Earth's End

Page 63

“This is the wicked power I cautioned you of.”

“It is no matter.” The Chieftain ran her fingers over the carved wood behind her. “We will be far from her reach soon.”

“How? You cannot outrun the wind.” The man squinted, trying to call a bluff.

Vhalla didn’t expect to find herself agreeing with a Knight of Jadar, of all people, but there she stood.

“The head clan will live. We will take our knowledge, our trees’ heart seeds, and flee Soricium.” The girl and Za on either side of the Chieftain grimaced at the notion.

“Do you think the army will let you leave?” the man questioned.

“They will have no choice. The might of the North comes to overwhelm them, to free us, to take us to a place where we can lead and drive out the sun emperor from our lands.”

“Impossible,” the knight scoffed. “There’s no way you could coordinate such an assault.”

“You southerners and your small minds. It must hurt to be so disconnected from the old ways.” The Chieftain raised a hand and swung it behind her, slapping against the carved designs of the wood.

Vhalla watched as the archway lit up with some sort of magic she’d never seen. It glowed faintly before fading. Nothing else changed.

“When will we be leaving?” The Western man seemed impressed enough with the display.

“We?” The Northern woman raised her eyebrows. “I never said ‘we’.”

Za drew an arrow from her quiver.

“No, no, you still need us.” The man stepped backwards nervously.

“We never needed you, and what usefulness you had has run its course.” The Chieftain caressed the wood behind her, glittering pulses lighting up from her fingers.

“We can help you. The Knights of Jadar are the allies of—” An arrow flew into the man’s mouth as he spoke, piercing straight through and out the back of his head. He fell to his knees, clawing at his neck, grasping at the arrow.

“We do not need you,” the Chieftain corrected. “Seven more sun falls and their army will know the might of my people, and we will be free to fight another day.”

Vhalla pulled back into her body as Za was notching a second arrow.

“Call the majors, now.” Vhalla pulled herself into a seated position. “Get your father,” she added begrudgingly.

“What is it?” Aldrik stood from his place at the desk where he’d been working, sans any form of drink.

“Time is now precious.” She was tired from her Projection, but Vhalla had a growing fear that rest would be a rarer commodity in the coming days. What did this mean for the Empire’s plans? Vhalla stood. “I’ll explain to everyone at once; it’ll waste time and effort to pass along the information one at a time.”

“It’s that urgent?” His words were heavy.

Vhalla nodded gravely.

She waited at Aldrik’s right hand, standing at the center of the table as majors filled the room. Most wore confused looks but didn’t question the will of the prince and heeded his messengers. The Emperor entered shortly after, his usual sour look overtaking his face when he saw Vhalla at Aldrik’s side.

“Why did you call a meeting?” The Emperor turned to his son.

“Vhalla has something to report,” Aldrik replied.

“Which is?” The Emperor didn’t seem pleased with Aldrik’s reply.

“I have yet to be filled in on all the details myself,” Aldrik confessed.

The Emperor stared at him blankly, and Vhalla realized how far her liberties with Aldrik had been stretched. She had made the crown prince call a meeting entirely on her word. He had bent everyone to her will with his power.

“Miss Yarl—” the Emperor started, interrupted by the entrance of Baldair and his Golden Guard.

“What is the meaning of this urgent meeting?” Baldair asked as he reached the table, looking to his brother.

“Aldrik does not seem to know entirely himself,” the Emperor said coldly. “I do hope it is important, Yarl. We are all too busy to play your games.” His eyes swung back to her, and she felt his threat.

“I am not playing games,” she said firmly. Now was not the time to back down, doubt, or show weakness, she reminded herself. She had previously been bold before the Emperor, and she could do it again. “The Northerners are planning an attack.”

“What?” The word exploded across the table.

“That’s preposterous,” Major Schnurr scoffed.

“I heard it with my own ears. Seven more sun falls, said the Chieftain of Shaldan,” Vhalla reported.

“Leaders lie to their people all the time.” The Emperor waved a hand.

“Do they?” Vhalla didn’t miss the opportunity for the slight jab, and the Emperor started in angry shock. Before he could recover she continued, “The Chieftain wasn’t speaking to her people. She was speaking to the Westerner who has been working alongside her on behalf of the Knights of Jadar.”

Whispers and uncertain looks rippled across the table. The majors still hadn’t known. It seemed pointless to keep it a secret now. Furthermore, secrecy hadn’t exactly been doing them much good.

“Lies! Lies and slander are all that can be expected from the Windwalker.” Major Schnurr slammed his fist on the table.

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