I sat in my office, nursing a headache. The Magi were widely revered as wise men, but I was starting to think that it was an undeserved reputation. They were more like children arguing in circles than adults debating.
A knock interrupted my thoughts. “Who is it?” I asked.
“Bastian,” was the response.
“You can come in, Professor,” I said. I heard the door creak open and the incessant tapping of his staff against the floor. Normally, it was a welcome sound, but I didn’t need it right now.
“I see that the meetings are troubling you,” he observed. “Just like I was told. Here, I brought you some medicine.”
I held the glass in my hand. It was warm. There was something odd about its scent… “What is it?”
“It’s a headache remedy,” Professor Mord answered. “Sadow was worried about you so he asked me to bring it to you.”
I tried to look natural. I suppressed the desire to immediately drop the glass and kept my hands from shaking. “Thank you,” I said. “If you’ll excuse me I have a lot of work to do.”
“No problem. I hope that you feel better soon,” I heard the tapping get farther away. The door opened and quickly closed. I walked to the office window where Drake was napping.
“I’m sorry for disturbing you,” I told him. I opened the window and poured the liquid out, letting it drain into the grass. Drake flew to my shoulder and nuzzled my face. He always knew just how to calm me.
“This council of war is called to a session,” the troll king said. “Larick, as my new adviser you’ll need to be familiar with my four Generals.”
The king pointed to a troll with dark green skin and short grey hair. “This is Selene Nol. She’s a veteran of many battles and she has great prowess, especially with a bow. No one else in my land can shoot farther or more accurately than her.”
“You can’t underestimate a lifetime of experience,” Larick said. “I’m certain that your abilities will be highly useful.” She smiled and nodded at him.
The troll king indicated a very tall bearded troll who was carrying a pike. “This is Garet Brun. Many of my people know him as a warrior without equal.”
“It is a pleasure to meet a warrior of such renown,” Larick said.
“I don’t fully trust you,” Garet said. “Just so you know, I will scatter all of my lord’s enemies with my blade. If you turn out to be one of them I will show you no mercy.”
“Garet!” the king cried. “I’m sorry about that, Larick.”
“There is no reason to be concerned,” Larick said. “His loyalty is commendable.”
The king indicated a stocky troll who was holding a large jug. She had an axe strapped across her back. “This is Zelma Fan, she drinks a lot, but her physical strength is beyond anything I’ve ever seen.”
“I look forward to seeing your strength on the battlefield,” Larick said.
Zelma took a chug, leaving some liquid around her mouth. “And I look forward to seeing your abilities. I’m told you have quite powerful magic.”
The troll king indicated a young troll with long black hair tied into a ponytail. He had a spear at his side. “This is Joseph Pinbol. He’s young, but highly skilled.”
“I see a fascinating future ahead of you,” Larick said. “It will be interesting to see its events begin to unfold.”
“I thank you for your kind words,” Joseph said.
“Larick,” the king said. “I would like you to take another role. The role of my army’s strategist and fifth General.”
“I foresaw this proposal,” Larick stated. “I will accept the appointment. Under my plans, your army will chase their enemies back to their inner city and surround them. They will become desperate. Within a couple weeks of that moment, the war will end.”
“How much longer do you intend to follow me?” I had noted with some concern that Lynai seemed to be forming an attachment to me. I had already made an error in forming one friendship. I did not need, or desire, another.
We were rapidly making progress toward Wicadia. Sadow was likely to take the most direct route from Wicadia to Strecner. He had no reason to suspect an attack. I had calculated the ideal point from which to launch my assault against him. The only task that remained before reaching that point was to extricate myself from Lynai.
“I’ve only been out of Het Wald a few times, and I was always closely watched during those occasions. I never had the freedom to look around and see the world. That’s why I’m travelling with you. I think that I’ll be able to see quite a bit that way,” Lynai explained.
“Would it not be more conducive to freedom if you were unencumbered by a travelling companion?”
“Don’t worry about that,” Lynai said. “I don’t really have anywhere to go, so I might as well keep you company.”
So that was her line of reasoning. She considered her actions altruistic. Somehow, she had come under the impression that I was in need of company and she had decided to provide it for me. It caused me to reflect on some words from James Fingol. He once said “The most dangerous people are those who consider themselves to be intervening on behalf of your best interests.”