6. An Allied Beginning
“You would help me?” She stared at him, blinking with disbelief.
“To stop this corner from unraveling? Yes. Without hesitation,” he replied, so sincere that Gabby felt tears prickle at her eyes. “This plan of yours is a good one.”
She hadn’t been able to share her plan with anyone for fear of her father’s spies, and now Dorgand was an ally to it after only a few minutes of conversation. And he was her cousin. And… blink twice if Lydo’s father murdered my mother; she blinked twice, enough to push back the threatening tears. Now was not the time for emotions, but explanations… Her focus narrowed and she rose to her feet. Lydo smiled, as if reading her thoughts. Maybe he was reading her thoughts. She wasn’t guarding her expression, so what she was thinking had to be showing on her face pretty clear.
“First, let’s stop this corner from unraveling in under two weeks. After that, I’ll answer whatever questions of yours I can, swear and seal,” he promised. The air sizzled in front of him. A seal matching that on Lydo’s chest hovered like a heat mirage half way between them. It was the same as the watery memory of her mother’s vow, except this was an image made of wildfire sparks and storm lightning. He chuckled at the shocked expression on her face when the mirage popped out of existence. “It’s a sorcerer’s promise. We take those kinds of oaths seriously, so you’ll need to be careful who you make promises to now that you know you’re one of the Magiks.”
“But I’m not, I’m –”
“About to port an entire siege army into enemy territory to stop a war before it starts,” he interrupted, still smiling. “You’re a sorcerer. And once you do this, they’ll know too,” he said, pointing at the stack of Wrote parchments. “We’re both going to have a lot of explaining to do once they call on you. And they will call on you after you do what you’re planning to.”
“Oh,” she said, not sure what else to say. What else was there to say?
“All right. So, I’ll eliminate whatever assassin or assassins are after you, then come and pick up the message you want to send to your brother in, say, three or four days. Once we have his agreement, you’ll be clear to port in for the siege. Sound about right?”
“Perfect! I knew it was the right idea to bring you here.”
“Wait!” She held up both hands in a stopping gesture. “You expect people to believe the immortal Dorgand is doing my bidding and delivering messages for me?”
“Well… oh.” His brows furrowed together as he realized the flaw in his logic. “Actually, once you’ve ported an entire army across the distance of a two-week march, it will become a lot more believable that I’m working for you,” he reasoned. “Actually, we can spread some rumors that we’re working together for the good of the people. All the people. I mean, it’ll be fine. It's the truth, after all.”
“That – I can’t believe I’m saying it – but telling the truth might work to explain things after.”
“See? It’s perfect!” He beamed a smile at her and nodded to himself. “So, are you able to port out from here or do we have to go back up to the tower?”
“Um…” The chair crept closer behind her legs as she rocked back on her heels. “I’m free to just… go?”
“You’re going to have to if any of this is going to work. I don’t have porting power, I’m just lightning and fire and air pressure. Sky stuff. Using the tower is how I summoned you.”
Gabby pulled together a couple threads of thought and felt the familiar slip feeling inside her gut that accompanied a tugging for wanting to get to her tent. “I can port from here,” she said, truly surprised at the finding. And at how far away she was from the camp right now.
“All right. Well, I guess I’ll see you in a few days, then.” He smiled awkwardly. “And, um, thank you. For stopping this corner of the world from unraveling.”
“I haven’t stopped anything yet.”
“I know, but… we’ve still got two weeks, right?” He held up one hand in a friendly wave. “Bye.”
Gabrhyne barely concentrated and still easily arrived safely in her tent. She sat heavily on her bed with a sigh and rubbed her hands over her face. It sounded like everyone was yelling and at least half the camp was running around.
“I’m here!” she called. A few confused shouts that she’d been found started and seconds later the flap to her tent was shoved aside for Daratno and Natta to stride in. “I’m fine!” She spoke over top of the questions they immediately peppered her with, standing up to meet them half way to the entrance. “I’m fine,” she repeated in a normal speaking tone once they were quiet.
Daratno was still carrying her sword. Without another word, he snapped her into a hug so tight that the pommel dug into her shoulder blade, its angry vibration of being dropped and abandoned making her teeth ache on top of the rib-crushing grip Daratno had on her.
“What happened?” Natta asked when the one-sided hug ended as suddenly as it had begun.
