After the momentary satisfaction of being right, Tythel began to shift her feet, under the gaze of everyone in the room. Nicandros was frowning, Haradeth was also frowning although with a furrowed brow and curl to his lips that Tythel thought might indicate a scowl, Lathariel’s face was tranquil, and the other five faces in the room were wide eyed. They want me to do something. I guess speak?
She cleared her throat. “She’s right. I…didn’t know until a few days ago. I came as soon as I found out.” It wasn’t entirely true, but they didn’t need to go into the day between her finding out and coming. “One of the royal guards escaped the capitol with me. He fled into the mountains, and managed to reach Karjon’s lair before he died.”
“Gorah,” one of the women muttered, and Tythel had to shrug.
“Maybe. I never got his name.” She tried to smile to reassure them, but apparently the look didn’t suit her face well. Or she was doing it wrong. She dropped it.
“Well,” said the Sylvani – Lorathor, Tythel reminded herself – “I must say, long lost heirs to the throne are an effective rallying point. Although proof may be difficult.”
Tythel felt heat rise to her face. “Lathariel just confirmed it, and I have a locket with the royal arms on it. What more could I possibly offer as proof!”
Lorathor held up his hand, “You do not need to convince me, your highness. Lathariel’s word is good enough for me, and my word will be good enough for those of my people who still fight.” He motioned to the other four. “Might I make introductions?”
Tythel nodded, and he pointed to each one in turn. To the woman with ivory skin and hair the color of coral, he said, “Lady Ayla Von Bagget, of the Wavewalkers.”
Lady Von Bagged had recovered quickest from the initial shock, and gave Tythel as slight bow in her seat. “Your highness.”
Tythel realized she was supposed to return the gesture, and shook her mind until a nugget of courtly information Karjon had imparted with the history lessons rattled free. She gestured upwards with her left hand as she gave a bow of her head – a motion both acknowledging the difference in rank and asking the Lady to be at ease. Tythel hoped she got it right, though it was impossible to tell from the looks the group shared. “The Wavewalkers served the throne bravely against the Pirate League. I’m glad to see you still fight.”
She hope that the Lady was pleased by the mention of their latest service to the crown. At least she seemed to relax some. Lorathor moved to the man next to her, a frowning fellow with blood red eyes and hair of banded white and gold. “Lord Moris Devos, of the Knights of the Abyss.”
Tythel was glad for the bow and response gesture to give her time to thinks. The Knights of the Abyss, called Abyssals for short, were rabid dogs the crown let out of their cage in times of great crisis. The fact that their leader had been named a Lord, and was at the table…”Lord Devos. I am glad we fight with such fearless warriors.”
Lord Devos gave her a smile that showed his teeth had been filed to points. It would have been unsettling if she had not been staring at dragon fangs since she was in her crib.
“Oh, cut the crap, Lorathor,” said the third, his frown deepening. His skin was the color of slightly tarnished gold, and his hair looked like raven’s feathers, as did the hair of the woman on his left. “We have some girl here claiming royal blood, and” acknowledging Lathariel with a nod, “even with that being true, she’s done nothing to earn any of the ceremony. I certainly won’t be given some flathing archaic hand lift from the little welp.”
Tythel blinked, unsure of how to proceed, but Lorathor was quick to speak, “That rather sour fellow is Duke Grephen d’Monchy and next to him is his wife, the Duchess Charan d’Moncy.”
The d’Monchy family was one of the closest to the Royal family – or at least was when Karjon’s sources ran out, about seventy five years ago. Which meant it was likely they were next in line for the throne, which could explain his outburst. “You’re right, Duke d’Monchy, I haven’t earned this yet. I hope with time you’ll see the-”
“Shove it down your throat, your highness.” He turned to Latheriel, dismissing Tythel from his mind, “She has, if her story is true, been sitting in a mountain for most her life, raised by the only dragon on the continent that was too cowardly to fight. If you want to use her as a flathing figure head, fine, it’s no shavings off my toes. She was raised by a coward! If you thinks she’ll sit at this table, she better be able to do-”
“Duke d’Monchy,” Tythel said, keeping her voice as level as she could in the face of the onslaught of insults, “I would remind you that your house was funding the Pirate League, an act of treason that was only overlooked because your great aunt – or is it twice great aunt? – was wedded to the King. If we are going to cast the sins of our predecessors at each other, I should remind you that yours far outweigh mine.”
Lorathor coughed unconvincingly into his hand to hide a laugh, and Tythel realized that she hadn’t been anywhere near as skilled at hiding her anger as she’d hoped. Nicandros no longer was frowning, at least. He’d also switched over to a smile.
“A point we can debate,” Lathariel said before the Duke could respond, “after we’ve dealt with the present threat. We need to withdraw, deeper into the woods, outside the area they’ll know to look.” She motioned towards the ground, and roots began to tear a hole in the earth beneath their feet. “We can speak once we’ve regrouped. Gather your men, all of you, and-” Lathariel voice cut out as she slumped, leaning on the table.
At the same time, a distant crashed reached Tythel’s ears. Something had just impacted the forest, and injured Lathariel at the same time.
“They’re here,” Tythel said, turning around and holding up a hand for quiet. For a wonder, no one spoke for long enough for her to hear the screech of metal on metal and the faint sound of metal claws, “Three of their sky vessels, and two more of the pod-walkers Nicandros and I fought.”
“With Sagwa,” Haradeth added as an afterthought already rushing to his mother’s side.
“Get your bloody flathing men,” Nicandros growled, “If they have three Warmongers and two Crysapods, we’re overmatched.”
“We don’t take orders from-” the Duke started, and his wife finally animated to put a hand on his shoulder. He paused, and took a deep breath. “Of course, dear. We’ll gather our men.”
“So that’s it,” Haradeth said, still trying to support his mother. She shrunk herself down to Tythel’s size, which made it easier for him. “We’re just going to run?”
Nicandros was in his face in a flash, “Boy, if you have some way to take down three Warmongers, I’d love to hear it. But unless you have the flathing Vacuity Engine in your pocket, we have nothing.
The two stared at each other, and Tythel cleared her throat to draw their attention. “Since the others are gathering their men, and we have at least another hour before their machines arrive here, what is a Vacuity Engine.”
Nicandros snorted. “Not a Vacuity Engine. The Vacuity Engine. One of a kind item, somehow key to what the Alohym want with us. We think if we can destroy it, it’ll turn the tide in this war.”
“How?” Tythel couldn’t help but asked.
Nicandros shrugged. “We just know the Alohym guard it more heavily than anything else. Even their ships. If we get it…”
Tythel, instead of answering, tilted her head to the side. A sound was growing directly above them, the sound of one of their Warmongers descending from the sky, but it was deeper, more bass than the others.
Tythel motioned to the hole. “They already know we’re here. We have to get in!”
Nicandros scrambled into the hole and offered his hand to whoever would follow. Lathariel shoved Haradeth to it, who gave Tythel a frown as he entered. Lorathor motioned for her to go next, followed by Nicandros and then the Sylvani himself. Soldiers began to stream in after them, headed by their armies.
As far down the tunnel as she got, Tythel still felt the earth shudder when they levelled the fortress.