1627, Earth Season
After the cavalry has set course back towards the infantry Xenofos rides close to Varanis.
She gives him a welcoming smile, but her gaze is distant. Troubled.
“Do you have a moment, milady” scribe asks quietly. His tone is formal, careful.
“For you? Always.” She refocuses, so that is now giving him her attention.
“This may be a bit awkward I am afraid.”
He glances towards direction from which the shouting of little Humakti sounds.
“Go ahead, Xeno. You know you don’t need to coat it in honey for me. What have I done?”
“It is not about what you have done, milady” Xenofos looks at Varanis thoughtfully “I think… It is about Berra. You may need to have a chat with her.”
“Oh?” Varanis twists in the saddle to look at him better, then has to correct her posture as Manasa begins to sidestep towards her cousin’s mount.
“A quiet chat. So it will not look outwards like a reprimand.”
“Xenofos!” Her tone becomes exasperated. “What is it?”
“She should not be explaining your orders.” He looks ahead! ” Well that is not quite true. It is well and good she clarifies details of what you want done. But she should not contradict what you have said.”
“Relieving someone of command is a bit delicate even if they did not want it in the first place.” He looks at her. “It is entirely your decision. And in line with what I recommended first to you and then to Berra. But thanks to her meddling I have now heard two different explanations why it was done. And a hint of third I really detest. It needed no other reason then you want it so, milady.”1That tone. Really, really polite.
“Berra has her own opinions and recommendations, but I made my decision for my reasons. I shared my reasons with you, not hers, as mine are what is relevant. She has a very Sartarite take on command that is not necessarily a good fit with Esrolian ways. It is… a work in progress, I suppose.” There’s an irritated sigh. “I want to find the right leaders for the individual units. It was always my intention to shift that about as needed. I want the troops to be used to a certain set of voices issuing commands, but if we limit it too much, then they will fall apart if those commanders are lost.” Though unspoken, thoughts of Xenofos’ recent incarceration hang heavily in the air between them.
“You should make this clear to her, milady.” He looks at her. “Now I am having doubts who tried to sugarcoat the Truth. What if it was someone of the troops? Someone who did not feel free to tell you?”
“Explain further? What is it that you fear?”
“Interesting choice of words milady.” He looks at her with a frown and nods. “I did make a mistake. Replacing me makes sense, but is also a show of distrust and disapproval.”
“That is not why I am doing it, Xenofos. I explained myself. Do you need me to explain it again?” The irritation is rising. “Berra shared her thoughts with me. I considered them, but ultimately, I made the decision based on my own reasons. Are you concerned by how it might look to the army? I suppose if they misunderstand, it could create some tensions.”
“I know how this will look to the army. That is immaterial now. Even if it does sting a bit.” He looks at the picket line. “But if you need to do similar things later, make sure she or he does not need to hear one reason from you and a different one from Berra. It casts a shadow on veracity of both of your words, milady.”
Varanis stares at him. Manasa’s ears twitch. “Are you saying that you doubt my honesty, cousin?”
“I don’t know if you are trying to save my feelings by talking beside the point or if Berra is talking out of her cute derriere to cover for her ignorance. End result is that both of you sound unconvincing.”
“So you are saying I might be lying?” The stare turns into a glare. “Fine. I have heard you out. I shall consider your words carefully. But, for the moment, I advise you to ride onward.”
“You might be telling only part of the Truth and not necessarily the most significant one… Milady” Xenofos responds despite the imminent Storm before nodding and veering off.
- 1That tone. Really, really polite.