James skimmed the parchment feeling the expectant eyes of eight men rigid with anticipation. He scanned their faces quickly and rubbed his chin wanting to postpone dealing with the news. Or dealing with the council's reaction to the news.
“Riorden has made his move. His men are advancing the border.”
“To war, then.” Finch could have shrugged.
Thomas waved him off, “We don't know that that's necessary. Have we heard word from the King himself? What are the circumstances?”
Direford—no, Whitsford pressed his palms into the table. “He is trying to strike us while we're weak.” The statement struck James and he turned his full attention to the man. Whitsford continued with care. “So soon after the death of his rival, he thinks we are no match for him with a fledgling king.”
In all honesty, James admired the man's courage. There had to have been a reason these men and their unflagging opinions earned the respect of his father. Whitsford was starting to prove his seat in the council.
Thripp looked as though he might commit murder with his eyes alone. The rest of the men bit their tongues.
“This does not prove his implication in the assassination. We will not respond in such a manner,” James asserted.
The men exchanged looks.
“What of our men stationed there, at the border?” Ramsay shifted in his chair.
James held up the parchment and sighed. “They request more troops, provisions, weapons—”
“And while we're at it, warm weather, maybe a dragon. We'll send those right off.” Brigman scoffed.
James ignored the man's attitude. “What about recruiting?”
“Does the public yet know we are at war? We'll have to address them.” Thomas spouted his worry.
“No, I want volunteers. I won't declare a state of war. We're still preserving peace at this point.”
“And we'll pay them with money we don't have. Or promise food we barely have.” Brigman threw his hands in the air.
“Send what little we can afford for the time being. I understand we cannot fulfill their request, but I won't leave it unanswered.” James pressed his fingertips to his forehead.
“Sir, I do not believe it will be enough. King Riorden is an impending threat. It would be irresponsible—” Whitsford looked at him squarely.
“When he is more than just a threat, we will talk of war.” James held tightly onto his composure. “Send another request for Riorden's audience.”
“Send it.” He waved his dismissal to the council and they disappeared from the chamber. If he'd made a mistake, it would be his own.