Emperor Vohrskrain roared.
“A thousand serfs sacrificed, an army sent by the Elder Gods to back them up, and two of our finest Prikenskrins failed to kill one untrained Garagran living as a helpless woman?”
Emperor Vohrskrain drew himself up higher with each word, until his head neared the ceiling eight heights up and his entire form glowed like molten gold in the countless beams of sunlight filling the temple. A whiff of urine reached his nostrils and he glanced down at the half-Liltan scout, who had prostrated himself completely before him.
The Emperor reined in his temper and settled back to all fours.
“This princess proves far more resourceful than we had expected. Or perhaps the Salshirans are fiercer than the humans we normally encounter. Tell me, man, which would you say?”
“I cannot say with certainty, oh Most High.”
The Emperor sighed at the scout’s fear. He could see why his father had done some business as a human. People did not do their best work when terrified.
“Of course not. Give me your impressions.”
The scout nodded, face still down, ears pressed all the way out to the side.
“The princess may be more accomplished now than when she fled. The townsfolk spoke of her training with the Salshiran military. She may also have received training in human fighting. Also, the Salshirans may have weapons we have not encountered before. Their bows are strange, made with wheels like pulleys, and there was talk that they killed one of our Garagrans who went in scouting a week before my team followed the Prikenskrins. We know that the one Garagran scout General Ankrilus sent in did not return.”
“So, both are possibly true. You said earlier that she was staying at their royal palace?”
“She is betrothed to the Salshiran’s prince.”
Emperor Vohrskrain curled his lip in disgust.
“A Liltan? She is marrying a Liltan?”
“The rumors passed among the educated indicated it was more of a political betrothal to protect her. Most did not think either the Prince or Princess Rehkskarri intended to go through with it.”
“So, there is opposition within the country to her presence. Good. Perhaps they will yield her if we make our full interest known. Did General Ankrilus send in other scouts to find out more?”
The man trembled.
“No, oh Most High. He had us under orders to return before the Prikenskrins made their attack, for fear that the Salshirans might find the cave once they suspected their border had been bypassed. He may have sent more scouts in since I left for here, but I do not know. The cave might be no more.”
“Very well then. Bekkin!”
The Emperor’s chief scribe, an old Bortin, walked over, silver and black robes rippling, and bowed low.
“Send a message to the Generals of the North, the West, the East and the Center. Tell them I want preliminary reports on how many legions they can spare without sending their regions into chaos, and to begin preparing those forces for a march on Salshira. I want representatives here for planning within two weeks of receiving my message.”
The scribe nodded.
“Then send another message to General Ankrilus. Tell him to begin laying preparations for a grand encampment at the pass closest to the Salshiran capitol. Make it clear that I want him to be obvious about this, so that the Salshirans make no mistake of our intent to invade. I will also send a diplomat shortly to negotiate for the Princess. General Ankrilus is to give him full support, and do whatever he thinks best in applying pressure to the Salshirans.”
The scribe nodded again.
“Is that all, oh Most High?”
“Yes, Bekkin. You may go.”
“Glory to you, oh Most High.” The scribe bowed and returned to his alcove, filled with other scribes and servants, to begin penning the messages.
The Emperor returned his attention to the scout, still prostrate.
“Now, you mentioned at the beginning that Salshira is a land of great wealth, filled with wondrous machines. Tell us all that you know of this.”