Tyrannos stood at the center of Sudia. Niobe had picked the city as the intended meeting place of all who were to be there. She would leave her general in command of Yndarr for the short time she would be gone. She would only take a small contingent of her personal guard to see to her safety on the road to the meeting.
With the Guilds in tow, she doubted there would be much danger. Still, not everyone were privy to the Guilds and there were so many highwaymen who cared little who was in a caravan. With the White Ring gone and the city of prophets gone as well, there was no truly benevolent group to look to for protection except the Orders she had reached out to that were part of the Dark Ring.
But Olgath, the Master of the Ring, could not be trusted. He had even turned against his own. Niobe knew this. Though many among the Ring could be trusted, few trusted their leader. After all, the Master’s son was the leader of that horrid organization known as the Inquisition. and everyone knew he was evil.
She now stood at her chamber window. She had to have a suit of armor. It had to be non-descript. She wanted to travel incognito. She wanted no one to know that she had left the city.
“Lydania,” she began, “Go find the nearest guard and have him deliver this message to General Khardym.” She handed the handmaiden a sealed scroll she had prepared a few minutes earlier.
The young lady nodded and took the scroll, leaving to do as her mistress had bid her. Niobe stood and watched the girl leave. She knew that if no one knew she was leaving or was among those leaving, there would be no chance to retaliate for the banishment of the lotus smugglers.
By now, many of those she had banished had already made their way to the capitol and had aired their grievances to Kyrzhad, which would have made him angry enough to possibly forget his promises to her. This alone made it of greater importance for her to leave secretly and be at the meeting in Tyrannos. She had to be prepared for the war that would be coming.
Beyond the chambers, young Lydania had found Corranos, the guard for the night, and had delivered the scroll and the instructions to deliver it to Khardym. Corranos nodded and took the scroll. His fellow guard, Nuarhym, nodded a quiet affirmation that he would cover and Corranos took his leave. Lydania watched him go.
After he had disappeared, Lydania scurried back to her mistress’s chambers. She had fulfilled her duty. Her mistress would be generous tonight. Perhaps she would allow Lydania to return home to her lover, Grynna. Lydania’s head drooped. How she missed her. Grynna was so lovely.
No time to think of love. She had to report to her mistress. Only through making Niobe happy could she hope to be rewarded. There was no other way.
Somewhere below, on the lower level of the palace, Corranos made his way to the door and beyond. He knew he would be in for a reprimand, but when the governess asked that a message be delivered it was far better to face the wrath of General Khardym than the scorn of Governess Niobe. With Khardym, he would only face lashes, whereas defying the governess could get him executed.
Khardym climbed the stairs toward Niobe’s room. She had called him to her side for some unknown reason. She had not yet begun her journey to Tyrannos, but he had already begun performing lordly duties. She had relinquished duties to him early to see how well he would do. He had not disappointed.
As he climbed the stairs, he lost himself in thought. By the Gods, but he loved her! Maybe it was the grief and relief talking, knowing that his wife and daughter were already dead, but he had begun to feel something for his Governess and commander. She was so beautiful and unlike the person she’d been in the capitol.
He knew that it had been the lotus that had influenced her while she was in the capitol. By Harakte, all the nobilis were addicted to it. She had used it to forget what her brother had done to her…what he had continued to do to her while she was there, even after she married that little prick named Hadrax. All the generals knew that Hadrax only wanted one thing. To be emperor.
Khardym shook his head to clear away those thoughts. She was his superior. He had no right to feel that way toward her. he snapped out of his thoughts as he came to the door of her chambers. As he raised his fist to knock upon the door, it opened and the chamber maid ushered him inside.
“Thank you, Lydania,” Niobe’s sweet alto voice sang out from the veiled bed, “you may have the rest of the night for your pleasure.”
“Oh thank you, Milady!” Lydania curtsied, then left.
“Dear General Khardym,” The governess began, “I can tell you are wondering why I asked you here. Are we questioning our loyalties?” She smiled and winked, rising from the bed where she had been sitting. “Do not worry, General. Your honor will remain intact tonight.”
“Milady?” he inquired.
“I called you here to ask a favor,” she returned, smiling, “I need a suit of armor, preferably similar to that worn by your men. But it should still be loose enough to fit me without being too confining or even too loose.”
“Then,” he stated, slightly confused as to why he had been called, “you need the services of one of my blacksmiths. Not me.”
“Well, yes, true,” She agreed, “but I still need you. You see, I need you to advise me on this matter. My purpose is to slip from the city without notice, disguised as one of the soldiers. I also need to know a little about how to use a sword so that I can at least give the idea that I am one of the soldiers and not just another fop wearing armor to hide from their enemies.”
“I see,” he smiled, unable to control his sense of humor, “and you want me to teach you.” She nodded. “Alright, then. I will be right back. I must go fetch Alendghar. Between the two of us, we can design armor that will hide that you are a woman. While we do so, he can take your measurements.” He saw a look of concern ripple across her face. “Don’t worry, he won’t talk. He can’t. Your brother saw to that when he took Alendghar’s tongue for insults that were never uttered.”