Compare and Contrast 11-1
- Aug 19, 2019
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Compare and Contrast
But do be glad baby when you've found
That's the power makes the world go 'round
But do be glad baby when you've found
That's the power makes the world go 'round
~ Huey Lewis
By taking revenge, a man is but even with his enemy; but in passing over it, he is superior. ~ Francis Bacon
Leon woke up warm and the scent of Clarice’s shampoo was the second thing he noticed.
His arms were around her, the two of them buried in her bed’s blankets, his face resting against the back of her head. When he craned his head back he saw that there was light streaming through the window, glittering condensation on the glass.
“It’s cold outside,” she told him. “Stay in bed.”
“How about forever?”
“It’s a tempting idea.” He kissed the back of her head. They hadn’t done anything that might lead to conception - they both knew they weren’t ready for that - but there was a part of him that was seriously tempted. “Love you.”
Her hand crept back and gripped his thigh for a moment. “You big romantic.”
“Eh, I ought to be good at something.”
Clarice laughed. “Mr ‘I got into the student council even though I flunked every practical magic class’ is good at something. I’m shocked.”
“Hah. I wouldn’t be on the student council if it was decided after this term. Actually, I might face academic suspension from the council. I’ve been playing truant all term.”
“There’s a special exception for being called away on service of the crown,” she told him drowsily, “Dieke had us file all the paperwork for you and the others. Your grades from last term carry forwards for that sort of purpose. I think yours may actually be boosted because you’re a commodore.”
Leon laughed. “Funny that.”
They lay like that for a while.
“If the worst comes to worst, what will you do?” she asked. “For a given value of worst where we’re both alive?”
“Run away on Dreadnought, with you and anyone else I can get aboard. Assuming that holding onto something in the north isn’t a possibility, probably head for Alzer at first. They’re not fond of foreigners, but that tree of theirs might be enough of a protection against Garrett.”
“Yes, I’d considered going there as an exchange student this year. But Jilk was starting at the academy… And their nobility are a bit…”
The Alzer Commonwealth was one of the nations that more or less bordered the kingdom, off to the south-east. They were a comparatively safe border - their nobility bore seals from the ‘Great Tree’, that shielded them from hostile magic as long as they were within a certain distance of the tree. Thus that demarcation was more or less the border of the Commonwealth. Within that line they were near enough invincible, but beyond it they didn’t do so well. Too used to having that defence.
Leon knew from the books that some of their nobility also used their seals to exploit the non-nobility. And foreign guests were non-nobles. There would be a certain amount of diplomatic protection for exchange students, but without the kingdom behind them…
“I was thinking about that for next year,” he admitted. One of the books’ side-stories had explored what had happened there if the book’s Leon didn’t go there. It wasn’t good. “But that also means not being here with you.” Clarice couldn’t exactly spend her final year as an exchange student - it was only open as an option for your second year at the academy.
“You really want to go there?” she asked. “What’s so great about the Commonwealth?”
“Want would be a strong word. But after duelling Jilk, the idea of a reason to be out of sight for a year had some merits. And then there’s the expectations now that I’m a commodore. But there’s also some reasons to stay here.” Leon lowered his head and kissed her shoulder. “One of them right here…”
Clarice squirmed around and their lips were about to meet when someone pounded their fist against the door.
Her green eyes met Leon’s dark ones in frustration. He leaned in and kissed her lips anyway.
“Mmm.” She sighed when they were done. Whoever was knocking hadn’t gone away.
“Come on!” The source of the shout was a familiar one. “It’s almost lunchtime, how long can you two stay in bed?”
“I dunno, let’s find out?” Leon suggested in a quiet, playful tone.
Clarice’s eyes, narrowing in irritation, began to twinkle. “If you tickle me, I’ll kick,” she warned and then raised her voice. “None of your business, Jilk! Get lost!”
The knocking stopped. “I need to speak to Bartford! Please, Clarice!”
“Am I going to have to send all the children down to the theatre everytime we want some privacy?” Leon wondered. “That could get expensive.” He kissed Clarice again and then slipped out from under the covers, shivering in the cold air. “Hold your water, Marmoria. I’m getting dressed.”
Pulling on his pants and shirt, he stood on a rug while he tied a sash around his waist to keep the pants up. It took him a moment to find his boots and he kicked his feet into them. “Sorry, Clarice.”
