Far to the east, news of recent events made their way across the continent sometime after the death of Fidel.
A young man in his twenties stood before a figure of most imposing authority. As the young man knelt before the Head Lord, the Head told him of Fidel’s passing.
“That… is that really true, Lord?” asked the man.
“That thorn is gone. Now, now is the time to move. Receive the order!” The Head’s long gray beard shook as he spoke. He was dressed in black and purple, and wore a jade crown accented with gold.
“Yes Lord,” the young man replied. He bowed low and looked at the marble ground beneath him.
“You shall take a take a group of your own choosing and journey to Rising. Go to their capital city, and deliver the letter. You will be promoted another rank and serve as a special envoy. Be as discreet as possible, until you meet the letter’s recipient. Have him read the contents. Follow what it says from there. And then come back, for we will have many preparations,” said the Head.
“Yes Lord, I understand and will obey. Your wisdom is great, it will succeed,” said the young man.
“And Gardos, know that my expectations are to be met. This is a simple order, but still something representing me. If you handle it well, greater ones will come. Don’t disappoint me.”
“Yes Lord. I’m but your humble servant, and am overawed that you have chosen a young and unqualified man such as myself,” Gardos said.
“Go now, I’ll send for you again within the month with ready orders,” the Head said.
“A month, Lord?”
“No rush is needed. After all, Fidel just died. And the supposed heir is purportedly a toddler. Even if that’s true, it won’t matter. That heretical nation’s tyrant is gone. Our people have taken their places already. We can work slowly without straining our other campaigns. The only thorn I worried about is gone,” the Head said.
“Lord, rest assured that none have any power, all heretics are dust to our holy country. Your plans are perfect; I shall wait until I am called on. I shall begin preparations to make the trip as soon as you wish me to. Though I’ll be gone many months, I will return with glad tidings,” Gardos said. The Head gave a nod, and Gardos left his presence.
The room’s guards re-entered upon Gardos’ departure, leaving the Head Lord of Grip to his thoughts. Grip, also known as the Holy Human Republic, was the major nation in the east. Welnic, the Head Lord, sat in his gold and silk chair, contemplating Gardos’ attitude. He was feeling pleased, as he had just heard some of the best news in his life.
“That Gardos will serve me well. But he has a glib tongue. If he succeeds in Rising, that’ll be good. If he fails and gets killed, I don’t have to care; he is just fodder,” Welnic thought.
Jane Melonscone simply nodded.
“Is that really all? Just that, mother?” Ruby asked.
“What more do you need to know?” Jane asked curtly. She and Ruby sat in one of the various rooms discussing a request Ruby had made a while ago. It was a summer evening, and the several lights around the room highlighted the mother and her daughter. One wore green and gold, and the younger wore red and silver. Both were silk and cool to wear in the warming climate, though still distinguished and fashionable.
“But he’s not a simple soldier! Nor the regular army commander! Why would the commander of the royal guards be assigned outside the city, even to address a threat?” Ruby asked, upset but careful in her tone.
“Ruby, though that’s sometimes the case, this isn’t such a simple matter, not when Grip is involved. Truthfully, I wasn’t even aware of his whereabouts until just earlier. I can understand now, as I know of the threat they possess. Now, I hope there is nothing more.”
“I want to see him,” Ruby said. She stared at Jane hard with the willful look that Jane despised.
“Ridiculous,” Jane replied. She held up an empty teacup, which an older human manservant from behind took. Behind Ruby’s seat Shiroi stood, silently watching. “He won’t be back anytime soon.”
“No, I want to go personally and see for myself,” Ruby said. Jane turned her head a bit to look directly at Ruby and glared.
“Don’t try me. You haven’t that much liberty. Nor would risking a journey out of Rising be acceptable. Stay here, that’s all you can do.”
“There’s no risk if I have others. And, it’s not independence I need. It’s a valid reason that I can present to you in exchange,” Ruby said. “De’un.”
“What of him?”
“His territory is near the southern border. Allow me to go on the condition of seeing Marquis De’un as well. I’ve heard you mention him more often, let me go as your representative and strike a deal with him. Grant me this freedom, once,” Ruby said with a smile.
“I do have an idea or two in mind regarding him, and he doesn’t engage in business with others often. Still, there is no guarantee, and you still wouldn’t be safe,” Jane said. But the smile creeping across her face showed her change of thought. Valuable as Ruby had become, Jane still viewed her as both an asset and a liability, and someone whose potential gains always seemed worth the risks. In addition, the thought of granting Ruby a small bit more freedom and responsibility was acceptable, though Jane didn’t know why.
Jane thought for a moment longer, while Ruby remained silent. Jane thought of the facts she knew. The person that Ruby wanted to see, Darius, was stationed near the southern border in preparation for news of Grip’s movements. But, as far as Jane knew, there were no definite reports as to whether Grip was moving or not, especially so far west. Last she knew Grip had control of its neighbors, but its threat was still a great distance off, the distance measured in thousands instead of hundreds, and the time measured in months rather than weeks, across the known continent. She concluded that they posed no real risk at that time.
Jane then thought of De’un and the reports of his land. There were plenty of trade items and revenue in his lands, many of which would add a nice boost to Jane’s wealth if properly traded. And the potential for future business opens itself once initial business had been established. The temptation was too strong for Jane once the plans started running through her head.
“On one more condition,” Jane said.
“Be discreet. Don’t take many people with you. I don’t want the others hearing about this ahead of time. Even still, I’m worried. How will you fend for yourself? How many people can you rely on? I certainly don’t trust the paid servants; once they leave the city, they are no better than ruffians are. On second thought…”
“I have a few people in mind already, they will be discreet and protective as well. Besides, you already know Shiroi and I can take care of ourselves. I’ve proved that before. That was much more dangerous! Yet I came back. And, not only that, but I know someone who gets along with De’un much better than I. They can help!”
As strangely as the situation played out, Jane ended up giving in. She couldn’t help but question why she was giving in to Ruby, especially when Jane ruled with an unyielding hand. But she felt like it was the right choice to give Ruby an ounce of freedom, even if she was somewhat motivated by greed. One thing that Jane overlooked was who Ruby would take on the rather long trip. Of course, being a person of status with guards near her at all times, having protection was something Jane took for granted, and she assumed that Ruby would choose appropriate guards as well. It was only a logical assumption for Jane. It was wrong.