Chapter Seven – Dark Plots

It had been seventeen months since Utgar had last seen his daughter in this room. Seventeen months since she had stood before him, rigidly at attention. She had been young then: unknown to the war, unblemished by its pain. That had been long ago.

The room was as dark as ever, the only source of light the same two braziers by the door. Utgar observed his daughter silently. “You have changed, Runa,” he murmured. “It seems but a week ago that you were small enough to crawl upon my knee. And now you stand before me, a warrior, hardened by battle, respected by those about you. You have indeed changed.”

“I have changed for the better, my father,” Runa said, her voice measured, powerful. “The alliance has come to fear me as a tool of your will.”

“A tool,” Utgar mused, half to himself. “But a precious tool.”

Runa knelt on one knee. “What do you wish, my father?”

Utgar regarded his daughter’s bowed head solemnly. “There are those in the alliance who have made names for themselves, even as you have. They are beacons of hope for the common soldier. If they are removed, morale falls, and our victories increase. There is little Jandar can do to win now, and I believe he knows it; but he will not surrender. He is far too determined for that. If these heroes are removed however… the end may come swiftly.

“I have received word that the alliance means to strike me at Stechavan. Doubtless, they even think to kill me there.” Utgar paused, staring into the flames by the door. “They will be foiled. Kee-Mo-Shi means to ambush them on their way. She has acquired an amulet, a powerful relic with which she believes she will be able to take control of Raelin.”

“Raelin, my father?”

Utgar smiled. “Raelin is opposed to the war. Her spear, the Spear of Gerda, can protect her allies about her. Her presence can often sway a battle against us. However, she herself remains unprotected. If Kee-Mo-Shi were to succeed, and she were to join our ranks…

“You will accompany Kee-Mo-Shi. While she takes Raelin, you shall wreak havoc amongst the rest of the force.” Utgar leaned forward. “Runa, use caution. Drake is on this mission as well.”

“Drake?” said Runa, raising her head. “He is but an ant compared to my power.”

“Do not underestimate him, Runa. You could kill him, but if you fail, he would destroy you. Kill him if you can, but if you cannot, leave. I have no wish for you to fall in battle.”

“Father, I—”

“I have told you what I wish.”

Runa stared at Utgar for a brief moment, and then dropped her head. “As you command.”

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