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Hard Priorities

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Jainai stood, watching as the reinforcing legion entered her camp, early on October 4th.


A haughty looking figure approached her and Temek quickly.


“Janai. Temek”, Yatende Otane greeted them curtly.


“Princeps. My condolences”, Temek replied.


Janai hung her head. “I am sorry, Otane. I was not able to prevent her death.”


The Yatende Vocant looked about, studying the number of soldiers remaining under her command.


“It appears she was but one of many. It hurts, Janai. Seeing this. Knowing she had no chance or a fight worth speaking of”, the man’s voice shook, he was clearly on the verge of tears, “I’ve never felt this. Where is her body?”


“I apologise. We gave all our fallen the common passage”, Janai said, “There were so many dead, Otane. I… did not want to put up any airs to distort our grief with more politics than I had to.”


Otane looked at her, a wet gleam in his eyes. After a moment of his soul piercing, white stare, he nodded, slowly.


“I believe she would have appreciated your situation. While I do not agree with your actions, it is done and fighting about it won’t undo it. I had simply hoped to see her once more.”


Temek shifted uncomfortably, then said, “Princeps, she fell from great height. Sky is known for lithe structure and hollow bones. It is better to remember her as she lived, not how she ended.”


Otana scoffed. “I will have to take your word for it, won’t I?”, he wiped his eyes, resolving to deal with his grief in solitude, “We need to focus on our current situation. I have orders to reinforce your push into the Pentarchy. It seems as though there has been no progress on this.”


“There hasn’t. As I said in my letter, we are upholding an armistice with the humans.”


“An armistice they broke with devastating results on both sides. Reading it was odd. Hearing and seeing it is odder”, Otane said and Janai’s expression froze, “Two weeks ago, I would have pushed you aside and made my way across the Breach with no further consideration of your letter’s arguments. However, I’ve recently come to re-evaluate my view on humans. I’ve met a Katolin prince, escorting the Dragon Prince! Comrades! He’s alive!”


Janai opened her mouth to acknowledge all this, but excitement had overtaken Otane and his words spilled forth, “The human himself though - You will likely have issues believing me, but he is connected to my source. I taught him several low-level invocations that he grasped far quicker than any other student I’ve ever taught!”


“We had indeed heard they met you. How are they?”


“You know of them?! Pluck me, then! You’ll have to tell me more, I didn’t have the time to converse! Where and how did he find the prince? Such a story, comrades! Ah, but”, he sighed, “I have done a great evil to the human. One of my Tribunes imprisoned him, making false assumptions about him harming his elven companion. She treated him in a fashion that is beneath us. I intend to discipline her entire platoon once she catches up with us.”


“Princeps - was this Tribune’s name `Lessa under Iowend`?”, Temek asked, placing a hand on his cheek with bemused worry, “I do not see her with you. My summand’s last letter indicated her attachment to your legion.”


“It was indeed Lessa.”


“Oh, I think I’m beginning to see the full picture now. The `Rayla` Helmond mentioned must be the Dragon Guard’s brat. Lessa is very protective of our charges, especially her first one. She still talks about her. Took care of the little girl for years when she was a newborn. You know how they get with duty, these moon people!”, he scoffed with a laugh and a twinge of sadness, “Please tell me at least our current foster Honsa is with you.”


“No, she also stayed behind. The aforementioned imprisonment had some unfortunate effects on Prince Callum that she is looking to rectify. I will count this in your summand’s favour later, Legate.”


Temek’s mien sagged. He had really looked forward to seeing at least part of his family.


“Unfortunately our main contact on the human side had to turn inward. It looks like the man responsible for this massacre is attempting to sabotage King Ezran from the inside. We’ve found a replacement, but Queen Aanya is a bit of an unknown quantity, still. So far, she’s been an avid supporter of peace and even handed in her dealings. She was hoping to see you, in person”, Janai explained.


“It sounds like a good idea. I do not want to upset the delicate balance you seem to have set up. Unless something drastic develops, I don’t see a good reason to change our stance, even though the Senate commands it.”


“This is a dangerous game, friends.”, Temek said with a chortle, “We’ll all be court-martialed, no matter the outcome!”


“It is preferable to being responsible for the erasure of an entire species!”, Janai replied sternly, “Let’s keep in mind here that the standing order is essentially a thinly veiled instruction for genocide!”


“Believe me, comrades, when I say it is strange to hear the words spoken in my own voice, after all they’ve done”, Otane smiled grimly, giving him the appearance of a mad man, “I do not currently want to kill the pinkos.”


More evenly, he said, “Let’s then meet this person. Aanya, was it?”


“I’ll send for her, Princeps”, Temek said and walked off.


When he was out of earshot, Otane said, “Janai. We can’t do this for long. I passed the senate at Larwein. They are already wondering about news of battle. There are those among the ranking staff who would never change their minds on this situation and they are doubtlessly on the move. We must find some way to finish this peacefully, and quickly.”


Jainai pondered this, then said, “It would surprise me if they didn’t already know what’s going on here. My warlike regent knows, having bloodied his head against the humans’ fortifications. His Interpreters are likely to pass the information along.”


Otane growled with frustration.


“We shall then wait for their inevitable response.”