“How go your preparations?” Tovorash said to the gang leader.
“The wall is coming along nicely, Master, but we will need a few more days at the very least. Our men our tired, and the mortar does not dry quickly enough. If the flamewarden was here to help us…”
“You’ve told me that before, Geof, but Marthulus cannot just run around at the whim of gang workers to help them dry their mortar. A few days is not good enough. The Vith will troops will arrive before then. Will you be able to go faster if I leant you some of my soldiers?”
The gang leader seemed to take offense. “My men are the best, Master. Your soldiers would merely get in the way. If a few days is not satisfying to you, I’m afraid there is not much more we can do.”
Tovorash sighed. Since the war, he’d had to leave his position as bodyguard to the Everking and return to his own lands which were at the border of the kingdom. How had the blasted Flamelord of Vithr known to attack them at this time? He had no intel on their weaknesses, yet he always seemed to know where they were. There had to be someone on the inside feeding him information, but Tovorash could not imagine how costly it would be to try to find said person.
The knight-guardian still did not understand what had happened in Vithr. It had just all come so quickly. The succession, the growing tensions, then suddenly the announcement that the Asythians were suspected of having sent the assassin in the first place?
“Master?” the gang leader interrupted Tovorash’s thoughts. “Are you done with me? I have a wall to build.”
“Yes, yes,” Tovorash waved tiredly. “Do your best. If it comes down to it, I will have my men try to distract the Vith advance.”
“As you say, Master,” the gang leader said, bowing and exiting the war-tent.
As the man left, a woman, a straight stick in her hand, entered, tapping the ground in front of her. For a moment, Tovorash was surprised at her strange behavior, but when he looked at her face and saw her eyes, everything was clarified.
“What do you want—”
“Evermistress,” she offered with a slight smile.
“Pardon me,” Tovorash said, getting to his feet and touching each of his shoulders in respect. He instantly felt ridiculous doing so, realizing she could not see it.
“Sit back down, Tovorash,” the strange woman said with familiarity.
The knight-guardian did as he was told, but studied her face in the meantime. Despite her disability, she was quite striking, and her features carried with them a sharp beauty.
“What is the purpose of your visit, Evermistress? I don’t recall being notified that someone of your rank would be arriving. As I’m sure you are well aware, Vith troops are nearly upon us.”
“There are few that know of my visit, Tovorash,” she said, seating herself as well. How did she know there was a chair there? “And you are correct in assuming my knowledge of your predicament. I am here to offer you my assistance.”
Internally, Tovorash groaned. Another courtier believing they could help him with their political intrigue.
“I’m sorry, Evermistress, but unless you can conjure up more gang workers for me, I am afraid there is not much you can do to help.”
She smiled and leaned back in her chair. “You judge me by my title and by the fact that I cannot see. But let me tell you, Tovorash, that this blind woman can see better than you can.”
Tovorash groaned internally again. A crazy courtier.
“I am sure you have the best intentions, Evermistress, but as I said before, we need more manpower. I don’t think I understand what you mean by seeing.”
“How do the Vith know where to attack? How do they know where our weaknesses are?”
“There must be an informant or a spy, no doubt.”
“And this informant is giving their armies sight, albeit a different kind of sight, but sight nonetheless.”
“Are you offering me spies?” Tovorash exclaimed in disgust, rising to his feet. “There is no honor in underhanded means and deceit.”
“No. I am offering you sight,” the woman said quietly. “Sit back down.”
Instantly realizing his mistake, the knight-guardian quelled his outburst and sat back down. “I thank you for your offer, Evermistress, but I must decline.”
“As you say, Tovorash, but I will tell you this: The commander of the approaching Vith army keeps his palanquin in the rear right corner of his army. Cut off the head of the serpent, and the body will writhe around helplessly.”
Rising, the woman turned, her intricately tied hair cascading over her shoulders, and left, her guide stick tapping gently on the ground.
Tovorash sat back in his chair, silently brooding. Whoever she was, she had intelligence and was not some simple courtier. This concerned him. The stupid ones he could deal with, but he was not a man given to political intrigue and subterfuge. If he got on the wrong side of someone like her… he feared the worst.
She had given him valuable information, even though he hadn’t asked for it. The rear right corner of his army…. It wouldn’t be difficult to send a band of his best-trained men around to flank them and capture their commander. That would throw the rest of their army into chaos, which might force a retreat.
It was decided. He summoned his elite captain and informed him of the new plan. The man listened quietly and nodded, before making a few suggestions, which Tovorash took into account. He may have been the leader, but this captain had a certain knack for strategy that sometimes left Tovorash feeling dumb.
The battle went exactly as planned. The Vith army broke the instant their commander went down, and Tovorash had the satisfaction of watching his own men stand firm and advance in an orderly manner that left nothing wanting.
It wasn’t until he had returned to his tent that Tovorash realized he would have to thank the courtier who had given him the information. He sighed. It still rubbed against his honor slightly that he had used information that she had most likely gained through undercover means. The knight-guardian was honorable to a fault, and he could not imagine stooping low enough to send out spies.
With a grunt, Tovorash stood up, grabbed his battle hammer, and headed outside. Asking for directions turned out to be fruitless, as few had taken notice of the humble-looking blind woman and her small retinue when they entered the camp. After almost an hour of searching, Tovorash finally found something of note. The courtier had been seen just on the east fringe of the camp earlier that day.
When Tovorash arrived, the watch told him that she had spent some time moving back and forth along the east side, as if looking for something, but had then abruptly turned and left when their battle had started. They informed him that she had headed to the nearest town, which was an hour-long walk across the border into Vithr.
At this point, Tovorash considered giving up. She probably didn’t even care whether or not the battle had gone well, and if he told her that her information had helped, he would most likely have to fight her again over not accepting her league of spies. Beyond that, she seemed like a crazy courtier anyway. Regardless of whether or not she had appeared intelligent before, Tovorash had never met someone of her rank who walked everywhere. Beyond that she had spent the afternoon pacing outside of his camp?
But honor eventually won Tovorash over, and telling his men to continue keeping a sharp watch, the knight-guardian headed out towards the town.
The sun had fallen low on the horizon by the time he arrived. Dirty-faced children fled as Tovorash walked boldly into the town. He knew there would be no garrison here after the battle that had just transpired. Farmers stared grimly at the knight-guardian who did his best to ignore the attention while also trying to find the woman he’d come to find.
In the end, she found him.
“I thought you might follow me, Tovorash,” a strong, clear voice rang out from behind him.
He turned, surprised that she’d snuck up on him.
“I came to offer you my thanks for your assistance. The battle went smoothly due to your information.”
“Sight, Tovorash. It was sight.” She smiled.
Before the situation had a chance to become awkward, both Tovorash and the strange woman sensed a shift in the air, and they tensed. In the tense seconds that followed, Tovorash scanned their surroundings, taking in any possible hiding places.
There was a tall bush nearby that offered substantial cover for potential attackers. The corner of a cottage six cords away could hide four or five men. Tovorash glanced briefly at the gap between a nearby tree and the cottage, but looked past it, telling himself that it was too open for attack.
Then, out of the corner of his eye, a shadow moved. He turned, instinctively raising his hammer. There was a clang of metal on metal as he blocked the attack, but he saw no one. He groaned.
Of course the attacker had to be invisible.