“I knew what I was getting into.” She pulled the blankets around him but watched him go. “Come back to me when you can.”
Outside, Jilk was looking harried. He’d tied his hair back and was wearing a sword at his hip. “Shouldn’t you at least get engaged first?”
Leon closed the door. “Clarice has trust issues about engagements. Is that all you got me out of bed for?”
“How can you lounge around in bed at a time like this?”
“It might be the last chance I have for a while. Or ever.” He combed his own hair back from his face.
Jilk shook his head and then looked away. “What happened?”
“You’ll need to be more specific. I’ve had a very busy year.” It hadn’t been that much longer than that since he’d found Luxion, less than a year and a half - although not by much.
“To me, to the others. After we came back from the first battle, how could I have taken Marie out into that?”
Leon rubbed his face. “Do you want the easy answer or the hard one?”
“Which is the truth?”
“Then tell me both,” Jilk demanded. “I need to know it all.”
“The Dieke’s have been meddling with dark magic for years. The student council president used it on you, the same way he did on Sophia earlier. Encouraged you to head off to war again and to take Marie along. Which worked out pretty well for most of us, but I doubt that that was the plan.”
The other boy rubbed his face as they walked. “That easily?”
“You’re not the only one to get affected.”
“So, what’s the easy answer?”
Leon snorted. “That was the easy answer. It puts all the blame on someone else. How much attention do you actually pay to Marie? How much do you listen to what she says… and what she does say?”
“I listen to her all the time!”
He nodded. “So why weren’t you the one to do something about the way her family was exploiting her financially?”
“...” Jilk stopped walking.
“Yeah.” Leon shook his head. “Try talking to her, Jilk. I don’t know how much time you’ll have to do so.”
“But you sent her off somewhere!”
“...okay, that’s fair,” he admitted, looking back. “Shall I let her know you want to talk?”
Jilk trotted to catch up. “Where is she?”
“Can you keep a secret?”
“Because so can you?”
Leon rode his knight-armour back to the Dreadnought, now anchored in the port once more. Ships were busy loading all across the small island. Some were warships preparing for the battle that was presumed to be inevitable. Hertrude’s squadron was docked alongside those of the Roseblades, Bartfords and other northern houses that had fought with Duke Redgrave.
Others were being packed by nobles moving their valuables and loved ones - sometimes overlapping with their families and sometimes not - back to their domains to ride out the storm. Or perhaps out of the kingdom entirely.
“The new humans claim that they’re not obligated to stay and die for the kingdom,” Luxion informed him. “This does not match my understanding of the feudal contract.”
“Can you honestly tell me that when the new humans arose, that all the old humans rallied to the cause? That not one of them hid away, figuring that they could wait it out?”
“A message was delivered inviting you to a war council at dawn tomorrow,” the AI changed the subject. “Do you intend to attend?”
“I could monitor the chamber so you can understand what is said, without exposing yourself. It is probable that the kingdom’s authorities are eager for a scapegoat. As a surviving leader of both battles, you would be a candidate. Particularly given the prior accusations of conspiracy with the princess, who has now returned in your company.”
Leon made a face. “That’s true, but there are strong reasons for them not to do that. It would alienate my father and to an extent, Count Roseblade and Princess Hertrude. Unless they have an absolute certainty that their trump card will be effective it would be stupid for them to alienate the main military supporters. It would be different if the Claes, Stuart and other major feudal nobles could bring their forces to bear… but they can’t afford that on several levels.”
“On what grounds do you believe that the kingdom’s leaders won’t behave stupidly?”
He laughed. “Point. And I will take some precautions. The other issue is that if I’m not there, I won’t have any say in what’s being done. And given what you just said about the kingdom’s leaders…”
“It is undeniably true that if your goal is to avoid a mass death among the new humans, an intelligent old human providing advice could improve their chances. If only we had access to one.”
“Yeah, we might have to settle for an old human. Intelligent could be asking too much.” Leon slumped into a chair. “And speaking of trump cards, what does Cleare have to say?”
“Do we have to ask?”
“Open a channel, Luxion. If I have to, so do you.”
The AI grumbled something that Leon didn’t make out and then Cleare’s voice came from the drone. “Hello, Commodore. Do you wish to be put in contact with Director Smith.”
Leon shook his head. “Not just yet. Firstly, how much progress have you made with the vessel under Holfort castle?”
