Cassisoche, regent of Whitethrone, is finding it difficult to listen to her generals’ reports. As they drone on about troop movements and supply logistics, her mind wanders to her mother’s sunken eyes, the slight shake that’s developed in her hands. The way that, after so many decades, Elvanna is finally beginning to look old. Not the hunched and withered age of the peasants, mind you, but… spent; used up; tired.
Cassisoche shakes her head to clear it. “Repeat that last, please, general.”
“Yes, your grace,” General Gregorich replies. “I was saying that we’ve made some impressive gains throughout the Inner Sea region, although the giants of the Storval Plateau are giving us some trouble. Nonetheless, we expect to have it secured before the thaw.”
Cassisoche arches an eyebrow. “The thaw, general?”
Gregorich coughs uncomfortably. “Yes, quite right, your grace. My mistake. I meant those months when there would traditionally have been a thaw.” The regent nods.
“And what of Taldor?”
Gregorich hesitates, and Kisevich reponds instead. “If I may, your grace… are you well?”
“Yes, fine,” Cassisoche snaps. “Taldor.”
“As I… as I reported earlier, your grace, Taldor remains out of reach of our portals. Once Qadira falls, we’ll cross the border and resume our invasion there.”
“Those foreigners of yours,” the Jadwiga Ilmater interjects, “the ones who made off with the Crone’s hut—” she and Cassisoche exchange unfriendly gazes “—they seem to have…collapsed the ley line somehow when they closed the portal. We can’t reopen it at this time.”
“Noted,” Cassisoche says, as he begins to ease herself out of her uncomfortable chair. “Thank you for the updates. Captain, kindly show the generals out.”
Minutes later the regent eases herself into an overstuffed and far more comfortable chair, beside a tall window that looks out over the city.
“It’s gorgeous at night,” Elvanna remarks, sipping at her tea. She looks out through the window, at the winking night fires of Whitethrone. Cassisoche makes a noncommittal noise.
“The path I’m on—that we’re all on, daughter—may take me far afield for many years. I hope, though, that I will always have time to return to Whitethrone.”
“However long it takes, mother, I’ll make sure it’s here when you get back.”
“Just like my hut?” Elvanna narrows her eyes, and Cassisoche lowers hers.
“I can apologize as often as you’d like for that, mother. I trusted Vasiliovna to keep it safe, and I see now that trust was foolish. Still, I don’t imagine there’s much they can do with it. They’re not children of the Crone. I don’t think they could even control it.”
Elvanna doesn’t respond, but merely sips her tea and stares out the window.