“A lot,” Gabby replied. She settled a hand onto Daratno’s arm before he could retreat more than a step away and smiled at him. “Most I have to think about alone, but I need you two to get everyone ready to move in a few days’ time. I know I’ve been saying weeks, but we don’t have those anymore.” Both of her commanders frowned sharply, they already didn’t like being unaware of what she was planning and having her changing the lack of plans immediately after disappearing like she had was something they liked even less.
“Where are we moving to?” Natta asked. It had been his most often voiced question since she’d ordered the army gathered.
“And why so sudden of a change from weeks to days?” Daratno demanded. “You still haven’t even told us your initial plan, and now the weeks you’ve been assuring us about are suddenly gone? What happened? And where – ?”
“I’ll explain, but not right now. I really need time to think. I'm asking you now for a few more days of trust instead of a few weeks, isn’t that better?”
They both glared at her, but eventually nodded grudging agreement.
“It feels like a big change, I know, but I think it’ll be good. For everyone.”
Whoops! It's 12:13 am now, so technically Sunday and I'm late getting this done.
Let's see... updates... Not much. Hubby is working nights six days a week, so we communicate by grocery list. He's still our designated Leave The House Guy for groceries and supplies, which he does Sunday morning before going to bed for the day because it's easier for him to head out after having dinner than it is for me to load up the kids and attempt shopp- DON'T TOUCH THAT -ing.
My oldest is a night owl and had worked her sleep schedule around to line up with her dad's working sleep schedule. So, I guess she's a vampire now? But a fancy vampire, because fashion, so that would make her a vampyre.
I convinced her to start working back toward sleeping at night as there's only 4 weeks until school starts and our Provincial Premier made the call that schools will reopen as normal... I'm not looking forward to the enforced schedule of early mornings.
Oh, and there's that pandemic thing still happening. I'm pretty angry about forcing teachers and students into classrooms with zero support, after cuts to staffing and custodial services this summer, while a virus with known deadly consequences and unknown long-term effects and which aerosols in enclosed buildings remains prominent in our province, at a time when our "leadership" is fighting with doctors and attempting to force them out of the province.
The mandatory mask order is great, but I doubt my soon-to-be Grade 1 student will be in a class of high compliance 6-year-olds. I can get her to wear hers, I think (face it: kids at school are not the same personalities as kids at home), but I'm not in charge of other people's kids and our classrooms are overcrowded. It's a sad feeling to wonder if my child's teacher will die this year, or if my kids will have to live with life-long lung and/or brain damage. Or if my kids will have to live on without one or both parents. Especially, it's a sad feeling that all the talk and surveys around safe reopening which happened at the end of June resulted in the method "leadership" chose being None Of The Above.
Needless to say, my anxiety has been a larger-than-usual monster eating my brain. Couple that up with the ongoing ouch in my hands / wrists, and it was a surprise of dumbfounding proportions that I got some writing done on Friday. Small scenes, all in my big manuscript, but it was writing and it felt good. It still feels good! There's more that needs to get out of my head and into my computer, but the small step of getting some of the words out was awesome. Hope you're staying safe and healthy this weekend!
5. Moving Pieces
A chair she hadn’t noticed spun out from the wall in a puff of dust and slammed to a stop just behind Lydo, catching him perfectly as his legs faltered. He slumped into it as if furniture racing to assist people was entirely normal.
“Your father is still alive?” he asked, voice trembling and his face flushing as if he’d been taken with a sudden fever.
Gabby swallowed hard, suddenly remembering very well the stories of consequences doled out in retaliation for unsettling sorcerers, and nodded agreement. Lydo buried his face in his hands and rocked full body, the chair creaking under his shifting weight.
“This is bad. This is so bad,” he intoned as a mutter before slouching back dramatically. “My dad was imprisoned when they found out he hadn’t stayed to ensure you were dead. But your dad still being alive…? And they didn’t know? This is so much worse.” He stood from the chair and started pacing. “Wait,” he said, stopping and spinning to face Gabby. “And you have a younger half-brother?”
“Gabrick, yes,” she answered quietly.
He groaned loudly and the chair scooted half the distance toward him. It stopped when he resumed pacing. “What am I going to do? Wait, though, why didn’t they know?” He asked the second question toward Gabby, as if she would knew the answer. “That doesn’t make any sense.”
“Who are ‘they’?” Gabby asked carefully.
“The ones who write the Wrote. They’re the ones who know,” he said, as if that explained anything.
“Except you just said they didn’t know.”
“I know! It doesn’t make sense, does it. They should have known, but they didn’t. How could they not know, though?” He spun back into pacing. “Well, now I know, but that means there are actually three untied endings not just you.”
