20 Coloine, very late (continued)
Jeddan came to stand next to me, thankfully not saying anything inane like “are you all right?” and held my shoulders so I didn’t fall down. I vomited until I was wrung out and empty, then I wiped my mouth and stood up straight. None of the villagers would meet my eye. That’s small comfort.
I walked away down the street so I wouldn’t have to see more killings. Jeddan followed me, still silent. He’s very good at quiet, which makes him a comfortable companion. I think we might become friends, even. At some point, I stopped, and looked into one of the shop windows, though I don’t remember what I saw there, and then I said, “Let’s go,” and we walked away from Erael without looking back.
We had to dodge Jeddan’s village on the way north, and I asked him if he wanted to get anything, and he said no, so we just kept going. Around sunset we stopped and made a fire; it’s starting to get cold at night, and I wish we’d thought to equip ourselves for sleeping outside, but not enough to go back. We ate, and then I started writing, and Jeddan asked about the book and was satisfied with the brief answer I gave him, which is that it’s a record of my journeys. Eventually he fell asleep, but it’s been another hour or so since then and I’m still not done.
The truth is that I’ve been thinking about the God-Empress, and Calassmir, and the army, the whole time we’ve walked today. Calassmir does have an army detachment there, because it’s only another fifty miles to the southern border of Balaen and there’s always been a lot of bandit activity down that way, what with the trade caravans traveling from the jungles where they harvest medicinal plants. But I don’t think it’s very big. If the God-Empress came on them unawares (and why wouldn’t she) they might not be able to put up much of a fight. And, as I wrote, capturing Calassmir puts her in a position to drive deeper into the heart of the combined countries.
The southern trunk route leads to Garwin, where the Myrnala branches south and west, and the Royal Road is named that because it goes all the way north to Venetry, the capital city. Either highway would put her in a position to conquer more Balaenic cities, and I have no doubt her ultimate goal is to rule the new world.
I just don’t know what to do. Time for a list:
- I could warn whatever city is her next target. Both Garwin and…actually, I guess Hasskian would be the next city north of Calassmir…anyway, they’re both defensible and have military presences.
- I don’t know what her next target is. If I guess wrong, it would be catastrophic.
- I could just keep going to Colosse. Those cities are defensible and they probably don’t need my warning.
3a. i.e. I could take the cowardly, selfish way out.
- I could find out what her next target is and warn them.
1 and its corollary 2 aren’t very sensible options. If I guess wrong, I’d be wasting my time in addition to risking catastrophe. And much as I just want to run to Colosse as fast as I can, I’d hate myself for taking option 3.
But 4…I’d have to sneak into the God-Empress’s camp, and hope to find some kind of drawing or plan because I can’t read Castaviran, damn it, and that’s incredibly dangerous even with the pouvrin. And I certainly can’t ask Jeddan to risk his life over this, so I’d be doing it alone. And even if I did succeed in learning the God-Empress’s plan, I’d still have to find a way to convince whatever city she’s attacking next that they’re in danger from someone they’ve never heard of, at the head of an army they’ve never seen.
So that’s settled. I’m going west to Calassmir. And I’m hoping the God-Empress’s army isn’t so enormous that they’ll have taken the city before I get there.