"Think this is going to work without me running away and you setting fire to things in my wake?" Anur finally asked, depositing a mug of tea in front of Kir, dropping into a chair across from him. They were sitting in Kir's quarters after a long day started with wiping out a bandit group and drawn out plotting how to integrate Anur into the 62nd. Kir had woken up in the middle of their scenario planning, and with him awake it hadn't taken long to get a basic plan of action hashed out.
"I have hopes," Kir sighed, picking up the tea with a nod of thanks and staring at briefly before taking a sip.
Anur let the silence rest for a moment, fire crackling in the small hearth next to them, but he had to pursue something he'd realized as they debated.
"Something is coming, isn't it," he stated, rather than asked, "To change things entirely. You wouldn't agree to my being here for more than brief messenger runs if you didn't think your unit becoming acclimated to Heralds was important, and important beyond their service here at the border."
Kir hesitated, before smiling wearily and setting his tea down on the low table again, standing and walking to his desk as he replied, "Yes – you're right, Anur. It would be too much of a risk, to all of us, if there wasn't a change in the winds."
He returned to his seat, letters drawn from a false-bottom drawer in hand, Anur now even more eager for an explanation but willing to wait it out. Kir flipped through the letters, running his fingers over the ink in what was clearly a meditative gesture, before he finally spoke again, asking slowly, "Do you remember, that day with the supply train, the message you relayed from Asher?"
Anur thought back, frowning as he tried to remember the exact wording – it escaped him, but he remembered the gist. "Some message regarding a rising son, where he spelled the word for a relation rather than the actual, you know, sun in the sky," he finally said, before remembering what Kir had interpreted that message as. Raising his head to stare at his friend incredulously, he demanded, "A female Son of Sun? That was – that was actually it? How can you be sure?"
"I met her," Kir replied, a rueful smile on his face, "The day after I told you it was impossible, in fact. A red-robe priestess, by the name of Solaris."
Anur listened to the story of how he had met this woman, the miracles, the other two members of the troika, the soldiers of the 21st – he could easily see Kir's absolute belief in this woman, hells, he could nearly taste it. And Kir wasn't alone, it seemed – the two Sunsguard he'd officially met earlier, they certainly believed in her coming. He wouldn't be surprised if the majority of the 62nd was not only aware, but certain that this Solaris was indeed the Ascending Son who would bring Karse back to a sane way of doing things.
It explained a lot, actually.
"That's what happened with Gero, then," Anur was curled up in his chair at this point, chin resting on his knees. "And this whole – arrangement, starting. I wondered why your commander was willing to take the risk – you're all hoping the entire thing isn't discovered until Solaris comes into power and announces that Valdemar isn't the land of demonspawn and witches."
Kir's eyes tightened at the mention of the conscript he'd killed, but Anur counted that as a definite improvement compared to the utterly distraught friend he'd comforted a few moons before. "That's the hope, at least," Kir agreed, leaning back in his chair, letters in his lap, "It will be another year at least though, until Solaris takes power officially. I am planning on three – if it is less, I will be pleasantly surprised, if it is more, I will be in the habit of civil war by then."
Anur winced at that, but didn't say anything. His knee-jerk reaction was to insist he'd be there every step of the way, but this was bigger than rescuing a few individuals accused of witchcraft, even bigger than agreeing to collaborate between two border guard units in more than just intelligence swaps, and wasn't something he could rush into without thinking through.
:Aelius? I want to help, but I can't as a Herald.:
:Very true, both for personal safety and politics. But… Chosen, I don't see any sort of arrangement working out without someone on our side deciding to play hero and interfere.:
"You cannot tell your people Herald," Kir interrupted their conversation, relaxed posture entirely gone, the priest leaning forward intently, urgency in every line of his body. "If you tell them – if you tell them they will want to interfere, and interfere blatantly. You are subtle enough and I can already tell you that the only reason you will not be questioned or exposed is because of your position as my Enforcer and the Captain's willingness to cover for us. If they send anyone else across knowing what is going on – hardly anyone in Karse knows what is going on, if your people's agents know then – then they may expose and ruin everything."
:Even if they don't, if there's any breathe of Valdemaran aid in getting her on to the throne, or whatever they call it here, her entire reign will be discredited and a female Son of Sun will have enough of those troubles,: Aelius agreed.
Anur relayed that statement to Kir, who relaxed, clearly relieved that one of them, at least, understood. "Exactly," he said quietly, hesitating before continuing, "And I am sorry, Anur, to put you in this position. I don't have any right to ask you to betray your country like this, but please –"
Raising a hand, Anur stopped him in his tracks, eyebrow raised as he said seriously, "Kir. You're not asking me to betray my country. We're not engaged in hostile action against Karse, Karse is not seeking war with us – rather the opposite, in the long run. While my withholding intelligence could be… argued, as something suspect, it is no treason."
He had to pause though, again holding himself back from impulsively offering his services entirely to this revolution, this chance his friend was certain was coming. It wasn't just him he had to consider after all, :Aelius?:
:I am with you Chosen, whichever path you choose.:
:Even if it results in us no longer being welcome in Valdemar?:
:I'd like to see them try, but yes, Chosen, even then.:
:All right then.:
"Aelius and I want to help," Anur finally said, smiling at Kir's surprised expression, "They'll be angry with me, I'm sure, especially when this all goes down and they hear crazy rumors, we're already getting some good ones from Rethwallen, but this is too good a chance to pass up. Kir, we might be actual allies someday – hells, even not being enemies would be amazing! Can you imagine?"
Kir had his own smile now, growing to a grin as he said, "Oh yes, I most certainly can."
So this is probably going to be the longest installment of the entire series - right now, I have ideas for 20+ chapters, of varying length. They will all be chronological and will hopefully flow from one to the other. Only problem is, I have vague ideas for each and concrete ideas of what MUST happen by the end of the whole thing. This means I can either wait until all 20+ chapters are finished and polished up, or post them one or two at a time and make minor edits to the preceding chapters as needed.
I chose option 2, obviously. If something critical is changed and needed to understand the latest chapter, I'll summarize the change in notes at the top and then detail which chapter was changed to accommodate. I don't think it'll happen, but 80% is nowhere near 100.
Anyway, as always, reviews and suggestions are welcome, thank you for reading and hope you enjoy.