“Paranoia is an insidious disease. It spreads slowly, a thin layer of oil over everything until nothing and no one has escaped the tar.
“It is easy as a leader to see threats where there are none – flickering shadows on the wall, a misplaced smile or frown. One must remain vigilant, both of those around them, but also of their own mind.”— “The Practice of Leadership”
The door to the throne room eased open, heralding the arrival of Garn and Sarix. They strode forward and saluted, the Red Claw’s firm, her back straight; the Green’s more understated. Valasar sat up in the glass throne at the hall’s end, looking expectantly at the pair.
The two Claws exchanged a glance, neither wanting to speak first.
“…Still no sign, Your Grace. Nobody in the city’s seen even a shadow of them.” Sarix’s voice was rigid.
Valasar set his jaw and furrowed his browplates. “They’re here. I know they are. Lurking in the shadows, waiting to strike. Redouble your efforts – I want them found! Nobody enters or leaves the city until I’ve their heads on pikes.”
“Sire, respectfully…” ventured Garn, the king’s solitary eye darting to fix him in its gaze.
“…We believe strongly that they’re no longer in Karan Taul. Vexir intelligence suggests—”
“Vexir intelligence,” scoffed Valasar. “Vexir intelligence did little to assist their capture, and it did little to protect me from that human witch, Garn.”
Garn gulped. “I understand, sire. But as I say, Vexir intelligence suggests their sights are set on another target entirely.”
“We’ve received reports that Captain Gaur was removed from the VIII’s custody by individuals matching the separatists’ description, sire,” cut in Sarix.
“…We’ve also heard reports from the citizenry that military movements have been sighted heading towards Orminth,” continued Garn, “and as Sarix will attest, there have been no planned Keldrath movements matching that description.”
Valasar narrowed his eye.
“We believe they’re marching on Orminth, sire,” said Sarix.
Valasar stood from the throne, descended the steps, faced Sarix. “How quickly can Lord Keldrath be in the capital?”
“By…by drake, sire, perhaps by tomorrow, I’m unsure.”
“I want him here by dawn.”
Sarix saluted. Valasar turned to Garn. “Send for Arturim, ensure he brings me this ‘Vexir intelligence’. I’ll await him in my chambers.”
Valasar turned and began to stride off.
“Sire?” called Garn after him.
Valasar paused, looked back over his shoulder.
“…The curfew, sir. What shall we tell the citizens?”
“The curfew remains in effect.”
“But sire, we’ve…they’re not in the city. The people already grow restless.”
“It’s a trick. They’re still lurking nearby, waiting for the right moment to strike. I won’t give them the opportunity. The curfew remains in effect. Double the guard rota.”
“That’s an order, Garn.”