“The repair drones provided by Luxion were able to force entry easily,” the science AI reported happily. “There is no indication that they have been detected and repairs were completed three days ago.”
“Good work.” The ‘legendary warship’ that had been the Holfort’s ultimate deterrent had been unused for generations. Unsurprisingly, it had deteriorated as a result but there was nothing that the royal family could do: the ship was a literal loveboat and would only open for two people whose mutual affection it judged as strong enough. (As Leon understood it, the married couple who had commissioned it for a honeymoon back in the distant past had divorced after just a few years, leaving the ship abandoned until one of King Roland’s ancestors found and somehow activated it. Presumably not the first king, as his ‘great love’ had run away from him.)
For some mysterious reason, political marriages hadn’t produced such feelings on any reliable basis - and the Holforts were understandably unwilling to bring in outsiders who might reveal that their ‘ultimate weapon’ was a bluff.
Fortunately, Leon didn’t give a damn about the stupid sealing mechanism and he’d told Cleare to have the drones to cut the ship open, fix it up and then hide their presence. “Has anyone tried to access it?”
“Two individuals claiming to be the King and Queen of Holfort attempted to break the seal. Their affection numbers were insufficient. I would characterise their reactions as amusing by human standards, and valuable experimental data for me.”
Leon sighed. It would be too much to hope for that he’d get back before anyone else tried. “Can you override the seal?”
“I suppose they’re not likely to come back and try with the two of them, but if any more couples try, just fake the numbers to let the next pair in.”
Cleare sounded amused. “Of course, Commodore. It is interesting that you do not find this to be a romantic solution. It would be easy for you to use your chosen reproductive partner to obtain access and then claim political power as a result.”
“You assume that I have time or energy to run this dumpster fire of a kingdom. Besides, putting numbers on feelings doesn’t sound at all romantic to me,” Leon told the AI. “If anything, I’d expect it to be the death knell of any relationship I have with Clarice. Oh, did you leave the note on the command deck?”
“Of course,” the AI said matter-of-factly.
Leon smirked. “That ought to deal with any suspicions. Can you put me in touch with Director Smith now?”
The image of Director Smith popped up in front of him. She was currently changing her clothes.
Leon covered his face with one hand. “Dammit, Cleare.”
“You never said…”
“Who is that!” Larna snapped, looking around. “Lord Bartford?!”
He sighed. “Cleare, let her know before opening a video channel. My apologies, Director.”
She held her ministry robes up in front of her half-dressed body. “If I were to call for a duel, I would represent myself.”
“That’d be a painful experience for me,” Leon admitted. “Do you want me to contact you again in a couple of minutes?”
“No,” Larna said shortly. “Let’s just get this over with. You want to know what we have on light magic and dark magic?”
“As much as I’d like to be just calling you for some social reason…”
“I’m sorry to tell you, but no matter how much you flirt, my one true love will always be magic. You are at best an interesting conversationalist.”
Leon laughed. “I don’t know why people think I’m always flirting with every woman I meet. Is being nice to someone really that unusual?”
“I keep forgetting how young you are,” the Director noted. “But we have made some breakthroughs now that we have access to the Saintess’ regalia. I still don’t know how Fanoss is managing to cast dark magic on such a scale, but we can at least locally counter it.”
“Enough to shield a city or an entire fleet - but we may struggle to do so in more than one place. Miss Campbell’s level of magical ability is unusually high. Unless you know someone with a similar talent for light magic…?”
Leon shook his head. “Unfortunately not.”
“I didn’t think it was likely. Offensive use of light magic is another matter.”
“I see. I had a feeling that that would be more difficult. I hope there have been no difficulties with the Saint’s Sceptre?”
Larna smirked. “If you mean the spirit that was hidden within it, no. Between Cleare and Katarina’s mysterious mentor, it stood no chance.”
“Good. I’m sorry I forgot to warn you.”
“Forgot. Of course. Or were you testing me? This is why I detest working for others.”
“A dubious claim,” Cleare cut in. “I have analysed the Director’s productivity and it rises substantially when engaged in projects for members of her social circle, as compared to those for political gain or mandated by instructions from her superiors. In particular, requests from Duke Stuart…”
“Pernicious device!” Larna accused, face flushing - something that hadn’t happened when revealed half-bared to Leon. “I’ll dissect you yet!”
“You are centuries from being capable of comprehending me,” taunted the AI.