“I suppose, except…”
“Except?” he asked hopefully, half the library away and pausing to stare at her as if she might have an answer after all.
Gabby chose her words with utmost caution. “My father has taken ill in his old age, and is right now attempting to incite war between my brother and I.” She tapped a finger to the second line of the Wrote.
“But your family trait is porting. Why incite war when he could just port in, kill some key people, and start one?”
Her father’s earlier visit tonight raced through her mind. “He enjoys the power of creating the war rather than being the cause of it,” she replied.
“What’s the point of creating a war between his own children, though? Especially with his own lands and people positioned right in the middle of where the conflict would occur?”
“He’s dying, and wants proof through victory that is successor will be a strong Liege.”
“Oh. But by pitting his own children against each other and with so many lands and tribes in the middle of it? That’s… vile.” Lydo frowned at the internal dialogue running through his mind. “You’ve of course ported to your brother and discussed this war idea amicably to ensure it doesn’t happen though, right?”
“No,” she admitted. “We signed an agreement when he came to power over his mother’s people that we would never port to each other. Our father uses porting as a –” she paused, hesitating over how to continue.
“He abuses porting, and you two agreed not to do that to each other so you could build trust,” Lydo interrupted.
“Yes.” Gabby nodded, relieved she didn't have to explain after all.
“So, you’re the Liege of your mother’s people, and your brother is the Liege of his mother’s people, so aside from your father’s instigations what is there to even start a war for?”
“My father’s holdings.”
Lydo scoffed. “Those are barely worth a brawl,” he muttered.
“Yes,” she said. “Which is why I’m not engaging in the war,” she continued. Lydo’s eyes narrowed but he remained silent. Gabby lost the silent battle against telling him the plan she hadn’t even yet shared with her commanders. “My brother’s people have a negligible military. I’ve amassed an army for the purpose of occupying my father’s lands and lying siege on his capital until he dies. It will stop him from invading my lands under the guise of offering my brother support, and prevent him from invading my brother’s lands under the guise of supporting me.”
“What if he doesn’t die quickly? Or his own military slows or stops your advance? This plan of yours could create a lot of unnecessary bloodshed among your father’s people and your own, beyond just marching there and establishing a siege.”
Gabby shifted uneasily and stared at the parchment page she was fidgeting with.
“No way,” Lydo said, his tone slightly awed. “Do you have that much power?”
She shrugged one shoulder and then nodded to the positive. "I practiced with our fleet of fishing ships," she said, still not looking up.
“What about your brother? Can he… no, of course not. You having that kind of strength, it must have come from your mother’s side. From…”
Gabby lifted her eyes in silent question, watching him as he decided whether or not to continue.
“From our side,” he said. “Your mother was my father’s cousin. She must have had dormant power, or the marriage never would have been arranged. My dad must have suspected, or else he wouldn’t have tried to stop the wedding.”
A chair slammed to a stop behind her legs and Gabby dropped into it as if she’d just been punched. The memory of her mother’s family crest wavering between Lashiss and the elder Dorgand that night after her mother had vowed to leave and hide away with Gabby, she’d thought she’d imagined it. But, if her mother did have sorcerer magic, and really was one of the legendary Magiks…? Gabby’s thoughts dissolved into chaos.
Lydo regained her attention by clearing his throat politely. “Do you… do you really think your plan will work? Can you hold the siege against the capital for long enough?”
She tried to pull her exploded focus about her mother back into control and regain enough order in her mind to answer the questions he’d just asked. “Holding the capitol? Yes. As long as I can get trustworthy word to Rick, to my brother, so he knows what I’m doing and why before my father’s assassin gets to me. After my father is dead, Rick and I can decide how to deal with his holdings once we’ve spoken to all his tribal leaders, Generals and advisors. We can arrange peace negotiations between all three holdings after those lands have a Liege,” she answered woodenly.
“When were you going to make your move?”
“I expected to move in three weeks. I need to be certain of getting word to and from my brother.”
Lydo tapped his foot, lightning sparking around his toe, and then he began to pace again. “What if I deal with the assassin and then take word to your brother? It would only take me a few days at most, working around all those ‘Dorgand is walking’ tales and rumors,” he said, making his voice mockingly booming for the ‘Dorgand is walking’ part. “Nobody would argue with a sorcerer’s message delivery being trustworthy,” he added with a wry smile.
A blog with quick updates about me, as in what's going on during my life as an Author and mom, and where I can vent my short stories weekly for everyone to read for free!