Varra sighed a breath of relief. The danger had passed, it seemed. “Captain,” she said, turning to Eathe. “There are things we need to discuss.”
“It seems so,” he nodded.
“It’ll have to wait, though. I have to see to the other Hands. Keep attending to the situation here. I want the palace on high alert for the rest of the day, and triple guard duty until further notice.”
“Yes, Exalted One.” He started to bow, but Varra put a hand on his shoulder and leaned in close, staring into his eyes.
“And meet me in my quarters at sundown,” she whispered.
He visibly reddened at that, but his face was stern as he nodded more covertly. Without another word, she turned around the way she had come, making her way towards the entry stairs and the council chamber. The quickest way was in the opposite direction, as the palace had many flights of stairs, but that was towards the Spear Gate. As uncomfortable as it made her in the past, now she was downright scared of it.
The building was soon flooded with guards as the reinforcements Eathe had requested arrived. They had their weapons drawn and were jogging towards the courtyard. She didn’t address them. Even if the threat was gone, she wanted her men as prepared as possible. Now was not the time for relaxation. She did slow her pace in their presence, though. It wouldn’t do them any good to know she was terrified.
She ascended the stairs and braced herself for the argument that was to come. A mental checklist of what was important would help.
The Hands would of course interrogate her on what happened and ask where she had been all this time. That was a waste of time because she knew as much as what the Hands would. She would then turn the conversation into an appeal to recalling the army back to Terrace. A land grab in the Sanguine Archipelago just wasn’t what the country needed right now. Perhaps now the rest of the council would see that.
They would of course bring up her lack of a second, again. The Hand of Defense had become a very dangerous job in recent years. With her mother’s disappearance and Morren’s sudden death just a few years later, Varra was a hurried replacement, and the last safety net of the city. If anything happened to her… Well, in the absence of a second, the duty of the Hand of Defense would turn to the Guard Captain. That brought her a little comfort, but having grown up in Lower Terrace, the Hands would never accept him being formally named second. And so that argument had been laid to an uncomfortable stalemate. That particular argument probably wouldn’t find its resolution today, but she did have an idea in that regard.
The other Hands, Elodrus especially, would also question her about the boy. The boy whose very existence was impossible. There was no doubt in her mind that his presence was connected to the Spear Gate. The staff and the gate’s opening immediately after his arrival confirmed that. He had also confirmed her suspicion that Rozire was involved, though to what extent was still unclear. One thing was certain, though: She would not bring up Rozire’s name. If they connected him with the boy, they might torture him. No. The less important he seemed, the better. At least for now, while Varra found more pieces of the puzzle.
She rounded the bending hallway as she approached the council room. A dozen guards stood outside, white and bronze armor gleaming as they saluted her. She nodded as one of them opened the door for her.
The room opened up into a wide chamber with a small but ornate table in the middle. On the far wall was an enormous window that oversaw the courtyard and the obelisk below. Twenty or more guards waited inside, many of them staring out the window. Varra kept her focus at the table. The seats were arranged in the common painting of Aenias: three left arms and two right. There were no chairs on the ends, and only one of the seats was empty. Four men of pointed robe and silver hair took up the other ones. She wondered once more how her mother had ever managed to identify with them at all.
“Glad you finally decided to join us, Exalted One,” Karayan stated. The Hand of Justice, and the youngest after Varra, though he had seen over fifty summers.
“I had other matters to attend to,” she amended as she took her place among the five.
“I don’t doubt that. Guards?” He glanced over his shoulder where several men waited. “Arrest Varra under grounds of treason against Upper Terrace and Tebrein.”