“I’ll just let you get along, shall I?” he asked drily. “Oh, and let Marie know that Jilk and the others want to talk to her. I don’t see much harm to it - they might want her help to try activating the Holfort’s hidden lost item.”
“I suppose that that would justify her absence for a while,” the Director conceded. “Do you have anything else to say or can I get my dress on?”
“I’m not stopping you,” Leon pointed out. “Nice dress, by the way?”
She snorted. “I’m making an appearance to persuade some of the court that the Stuarts haven’t abandoned the capital. Now get lost, or I’ll tell Lady Clarice on you.”
Leon chuckled. “Cut the feed, Cleare. And next time you connect me to Larna without checking that she’s ready, I’ll let her dissect your drone.”
“And I won’t build you another,” Luxion threatened his fellow AI.
The scientific AI sniffed. “You gave me repair drones. I have back-ups now!”
The war council took place in a room behind the throne room, with a similarly high and vaulted ceiling - though the chamber was vastly smaller. Banners hung from the ceiling, many torn and stained to the point that they weren’t really presentable enough for a more open setting. Hertrude Sera Fanoss had rather pointedly seated herself beneath two banners bearing the arms of her family - trophies from previous wars.
Leon thought that every banner except the one immaculate Holfort arms above the king’s seat was a trophy, even those of houses currently sworn to the kingdom. Conquest, civil war… there were many reasons. The throneroom’s grand array was a boast of solidarity for the kingdom. This room was the Holfort’s statement of their own dominance. It was interesting which they had made public and which they shared with their own allies.
There was no Bartford banner present, and while there was one from the Roseblades, Leon found his father and Estian Fou Roseblade flanking Princess Hertrude. Whether that was to give the appearance of guarding her or of a subtle shift in allegiances, he wasn’t sure. Nonetheless, he took a seat next to Barcus.
“Do you have a clever plan for this occasion?” the older Bartford asked him.
“To solve everything, no. But big things are made up of small things, so I may have the occasional suggestion.”
His father nodded. “Try and be somewhat respectful. Besides it being the king’s council, everyone’s a bit on edge.”
As if on cue, the doors opened to admit King Roland Rafa Holfort, flanked by Count Charles Fia Arclight and Viscount Francis Fia Marmoria. Everyone rose respectfully, even Princess Hertrude, and waited for the king to take his seat.
“My apologies for the wait,” the Viscount offered - the king was unlikely to apologise. “We’ve had a new report from one of the scouting cruisers. The Fanoss fleet - pardon, Count Garrett’s fleet - has been sighted. As expected, they are towing their island after them, which is slowing them down.”
“How much of their fleet?” asked Count Roseblade.
Arclight leant forwards. “Most of it. We assume that Garrett has left very little to protect the Field’s island. He has no need of it as a forward base with their towed island - even if Marquis Hunt was able to push north to retake it, there’s no strategic significance: if we win here, it doesn’t matter to Garrett what happens to the Field domain. And if he wins then he can turn back and retake it.”
“Unless both sides are shattered,” pointed out Viscount Catley nervously. Leon didn’t know the man well but his daughter Marsha was a second-year at the academy. The Viscount had arrived with the scant ships that could be spared by the Bergs and Claes, appointed to lead them simply because neither duchy was quite willing to place their ships under the lead of one of the other’s vassals. The Catleys, neighbouring both, were a compromise.
He’d at least made it here. Marquis Hunt - Mary’s father - was considerably closer but he had pledged that his forces were fully required to contain the Fanoss threat against the western extremes of the kingdom - now flanked by Garrett’s approach towards the continent. That could be true, but it hardly fit in with the all-or-nothing strategy that appeared to have been adopted by the invaders.
“If both sides are shattered, we win,” Count Roseblade informed the viscount. “Perhaps not personally, but the kingdom can rebuild from a pyrrhic victory. Thanks to Princess Hertrude and her sister, Count Garrett has nothing to rebuild from.”
Or so they assumed. There was no news from the principality - but even if Hertrauda failed, a civil war would leave the lords there unable to provide reinforcements to Garrett.
The king looked to Leon. “Commodore, do we have any way to defeat the enemy before they’re close enough to use their ritual on the capital?”
Leon straightened slightly. “The Ministry believes that we can shield a fleet with light magic. Or defend the city. But unless the fleet is over the city, we can’t defend both at once - currently there is only one light mage we know of with that level of power.”
