Chapter LXXVIII – We Face Additional Difficulties

[Link to previous chapter]

I haven’t been telling Lady Gwella everything. That was partly Chypa’s advice, and partly my own distrust of her. She has been returning the favor, as we find out when we try to go up the river to the capital. It seems Earl Haulloran has assembled an army and is marching on the capital. And the king has made peace with Auspulia’s enemies, in order to pull troops toward the capital to defend it. In short, we’re about to enter a war zone.

There are riverboats of all sizes in Auspulia, but they’re not yet up to steam-powered side-wheelers

Inacha is not only able to pick up all this information within a day of our arrival, but also convinces a riverboat captain to take us upstream, at least as far as he can go without getting shot. “And I can persuade him to sail right into the battle, if need be,” she adds without a trace of humor or smugness. What Chypa’s done to increase Inacha’s intellect and abilities seems to have come at the cost of much of her emotions. Oh, she can still play at being sexy, for example, enough to convince a riverboat captain. But when she’s not trying to persuade people, she’s become almost emotionless, lost in thought.

We’re sitting in one of the taverns that line the river in its lower reaches, all fitted out in new clothes. The old ones were ruined by our dip in the harbor, and the only things we carried away were whatever we packed in our purses beforehand, mostly money. Oh, and what dragon teeth I still have.

Chypa has changed, too. But Chypa’s always changing. She’s been getting shorter, and her complexion is turning gray, while her hair becomes black and curly. It’s strange, but I have the feeling I’d recognize Chypa no matter what she looks like, since I’ve gotten used to seeing her look so many different ways.

She leans back in her chair, and looks up to the ceiling. “None of this makes sense. If Vorana’s working with a god, whatever their relationship, she should just be able to smite any opposing army with enough magic to obliterate it. And yet instead she’s gathering an army?”

“I’ve been thinking about that,” I say. And I have, hard. “When I talked with Mrokitar, she said knowing what humans are like was making her act like a human, but that it wouldn’t last. Take that, and apply it to Vorana. We agree she’s impulsive, short-sighted, a creature of needs. Wouldn’t whatever god she’s working with be affected by her character?”

“Use magic to fight opponents who have magic, use an army to fight an opponent with an army,” Inacha chimes in. Uncharacteristically of the new Inacha, she smiles. “It makes sense, Chypa. So don’t try to communicate with her anymore. We’ll be out of sight, out of mind.” The smile goes away as Inacha gets serious. She turns to me. “Which means you’re our secret weapon, Tollon. She doesn’t know you’re with us. We need to devise a strategy to use you in a way Vorana will not expect.”

With a snort, Chypa drains her mug of ale. “Good idea, if Vorana doesn’t simply traumatize Tollon the first chance she gets. We’ll need other weapons, other plans.” She thinks for a moment. “Tollon, you still have those dragon teeth, don’t you?”

I nod. “About thirty of them.”

“What did Sarton want them for?”

I have to think about that for a bit. “You know, he never told me. Apart from the ones we gave the king.”

Chypa’s eye flash open wide. “You gave some to the king?”

“A dozen.”

She smacks her hands together. “Excellent. We have a use for them that no one, man or god, is going to expect.”

[Link to next chapter]