1626, Sea Season, Harmony Week
1625, Fire Season
1626, Sea Season, Harmony week Fireday
Reflections on leadership and failure
The Queen invited me to lead a unit against Onjur today and Grandmother made it clear that there was no alternative. It’s been a long time since I stood in front of any kind of force with a thought to leading them. I wasn’t ready. I’m not sure I can be ready.
The last time I tried to lead, things ended badly for me, but also for some of those under my command.
Fire Season, 1625: With blessings from Grandmother Saiciae and Queen Samastina, I had sworn to follow Argrath and his Praxians against the New Lunar Temple. After my successes at home in the siege and later at Pennel Ford, I was given a chance. A small unit of Vingans under my own command. I was… well, I was proud. I believed it was my right and my duty and I believed that I was the right choice. I was certain that Vinga was smiling on me.
We didn’t make it to the Temple.
We were advancing into Dragon Pass; spirits were high and so were tempers. We were so sure of our success and I was dreaming of coming glory so I wasn’t on my guard. We were untouchable.
I remember the evening (at least the first part) clearly. It was cool for Fire Season, probably because we were high up in the pass. The sky was clear and Orlanth’s Ring was clearly visible in the heavens. There was a breeze, crisp and pleasant, carrying the scents of the forestland we’d be entering the next morning. The troops were bivouacked for the night, and there was the usual scattering of campfires spread across the hordes. Beer seemed to flow freely in the evenings and sometimes it led to tempers flaring and fists flying, but Argrath didn’t care so long as it didn’t slow anyone down when the Yelm brought the dawn. My own warriors were partaking freely and there were the usual little squabbles, but it seemed an evening like all the others on this long march.
There was a fight. It was short-tempered Jonrika again, always quick to take offense, and Hulda, full of mischief and bearing a barbed tongue. I was no leader that evening. I sat back and watched as my Vingans placed bets on which of their companions would be the first to fall and I did nothing but laugh alongside them.
It was in the midst of this foolishness that they struck. Lunar demons with three arms, mad eyes, and the stink of death and darkness. My belly cramped with fear, there was no sword in my hand, and Vinga, well Vinga was not with me in that moment. They say I simply dropped in place.
It was weeks before I woke again. I’d missed everything: the dragon’s rising and the routing of the Lunars. Nearly half my force was lost that day in the Dragon Pass, some beyond saving and others lost to the world for days or weeks like me. A number of those whose spirits had taken injury never fully recovered. I saw Hulda in the Praxian hospital where I’d awoken. The mischief was gone from her eyes and there was a hollowness to her. Last I heard, she was at Tarthcaer and still hadn’t spoken.
Grandmother knows this. When I returned home under orders of the Praxian healers, I knelt at her feet and wept as I told her my shame. How could she expect me to be responsible for the lives of others today? And how could she expect me to lead this strange combination of family and foreigner? She spoke of duty, loyalty, and the obligations of my rank, both to Saiciae and to Nochet and I did as she demanded, as I always do. But Vinga knows the truth in my heart and the mask I wore to hide my fear in front of the others and in front of the watchful eyes of Serzeen. Serzeen will tell Grandmother everything, every questionable choice, every moment of hesitation, everything. I can only hope that the success of our mission will outweigh the rest.