Jacek had adjourned, as he often found himself these days, to Tuskendale’s graveyard. The Council meeting had – again, as was becoming a frequent occurrence – been a weighty one, with difficult problems and no entirely satisfactory answers. So he came among the dead, in their peace, to seek his own.
The evening was cold, a wind blowing from the north down and to the west. From my old home to my new, and then to my foe’s, he thought. A reminder that we are all caught in currents not of our making and not under our control.
The King found himself before the memorial to the late Sasha Rastilov, first lord of Ursundova. A stark, severe statue, as befit a start, severe man. Although, there had been warmth too, Jacek knew.
“I know Lem is right,” Jacek begun, knowing the statue would not respond, but wondering if perhaps through Pharasma’s strange ways the dead might hear anyway, “but he is also not right. What would you do in my place, I wonder? You were the first King here, even though you did not style yourself as such, and but for a few twists of fate you might still be standing here, facing the challenges I now face.”
The twilight shadows played tricks with statue’s chiselled features. Sasha’s stony gaze seemed to look down at the King. Understanding, or disappointed?
“If we assault Irovetti in his castle, then yes. We did strike the first blow, in the open. And that cannot be taken back. But our opponent is not like us. He has been there, advancing quietly, for months. Like the water that soaks and freezes to crack wood and stone, not noticed until the damage has started. We can let his cracks widen, or we can replace old timber with new and mortar our seams shut.”
“Lem’s way preserves reputation among those men outside our realm who care little for it. And the Gods know the truth. My way, should we prevail, may yet avert the war in part or whole and preserve the lives of thousands of the common men. I do not like it, but it is what the teachings of Abadar tell me I must do. And the Lady that you and Lem serve… I would hope that she would understand.”
The statue, of course, made no reply.
“I must prepare, now. I hope that we will have a chance to speak again. Gods willing. Goodnight, First King.”
Jacek bowed and walked away, feeling Sasha’s gaze – and Iomedae’s – boring into him as he left.