Ch. 367. Business as Usual?

The walk to the Great Hall wasn’t that long, but the stairs were steep and uneven. It gave that strange mixed back of companions and allies enough time to mingle and talk. Lotye, though, rather kept to herself, walking alone close to the back. So much had happened and it had been tiring. Exciting, too, and very dangerous, but now that all that was over, it was just very tiring. The three Ereonis brothers were united now, all of them so similar but yet so very different. Each one of them was a sight to behold, powerful, famous men with many stories to tell and even more told about them, but Lotye found she didn’t really care half as much as the look-out did. She was just happy all of them were still alive. As was she and, as they soon found out, most of their crew. That was enough to know right then.

Ionas didn’t seem to think so, though. What he had to say about the first mate of the Calinda, wasn’t new information for Lotye, but maybe it was useful to know for those who had recently joined the party and hadn’t yet had the chance to meet and judge the man. Herself, she had already done that back in a Sesan gondola. Their first meeting had already told Lotye all those things Ionas now said about Beau, that he was a manipulative, cold-blooded criminal with a knack for violene. Everything else she had seen of the man only supported that theory. But she also had to agree with Tayli: Everything he had done had helped them in some ways. Maybe, she reassessed, he is more like a weapon. As long as he is pointed in the direction of our enemies, we don’t have to worry. As long as the knife is in our hand, I don’t have to like it. Right there, she had a rather pragmatic way to look at the problem. But her point of view would change not much later.

The Great Hall was a nice place to be. Lotye just couldn’t find much better words to describe it. Even then, after the attack it had just endured and now bustling with all the faeries trying to set right what the bandits had done, the Temple of Flidais exuded a certain peacefulness and a smell like a forest after a short summer rain, with life seemingly starting anew, blossoms opening again to shake off the last raindrops and bees filling the air with a sweet fragrance on their search for the best pollen. Those images came to her mind as Lotye entered the hall. It might have seemed strange to her to describe an ordinary place in such a way, but everything about it reminded her of the northern coniferous forests of her youth, of the many green forests she had travelled through and of all the forms of life she had seen in them. This was the place any tired wanderer in the wilderness was looking for, a perfect place for the worship of the Goddess. And now,so it seemed, it would be a perfect, calm, place for parley.

Here, they were also reunited with Captain Lafitte and his first mate. The display of affection between Beau and Tayliana made Lotye raise an eyebrow. Not only did it cast new light on her previous statements, it also begged questions on Beau’s character. Maybe he really had a good, caring side. Or maybe he just was a really good actor and an even colder bastard that Lotye had thought. In a way, that thought overwrote all the positive points she had made for the eorman before. If he plays her, if he plays us, I’ll do whatever I can to make sure he gets what he deserves. But right then and there was neither the time or place to pass judgement on Beau and so Lotye held back her anger and instead turned her attention to the more important proceedings. While the Ereonis brothers and their new allies made plans on how to attack Mount Isolla, she kept in the background and listened.

The whole thing seemed like a pretty stupid idea to her. Of course, Lotye knew next to nothing about military tactics, much less about how to lay siege to a fortress of wizards. But what little she knew about the Hall of the Wizards Guild was that there were a lot of very powerful people there, probably nearly, or even just as powerful as Jeneyeru. Which made her think that laying siege to a place like that was a bad idea in general. Even worse, the plan seemed to involve them risking theirs lives to allow a horde of bandits and Lady Moonrain’s faerie army to take Mount Isolla.

Not that Lotye really had any problem with risking her life, not after all they had done for each other in the last few days. But for her taste, this plan depended a little bit too much on it and the ones rewarded for it seemed to be the bandit army rather than them. Was it necessary? Probably. She trusted Peino and his brothers and she would most likely follow along with their plan, but she still didn’t like it.

In her desire to share these feelings with someone, she turned to the next person she could find not currently engaged in the parley. Ionas had just finished talking to the strange purple lady, who didn’t seem to be one of Moonrain’s faeries. But rather than wonder about that, Lotye stepped a little bit closer to them.

“Does that sound like a good plan to you?” She didn’t even stop to hear an answer, but went right on to tell them her own thoughts on the matter, which, being honest with herself, really was the only reason she had started the conversation. “Now, I don’t know about how they do these things in the military,”, she said in a low voice, with a smirk and and a slight nod in the direction of Captain Lafitte, who had just ended one of his sentences with “… Comander?”, “but I know a thing or two about using a distraction to get somewhere … you know, like a henhouse or a shop or something. And usually, you use a big commotion to slip in somewhere unnoticed. You don’t slip in to distract someone from a big commotion. And I’d guess that an army of bandits is a pretty big commotion. But what do I know?”

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