“So what do you think?”
Karith’s eyes darted around, trying to determine the context for Sargon’s question. A few of the ship’s crew were chatting idly in the far corner as they ate, occasionally erupting in a burst of laughter. She’d been around the Walrus’ crew long enough to know there was nothing concerning. “About what?” she asked.
“About…everything,” replied her bronze companion between mouthfuls of food.
“You mean…the Rider? Or…the Scalemother? Or…”
Sargon shrugged. “Sure.”
She paused for a moment. A long moment. “Well, it’s not what I expected, but when is it?”
He stared for a moment. “That’s it?”
“…Yeah.” Karith shrugged. “Is that…should it be more?”
Sargon leant forward, lowering his voice. The crew didn’t know the pair’s business, and he hoped it’d stay that way. “Sora Markex, the Scalemother, the woman who single handedly won the Battle of Karos comes back from the dead after twenty years and it’s,” he paused to lower the volume of his speech again, “…not what you expected?”
Karith held eye contact with him as he spoke, brow slightly furrowed. When he had finished, she replied. “Well, it isn’t. I don’t know what to say.” She left the pair in silence, before indulging him. “What do you think?”
Sargon didn’t answer.
“Not so easy, is it?”
He gave her a wry look, but didn’t say anything for a few moments, head bent low as he slowly worked his way through his stew. Karith could see the wheels turning in his head.
“I think it’s sad,” he said finally, not looking up.
He raised his head, spoon hovering over the bowl. “Yeah. Yeah, I think it’s sad.”
“Think about it. She was…she had everything. She came from nothing, and she built herself up until she had everything. She was Scalemother, there is no higher position for her. No Mak’to has done what she—” He returned the hovering spoon to the bowl with more force than intended, the clatter of metal on ceramic echoing sharply around the lower deck. The sailors in the corner stopped their conversation abruptly, turning to look at the pair, before resuming their discussion. “No Mak’to has done what she did, but she did it, and now she has nothing again. Her own son took her husband from her and forced her into hiding, and now she’s returned to find two others that…they didn’t even know who she was. And now she needs to trust them to be better than Valasar.”
Karith didn’t say anything, but continued listening.
“And you know what’s even more sad than that? If they are better than Valasar, it’s because she wasn’t the one who raised them. If they aren’t, then it just starts over again for her. She’ll have nothing again. Or worse. Do you not find that sad?”
Karith shrugged. “It’s not my place.”
“I’m not asking the sergeant, I’m asking Karith.”
“And Karith is answering the lieutenant.”
“Cut it,” Sargon hissed.
Karith ate a few spoonfuls of stew, then spoke again. “Well let me ask you a question, then. Do you think they’re better than Valasar?”
Sargon stared at her for a few seconds. “I have no idea.”
She raised one brow. “None.”
“Do you? How would we know? How would we actually know? It’s been…weeks? A month or two? How much of a measure of someone can you get in a couple of months?”
“I think you can get enough.”
“Well, do you think they’re better? I know the captain does. Do you?”
Karith considered the question before replying. “I trust the captain’s judgment.”
Sargon shook his head and let out a small sigh. “You haven’t got any opinions of your own, do you?”
“Everyone has opinions,” she said, “I just don’t think we should be discussing them when we’re on duty.”
“You have to be able to question things, Karith.”
“We have a job to do.”
“We do. But what if it isn’t the right job? What if we aren’t doing it for the right people?”
“You seem full of opinions this evening,” Karith said, before lifting her bowl to her lips and drinking the last dregs of the stew. Tasteless, but it was warm.
“I…I just…I think about this stuff,” Sargon said. “I think about how we’ll be presented in the history books. Are we on the right side here?”
Karith wiped a few errant drips from her red scales. “We’re on the side against Valasar, so as far as I’m concerned, yes.”
“Why? What is it about Valasar that made you defect with everyone else?”
“He’s the wrong person, and we had the chance to be with the right person.”
“Why is he the wrong person?”
Karith regretted getting herself into another of Sargon’s debates. “He’s not fit. People have been dying under his rule.”
“The commander and Lord Zorgar are murderers.”
“We’re all murderers.”
“Warriors aren’t murderers.”
“They’re the same thing.”
“Warriors protect people.”
“By murdering other people.” She smirked as he tried to change the conversation’s trajectory.
“A lot of people will die if we march on Scale.”
“And a lot will die if we don’t. Valasar goes to war with the Empire and we’ll lose thousands.”
“The Commander could very well do the same thing.”
Karith gave a smile and a shrug. “What would you suggest we do, then? You know Valasar won’t back down.”
“I—” Sargon sighed. “I don’t know. Sometimes I just feel as if we’re pawns in other people’s squabbles.”
“That’s the soldier’s life,” she said.
Sargon sighed again and fell silent. He leant back against the ship hull, looking towards the ceiling. “It…it just makes me so…angry…to think how many people could die because of one man’s ego and the family he happened to be born into,” he said after a while.
Karith raised an eyebrow. “The commander or Valasar?”
He leant his head forward and looked at Karith. “Does it matter?”