Niobe spent three days training before leaving for Tyrannos. It would be enough to give the illusion that she was one of the soldiers, not the governess of Yndarr. When she returned, she would continue to train and become the warrior queen expected of any who held a governorship. But three days was all she had to prepare for the journey to Tyrannos.
On the dawn of the fourth day, she and her party departed. A skeleton crew was left behind for each of the Guilds, allowing for a rather large and very protective retinue. The only Guild not sending a majority of their members was the Thieves’ guild, which had no actual warriors. The Merchant Guild, being what they were, saw the journey as a means to further business and make stronger contacts among the other Merchant Guilds from the other cities.
But the Assassins’ Guild were in force. Being versed in anything with blade or point, they made formidable warriors. Their reputation for stealth and spying made them excellent scouts to ensure safe passage. In fact, their very presence made the spell of stealth almost an unneeded one.
Before long, they had made it to the midway point, where Frigaana and Sobahn waited to join them. The goddess smiled at her in recognition.
“Milady, the governess of Yndarr,” the goddess began, addressing Niobe personally, kneeling in respect, “I am emissary of the gods, sent to you to aid you in uniting Sudia. When the gods walked the lands, this was my home. My people, my worshipers, lived throughout this land and I served them faithfully. Please accept me as one of your protectors.”
“How did you know I was the governess?” Niobe inquired.
“Because I know well the work of Alendghar, your smith,” came the reply, “and the scent the magic of my loyal servant and priestess, Thyrakos. Alendghar was once the apprentice to the smith-god, Auhrjhund. He excelled at armory and metallurgy and earned the respect of his master and of the gods themselves. Many of our weapons were forged by your smithy. As for Thyrakos, she is far older than she appears.”
The goddess waved her hand, acknowledging Niobe’s thoughts. “Do not worry, governess,” she smiled, “I will do and say nothing to betray you should battle occur. Our missions are the same.”
“And your companion?” Niobe required.
“He can speak for himself,” the goddess replied.
“I am Sobahn, once a lieutenant of Hadrax, Kyrzhad’s favored general,” Sobahn replied, “I can give detailed information on every weakness of Hadrax’s army.”
“Why should I trust you?” Niobe pressed.
“I understand your reluctance, milady,” he returned, “but perhaps my story will convince you better than anything else. I was the lieutenant entrusted with a small contingent of men under Hadrax. When he took Korlabdis, the city of the twin mages, he commanded me to enter the mine-maze where the soul eaters reside. My men were turned to stone but, for some unexplainable reason, I was spared. When the twin mages found me and took me in, I was unconscious and near death. Over the span of a month, they cared for me and nursed me back to health.
“When I was well enough, they taught me their magicks and released me from their care to find you. I was sent to help you defeat Hadrax and to keep him from taking Sudia. We may not be able to stop him altogether, but we can stop him from taking Sudia, Estryn, and Nordia. We can contain him and Kyrzhad’s minions to Austryn. This includes the Inquisition and any other ally he may consider.”
“Then, welcome, Sobahn,” Niobe replied, smiling in acceptance, “you are welcomed among my retinue and shall be of much service in planning strategy against Hadrax and Kyrzhad.”
“My lord,” Golmagug began, bowing in respect to Kyrzhad, “may I be granted a request. A sign that our alliance is mutual?”
“Tell me, first, what you wish,” the emperor replied, neither accepting nor denying the request, “then I shall give my answer.”
“My liege,” the demi-mage began, “I wish to leave a representative, someone to act as liaison between us, in your court. And in return, I will be willing to take one of your trusted advisors as a liaison within my own confidence.”
“Yes,” came the answer, thoughtful. Mindful of the implications, “yes. That would be a good idea. I shall have a contract drawn to seal our alliance with any and all requested mandates and inclusions. It shall be agreed upon by both of us before witnesses and signed in blood. It shall bear my seal and all conditions will be sent out as decrees. Any land that rejects the decrees shall be besieged immediately and its leaders overthrown.”
Golmagug grinned evilly. His deepest desire had just been granted. He would have access to the emperor through a liaison. He could influence imperial decrees and open the lands to his maniacal wish to cleanse them of heresy. The emperor had just given his blessing to begin the Inquisition.
To the east, the lords of Estryn were watching the developments in Sudia with interest. The lords of Nordia, likewise, were watching. Both lands had suffered greatly at the hands of the emperor unlike Sudia, which had gone largely unnoticed and ungoverned. Sudia had been largely forgotten except as the entry point for lotus. Now, the lotus supply had been stemmed and the lords of Austryn had suddenly begun to notice that the southern land was still there.
Lotus smugglers had fled north, reporting oppression in Yndarr and other Sudian cities. This had angered the emperor and forced him to take notice of a land he had ignored for so long. It was almost as if something had caused change. Something had changed.
The lords of both lands had heard of the disappearance of the royal princess. They had heard the rumors of her death. Most had believed it to be for the best. Yet, the rumors were too unclear. Something was a little off.