his face.
“Why are you in such a hurry?” I asked.
He looked at me with his slitted gecko eyes. “Initially, I had not expected pursuit once I had gone this far, but the fact that you are with me makes those expectations invalid.”
I was starting to get angry again. “What do you mean by that?”
“Simply that, while it might be too great of a burden to search for a single escaped criminal, especially during a time of political turmoil, no effort will be considered too exerting when a royal daughter is missing.”
He said it so candidly. It was as though he was making an observation about the weather. For some reason, that annoyed me even more. How could anyone be so unintentionally tactless? Did he just not know anything of proper decorum?
“Well then, let’s get a move on,” I said. I took up a position slightly ahead of him and we set out for the border.