The Heart’s Oath – Chapter 39

Dagmauru surfaced, pulling his consciousness from the Deep Roots back into the shell of his primary body. Despite the long months he spent with his mind wandering the under layers of the Council’s realm, coming back to himself never felt strange.

“Thank the Sleeping Gods for their little gifts,” he said, working rich loam and fallen twigs from his mouth. His arms and legs were fully responsive and he could feel his sap flowing through his body with the rushing rhythm that only came with full wakefulness.

“Yes sir,” Blinet said. Or one of the Blinets. It didn’t matter which one, they were his staff and aside from meaningless variations in the coloring of their fur, each was usually interchangeable with the rest.

“We should moving to the Speaking Glade,” he said. “How long till we arrive?”

“We began transporting your host within ten minutes of your orders sir. We should arrive in just over an hour,” Blinet said. It was a different Blinet, but as Dagmauru had neither praise nor reproach to offer for their performance he made no effort to identify the speaker any further.

An hour of preparation was in some senses fifty nine minutes more than he needed, and in others years less than he would have liked.

“Do we have a roster of the Council members who will be in attendance for our emergency session?” he asked as he stood up.

The ground he had embedded his body in was moving, carried on the back of a Trolliphaunt.

The four legged creature towered over the trees of the swamp they moved through, it’s long limbs easily picking a path around and over the growth which would otherwise impede the flat disk that made up the majority of its body.

The Trolliphaunt wasn’t the first conveyance beast that Dagmauru had owned. He’d lost a dozen or more similar creatures during the divine skirmishes in the age that predated the gods’ slumber. Since their fall he’d had to make do with lesser mounts, ones that he’d been able to fashion for himself. They weren’t the equal of the divine steeds he’d been graced with by the gods, but the lack of divine meddling meant they also lasted longer.

“The Council will be complete for the session,” Blinet said. “We will be among the first to arrive of those who are not already in residence at the Speaking Glade.”

Dagmauru allowed a moment of peace to flow up from his rooted toes.  Events were moving as he’d foreseen they would. There were always surprises of course. Those were unavoidable and expected to a degree. Some of them were even pleasant.

The Gallagrin Queen invading the Council’s realm on her own, rather than at the head of her army, had not been in the script he’d written, but it played into his greater ambitions so well that he could almost believe it to be another gift from his gods.

Almost, but not quite. Not with knowing what he did about the Council’s more hidden areas of mystical research. Fortunately, most of the rest of the Council was ignorant of the efforts he’d directed, just as they were ignorant of the plans he laid which stretched back centuries.

It was the one thing his fellow Undying Ministers failed to grasp. They moved with the seasons and looked to the cycles of life, but so few could see beyond that. Yes, small changes across many repetitions led to growth and progress but there were also the watershed moments. Occasions when massives changes shifted everything in an instant.

There were some of Dagmauru’s peers who saw that reality, but few seemed willing to admit to it and even fewer willing to plan to exploit those moments when they arose.

“Sir, we’ve received word from your staff at the Glade, Balmauru has arrived ahead of schedule and is asking for a personal conference before the session begins,” Blinet said.

Dagmauru felt the peace that flowed through him wash away in an acid tide.

Balmauru was his closest ally. As such Balmauru knew of the extent of Dag’s research. That made Bal also Dagmauru’s more dangerous adversary.

Balmauru shared Dag’s long seeing outlook. Among the Undying, they were the two most concerned about the preservation of the realm beyond the next turning of the cycle. Their views were so close they should have been braided together as a composite being, like a number of the other Undying were. They would have done so on their own, save for the thorns that stood between them.

Bal’s view of the long future was a naive one. They saw that change would come, they agreed that there would be periods of devastation and calamity, but they believed that the Children of the Gods, both the Mindful Races and the other creatures who lived within the realms, would find new paths that would see them all through to even better days.

Bal believed in building strength across the cycles, of exploring the world to the depths of its darkest reaches and the width and breadth of its most open expanses. In all those things, Dag agreed with them. They differed in only one principal.

In Bal’s world, everyone could rise, could become more than they had been, and in this Dag found their vision flawed. The world provided so much evidence to dispute the notion of everyone moving forward at once. It was fundamental to nature, to the construct of the world the Sleeping Gods had crafted, that for one being to move forward, others must fall and be consumed to provide the fuel for growth and change.

“Tell them I shall seek them out the moment I arrive,” Dagmauru said. Balmauru didn’t want the meeting anymore than Dag did. Dag was certain of that. Each knew where the others heart lay, each knew the choices the other would argue for. They had been companions for centuries and friends for longer than that.

It would all end at the emergency session though. It was better that it happen in the Speaking Glade. The sacred space would restrict them both. They’d come to the point where their views required action, where the plans they’d each worked on had to either come to fruition or wither away to ash, and neither could let that happen. Not even if it cost them everything they were to each other.