Roland nodded. “So we could gather our remaining ships and strike for the enemy island right away, and engage it directly.”
“To play devil’s advocate, the longer before we fight, the stronger we are,” pointed out Count Arclight. “As I understand it, we’re still looking for more sailors and soldiers. Saving the troops sent with both fleets leaves us reasonably well off with ground troops but many of the ships that returned damaged from Duke Redgrave’s fleet are also understrength in sailors.”
“I do have one suggestion there,” offered Leon cautiously.
“In the short time we have available?” asked Viscount Marmoria sceptically.
“Amnesty the elves that turned bandit,” the boy suggested. “If they fight for the kingdom just this once, they’ll be shipped home to the elves’ island with some sort of payout.”
Count Arclight snorted. “Criminals - and they aren’t even human.”
“It’ll get rid of them,” Leon pointed out. “They either die in the fighting or they’re sent to their home with very little way to leave. Merchants don’t exactly visit them much now that they’re not valuable as servants. And we’d don’t have them running around as bandits.”
“Or this plan would give them arms to be more effective bandits,” objected Viscount Marmoria.
The king raised his hand. “That may be a risk that we have to take, but only if we fight here - over the capital. There is no time otherwise. So, do we fight here?”
“Even a victory here would damage the city,” warned Barcus. “We wouldn’t be out over the ocean or a lake, ships would plunge out of the air directly onto the city. Unless light magic would help with that?”
Leon shook his head. “Not as far as I’m aware. And there’s another risk. What if Garrett brought their island above the city and then destroyed its suspension stone somehow?”
Faces paled around the table. “That’s unthinkable!” Viscount Catley clasped his hands before him. “That would destroy the city, it might even damage the continent itself.”
“We must stop that from happening at all costs,” Arclight agreed.
Hertrude cleared her throat. “Moving the island requires the commitment of most of the fleet to tow it. If they come under attack then they will be forced to cast off the tows - or depend entirely upon the dark magic to defeat the attack. Unfortunately, we cannot expect Count Garrett or Viscount Darian to be so foolish - we must assume that they expect the use of light magic to defend against that.
The king nodded. “However, we lack the ships to both carry every available knight effectively and to carry enough troops to land on the enemy island. If we launch such an attack away from the continent, we will be fighting with less than our full strength.”
“Speaking of our full strength,” Count Roseblade asked. “May I enquire as to the Holfort’s legendary skyship? Surely if it is not used now, there will be no other opportunity.”
Count Arclight didn’t quite manage to hide a wince.
“Activating our royal treasure requires two qualified participants,” King Roland answered smoothly. “The queen and I have tried to unseal it but unfortunately, her highness does not meet its requirements.”
Leon bit back a response. That was technically accurate, after all - it merely omitted the minor detail that nor had the king.
“The queen has taken charge of gathering other candidates,” the king continued. “And it will be fielded if at all possible. However, since we cannot count on that, I will lead the battle from the front.”
“...your highness.” Arclight spoke hesitantly. “Roland. I love you like a brother, but you haven’t used a knight-armour in years. No one here doubts your courage, but please at least command from a flagship.”
“That is where you are wrong, Charles. We can hold nothing back, and so I must share with you one of my closest secrets.” Roland reached into his ermine-trimmed cloak and produced a mask, which he placed triumphantly upon the table. “For I… am the Masked Knight!”
There were gasps around the table. Leon lowered his face and did his best to hide his amusement.
“The one knight to have battled the Black Knight to a standstill… Ah, my apologies, Lord Bartford. One of two…” Marmoria exclaimed.
“The only knight,” Leon corrected him, without looking up. “I’ve… never been knighted.”
“Are you alright, son?” his father asked.
“I’m just… overcome by emotion,” he answered - not technically lying. “To think our wise king is also such a glorious hero.”
The king smiled a little smugly and stood. Everyone pushed their chairs back and did likewise, as Roland circled the table towards Leon, lifting the sword of state. “Well we can take care of your status, at least. I’ll knight you myself. I trust that you will understand that I cannot make a seventeen year old one of my admirals.”
“Sixteen, your highness,” Barcus corrected him.
“Don’t correct me, Bartford,” Roland warned under his breath. “Lord Bartford. Your knee.”
The ritual’s protocol was well known and Leon stepped back a little before dropping to one knee before the king.
