Hathering’s study was large, circular, and lined with books. But unlike the books Quigley so loved and cherished, these books were new, clean, with bright covers and brighter pages, and all organised in clear-cut sections like the organs of a body. But Quigley’s body of books had lived and breathed. These books were eerily silent.
‘Welcome, My Lady,’ Erl Hathering said with a smile, bowing low as she entered. He and the other two Erls stood around a large table, and on it were spread many sheets of paper, including a large map. ‘I am so pleased to see you well. I trust you had a pleasant night?’
‘I did indeed, thank you, Your Grace. May I enquire as to the purpose of this meeting?’
‘Of course! Our situation is a difficult one, ladies and gentlemen. We have been posted here for nearly a month now, gathering troops - and so we have gathered an army of nearly fifteen thousand men. I say we need no more - we must act now!’
‘We mustn’t peak too early, Hathering,’ Whitwyn cautioned. ‘Men are still arriving, men that we desperately need, and yet you would have us turn them away?’
‘Aaron’s army is twice the size of ours,’ Lockspate murmured.
‘Equally, however,’ continued Hathering. ‘We do not want to remain here for too long - every day we stay here it gets more expensive in food and pay.’
On and on it went, pointless discussions that Beatrix couldn’t find it within herself to care about. Once she had been very political, hadn’t she? So why not now?
Snap out of it, she told herself. Moping around what can never be is no way to help your county. You didn’t sacrifice your relationship with Keiran so you could be useless.
Oh Keiran, she thought miserably. What have I done?