I have no idea if we’re making good progress or not. We also don’t know where the God-Empress’s army went after leaving Hasskian. Our scouts say it looks like she turned east, which fills me with dread; suppose she decided to go to Colosse instead of Venetry? It’s already chaos out there, and her army might be able to plow through the countryside and take Colosse unawares. If we have to chase her eastward…I don’t know what that would mean, strategy-wise, but assuming Aselfos managed to solidify his claim to the throne of Castavir and controls the army, I can’t imagine he’d be happy to see the Balaenic army thundering down on Colosse behind the God-Empress. He might even think we’re her allies.
It’s been snowing all day and everyone is miserable. You’d think riding in a wagon would at least be better than walking, but we all get cold because we’re not moving, and the wagon has no roof. Paddrek had the idea of spreading a thin layer of fire to cover our heads, melting the snow before it reaches us, and we’ve been taking turns maintaining it, but it creates this fine mist so we’re all damp and cold. Better than being soaked by snow melting on our hats and coats.
Mattiak talked enthusiastically about strategy at dinner tonight, and I nodded and tried to keep up with him. Eventually he figured out that I wasn’t fully committed to the conversation, laughed self-consciously, and said, “Sorry. I sometimes get carried away.”
“I don’t mind,” I said. “I understand something of the individual units’ roles, I just don’t see how it all fits together.”
“You have other skills,” Mattiak said, “and what really matters is that you understand how the mages’ pouvrin can be used in this fight.”
“I don’t know how I feel about that,” I said, and told him what I’d been thinking about the flitting pouvra (which is very hard to use in a snowstorm) and magic as a weapon, and how uneasy it made me. “I see the necessity, because the invaders want us dead, but I don’t like it,” I concluded.
“Nobody sane seeks out war as the first option,” Mattiak said. “I hope I don’t seem callous in my enthusiasm for planning strategy. Sometimes we lose track of the fact that these marks on the map represent men, and that the strategy is meant to kill them. But I’ve seen too many soldiers fall to ever completely forget that the purpose of war is achieved through death.” He took my hand and squeezed it briefly. “I don’t think you’re a killer, Sesskia.”
That reminded me of the bandit mage, and I couldn’t help shuddering. “I hope you’re right,” I said, but now that I’m back in my tent I can’t help wondering if assassinating the God-Empress might be the best use of my talents. I could get close enough, though I might not be able to get back out—so would I be willing to sacrifice my life and my soul to end this conflict?
I can’t. I just can’t. I know what I wrote earlier, about if I had to use those pouvrin to protect the people I love, I’d do it, but I just can’t. I’m weak and selfish and I’ve been trying to comfort myself by saying that the God-Empress has generals who won’t abandon their course of action just because she’s dead; if Aselfos was interested in becoming Emperor, I can’t imagine there aren’t more high-ranking officials who’ve thought the same thing. So killing her wouldn’t solve anything.
I’m going to lie down and try to calm myself while waiting for Nessan to come. A good challenge is exactly what I need right now.