“Tarismauru has also dispatched word,” another Blinet said. “He wishes to meet with you as well, though he did not specify a time.”

“Reply that I shall sit in his bower during the session,” Dagmauru said. “We need not meet before the proceedings begin though, instead he is to seek out those most staunchly in opposition to us still and listen to their position.”

“You wish to send Tarismauru as your diplomat?” Blinet asked. It was rare for his staff to question Dagmauru, but in this instance he allowed it. Taris was an idiot. A useful idiot, and a willing pawn, but not at all cut out for any sort of delicate work.

“No,” Dagmauru said. “Instruct him very clearly on this. He is not to attempt any diplomacy at all. He must not attempt to convince any of the people he visits that our cause is sensible, right or just. He is only to listen. I do not wish our opponents to be convinced. I want to know exactly why those who are still opposed to the war hold the positions that they do.”

“Should he ask as to what compromises would be acceptable to them?” Blinet asked.

“Absolutely not,” Dagmauru said. “He is to offer nothing except his understanding, and his silent acceptance of what they have to say.”

“What should he do if they impune his honor?” Blinet asked.

“Tell him that I will carry his honor and he shall be cloaked in mine,” Dagmauru said. “He goes to them not of his own accord but at my request. Any dishonor they would cast on him, shall fall on me, and I will seek no duels and answer no challenges until the emergency session is complete.”

Dagmauru knew his opposition. It was impossible not to after serving the realm for as long as they all had. He knew those who would oppose him on the principal that he was the one speaking, and the ones who opposed him because they were uncomfortable with the issues being raised. For the later group, being able to vent their concerns to something who offered no judgements, and no arguments would be enough to settle their minds, especially if Dagmauru could twist their concerns back against them as though he could read their hearts and held the answer to their deepest worries.

The Green Council had existed in peace with its neighbors for so long that the thought of war against them was abhorrent to most of the Council’s members. Even preparing for such a war raised fears and doubt the likes of which they had never had to confront before.

The was the first thing Dagmauru had worked on. He had spent what felt like an eternity convincing the Council of the need for stronger defenses. The gods had aided him in that. By leaving their half baked monsters still prowling about the realm they’d made it easy to argue for new and better weapons, and more troops to keep the people safe at all times. Nothing came before the safety of the people of the realm. It was an argument that carried every debate.

Dag and Bal kept their victories in that arena small and low key though. Too great a change, to quickly, especially outside the umbrella of a terrible external calamity, and their plans would be dashed by the unreasoning backlash of the Undying who wished to never see the world become unfamiliar and strange.

Instead they moved slowly forward, delving slightly deeper into the mysteries of their magics with each season, and crafting ever stronger (and more deadly) spells from what they discovered.

Few in the Council knew the real depths to which Dagmuaru had set his researchers. The work was tricky and dangerous they had been told and the realities of what the researchers  had done was hidden behind project names and code words.

The researchers themselves were cut off from the Deep Roots, in part to shield them from distraction but more to enforce that all of their communication with the outside world went through Dagmauru or his staff. The horrors they’d created were not easily understood by those who hadn’t followed their work across many lifetimes. It was for the best that the Council not have to be fully aware of the forces they deployed, in Dag’s view. The Council needed only to know that they had unstoppable might at their disposal and that the time had come to use it.

“Sir, we are receiving reports from the warfronts,” a Blinet said.

“Which ones,” Dagmauru asked, hope soaring in his chest that his predictions would prove to be true. He could manage in any turn of events, but if he’d guessed correctly then the battles to come would be so much easier.

“We have reports from the spy crows which circle the Royal Palace of Senkin, and our troops in Gallagrin,” Blinet said. “There is also one other report, an unexpected one.”

Dagmauru narrows his eyes. Unexpected and aligning with his predictions did not measure up well.

“Where is this report from?” he asked.

“An elf,” the Blinet said. “She claims to have escaped from Senkin carrying intelligence which will aid our cause.”

“What sort of intelligence?” Dagmauru asked, the tingling of hope restrained buzzing in the tips of his fingers.

“The true layout of the Senkin reserve forces,” Blinet said. “We have also captured a Gallagrin Pact Warrior who seemed to be pursuing the elf.”

“What is the elf’s name?” Dagmauru asked, a delighted suspicion arising in him.

“She gave it as ‘Lafli’ sir,” Blinet said.

Slowly a smile spread across Dagmauru’s face. He knew the Lafli clan. They were sympathizers he had spent the better part of a century wooing to the Green Council’s cause. For the daughter to arrive at the eve of the emergency session was the last bit of proof he needed. He was going to win. When the dust settled, the Council would no longer be the smallest of the realms and the world would respect its power.

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