Chapter Six, Part Four

"The troops dislike me, Phaethon."

From their first meeting, he had insisted upon calling King Phaethon by his first name, as if comparing himself peer to the royal throne. At first, it irked Phaethon, but it worked. To those who knew the king personally, Geryon was the man at his right hand; the man who planted the seed that triggered this enormous endeavor of clearing the southlands and crossing the Phoreigh Mountains to descend upon their neighboring empire. A plot that gathered much fervor, and equally as much contention among the people. Attacking an empire thrice their size and age felt suicidal, yet for a land that lacked much, it made up for in spirit and fire, an aggressive nature that didn't take well to insults and disdain.

"They will soon learn what it is to respect."

They met three years ago, almost to this exact day. A man, proclaiming himself a wizard and usurper, entered the palace keep, and more amused than irate at the intrusion, Phaethon allowed him audience. From that fateful meeting, Geryon had hardly left the king's presence, and his people were correct in their assumptions about the influence Geryon had on their proud king. For since their meeting, they had spent the hourly equivalent of months planning this invasion. First, to extend their lines in the east. That was almost complete. And while everyone's eyes were cast to the east, where the reliable Lord Simmian plundered and conquered, King Phaethon and his faithful General Paros would quash the insignificant nomadic tribes. The extermination was a nonissue. The nomads caused trouble, and justifying their deaths was simple. The type of troubles they caused was most negligible, but that was no excuse.

"The eve will be clear."

"All the more clearer for Fathentis," Phaethon smiled, looking at the distant mountains at the horizon through his tent flap.

"The Dalathould Empire is too captivated by the makings of a civil war."

"It is curious. Sometimes I have wondered whether it would be profitable at all to incur upon such an archaic land. Their land is splendid, but their knowledge is pitiful, and I dare say my land's technology is better than theirs. I have yet to see any airship pass this sky."

"It would be too late, in any event," Geryon's mouth twisted into what appeared to be a smile.

"Your source is true? This is possible?" Phaethon questioned, bored with the trivialities. This was an issue that had remained with him since the onset of the scheme, an issue General Paros found most disturbing and questionable. But Phaethon was worried that he'd somehow convinced himself of it, rather than trusting in tangible facts. Geryon's soothing words only worked temporarily, and this had become a daily recurrent conversation, especially as of late.

"Phaethon, Phaethon," Geryon drawled, rolling his eyes and huffing irritably in his chair. They sat at opposite ends of a table where maps had been laid out, geographical, tactical, elevation maps. "Must I reiterate for the umpteenth time that you must place your trust in me? It is possible--"

Phaethon interrupted him. "And you are well aware that if it isn't possible, that we risk our cover and precious days crossing these wretched mountains? Two and a half miles of high terrain is not an easy task, let alone for ten thousand troops, horsemen and the like!"

"Yes, it would take almost two days to cross those mountains, but I promise you, it will be done in mere hours. We will be descending upon the city before the moon has reached its highest point in the night sky. A clear night, an omen," Geryon's eyes wandered away, suddenly listless and distracted.

Phaethon peered at him, his sandy brown eyebrows bunching together. These quirks. At first, he had supposed them idiosyncratic with his profession, if not his people. But recently, they irked him, made Geryon seem queer and perhaps something of a lunatic. General Paros wasn't even aware of this, but if Geryon's claims proved to be nothing more than that of a madman, then his division’s first blood would be shed before they even reached their first goal.

"An omen for what?" Phaethon said snidely, leaning on his armrest.

Geryon's eyes still drifted around the upper regions of the tent, and only when Phaethon cleared his throat did he cast his eyes back down to face the Sarrphin King. "Oh, from the Fidem Logos, you wouldn't quite understand."

"You've hardly answered my question."

Geryon frowned, his black eyes looking blacker still. "'When at clear night, the trumpet shall sound and the first will be won.' I quote. Few have bothered to consider this verse, but I am well aware of its true meaning."

Phaethon waved his hand. "Enough of that. I need to know something from your source. Is he prepared? Are they all prepared?"

"Of course!" Geryon sat up straight, his mouth a thin straight line. "Three times this conversation, I've told you to trust me! I would not lie to you. Or do you not have faith in our goal?"

"I have faith in what I see with my own eyes."

"You and all the others," Geryon spat, leaning back and looking away.

"With good reason ... wizard."

The black eyes rolled around until they settled upon the king’s blue eyes. For a moment, Phaethon felt a very faint, very quick tinge of uneasiness spread through his stomach and chest, knifing into his throat and stopping at his jaw. He waved it away. Insulting Geryon was no different than insulting the servant that cleaned the latrines every night. Sometimes, though, he had to wonder...

"The moment you wield this power, you will regret your lack of faith. Your power could be that much more, if you had even a hint of faith, proud king."

"I do not deny it, Geryon," Phaethon scoffed. "You seem to forget that no man has seen your power, all but perhaps you, and those that currently conceal their own powers."

"I had faith even before I saw," he pursed his lips and turned away. "An hour past sunset, we proceed?"

Phaethon couldn't say he wasn't glad for the shift in topic. The discussion of magick always set him on edge. It was something he couldn't put his finger on, and he very much disliked that. "Precisely. Preparations an hour to sunset. As you said, before the moon reaches its highest point in the sky, we shall be descending upon Morra like hoard of daemons.

The End

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