“I see before me Leon Fou Bartford, son of Barcus and…”
“Ruth,” Leon’s father prompted.
“Ruth Fou Bartford,” the grey-haired monarch continued. “Who attests to this man’s courage?”
“I attest,” offered Count Roseblade. “In battle against the traitor Olfrey and against our current foe.”
Roland nodded. “I acknowledge his courage. And who now, will attest to this man’s virtue?”
Barcus began to say something but he was interrupted by Princess Hertrude. “I attest,” she declared proudly. “This man has won duels, found treasure as an adventurer and rescued maidens. If he has no virtue, who else here can claim any?”
Leon regretted that he couldn’t look back and see Hertrude’s face - Roland’s eye was twitching slightly, suggesting that the princess wasn’t being entirely respectful. However, the king extended the sword of state and rested it upon Leon’s shoulder - uncomfortably close to his throat. “Your oath, Leon Fou Bartford.”
He swallowed and met the king’s eyes, one liar to another. “I promise on my faith that I will in the future be faithful to the lord king, never cause him harm and will observe my homage to him completely against all persons in good faith and without deceit.”
Roland raised the sword and then patted it lightly upon the other shoulder, before lifting it again. He rested the point of the blade on the carpet and set both his hands upon the quillons. “Rise, Sir Leon.”
The boy obeyed, not entirely unmoved by the ritual. “As you command, my king.”
“Good lad.” Roland released the sword with one hand and patted him on the shoulder.
“Congratulations, son.” Barcus hugged Leon briefly.
No sooner had his father let go, than Hertrude leaned over and also embraced him briefly, kissing him on the cheek. “Merely on behalf of Lady Atlee,” she told him, blushing slightly.
Count Roseblade offered Leon his hand. “I’m not going to hug you, but well deserved.”
“Alright, back to business,” Roland declared as Leon shook hands with the Count. Leon wondered if the king was a bit miffed that he wasn’t the centre of attention.
They all sat down again. “As I said, I will take command, carrying the banner of the admiral of the white. The queen will serve as my vice admiral, aboard my family’s legacy or such other vessel as is fitting. She will also serve as custodian of the succession if I fall.” King Roland steepled his fingers. “Count Roseblade, I ask that you serve as my rear-admiral of the white
The dark-haired count nodded calmly. “It will be my honour.”
“We will fight at the edge of the continent. I recognise the risk to the capital, but the advantages to bringing our full forces to bear are undeniable. Sir Leon, I entrust you with gathering elves and other volunteers to bring our crews to sufficient strength. You will be directly answerable to the queen and her division.” The king smiled grimly. “Try not to offend her again.”
“I accept these duties, your highness.”
Roland nodded in appreciation. “Princess Hertrude, Count Bartford. I ask that you continue to serve under Count Roseblade’s division.”
It was Hertrude’s turn to twitch at being subordinated to a Count. However, it was the only practical solution even if it breached protocol: she was still foreign royalty so she couldn’t be given one of the admiral’s banners, and having her ships operate at her sole discretion would be even worse. “As your ally, I am willing to support Count Roseblade.”
“Your forbearance is noted, your highness,” Viscount Marmoria noted urbanely.
“Breaking with normal tradition, the other warships will be assigned to the queen’s division,” the king continued. “My division will be made up solely of knight-armours - the royal knights, temple knights and such knights and lords that lack skyships of their own. Sir Leon’s account makes clear that the dark magic unleashing monsters aboard our skyships was devastating, but a force made up entirely of knights would provide fewer targets - and if the monsters created cannot fly then bursting out of a knight-armour will leave them falling to their death anyway.”
“That’s… probably correct,” Leon admitted. Some monsters probably could fly, but not all those he’d seen could do so.
“As such, my division will storm their fleet before the island can reach the continent,” Roland explained. “With less to worry about from dark magic, we’ll force them to break off the tow - and they can hardly spend hours getting towlines back to their ships, while we are in position to harass them. Count Garrett will have no choice but to launch a conventional attack - perhaps outside the reach of his dark mage, or at least stretching it. The queen’s division is charged with protecting the capital, Count Roseblade’s division is to hide beneath the continent until Garrett is engaged - and then strike at the enemy island to remove it as a threat and to kill the dark mage or mages in Fanoss’ employ.”
“Garrett’s employ,” Hertrude corrected him.
“Of course,” the king agreed with an insincere smile.