When one first plays through Chapter 4, it's easy to notice how perfectly everything goes for Denam's army and how everything possible goes wrong for Loslorien. Tartaros and Balxephon make some questionable strategic decisions and seem almost purposely ignorant of the situation.
I don't like this, as both an author and a gamer.
I want to see a more intelligent Balxephon, as he is their strategist according to Barbas, yet he does little more than give orders from the side and carry a sword around under his robe.
I want to see a different Denam, one who is not quite so perfect and has thoughts that go beyond "Valeria, Catiua, Lodis, Brantyn."
I want to see the relationship hinted at in all paths between Catiua and Vyce examined. Why toss such a plot to the side and then suddenly bring it back for one scene at the end of CODA?
Why does Chaos Vyce react with such utter hostility towards Denam and his "superior" upbringing, yet nothing at all is mentioned about their respective families and their class differences in Law? Why does Vyce lose all of his racism and anger towards the Bakram, when he bluntly tells Cistina he does not want Dorgalua's rule to be repeated? Yes, I want to explore these too.
This is my take on 4L. It was originally intended as a prolonged one-shot, but soon grew too long. It starts off close to canon, but almost immediately veers off in a different direction, one that is not so perfectly favorable for our young heroes.
"Don't you remember, sister? You were always so pleased with yourself whenever Denam would walk about declaring he was to be your husband!"
He knew it was likely due to his excess consumption of alcohol on the cool night, even though the wine bottle was emptied well over an hour before, but said man felt color rise in his cheeks. He turned his face away from Sherri Phoraena's smile - truly a wicked one, that - and towards the fireplace to his left in desperate attempt to hide his embarrassment at her playful words. Denam Morne purposely ignored the vibrant giggles of the two women in the room, far too loud to be the chimes a proper woman's laughter should be, and stared at flames as they licked over the damp wood. The logs did not burn well in their current state, all smoke and little warmth; most of the heat in the room was internal from the alcohol. The bottle had not been full when they started earlier in the evening, so the alcohol only served to loosen Denam and Sherri's normally strictly controlled emotional responses and gave them a sense of liberation they so rarely felt in the midst of war. Olivya had the least wine of the trio, but it seemed to affect her the most, for on her face was a bright smile and she giggled like a young girl who received a gift from a man she long admired.
"You're just as cute as you were twelve years ago, Denam." Sherri continued, but Denam could hear the laughter in her voice. He wondered if 'twas his imagination, or if he truly heard Olivya's soft giggles as she murmured her agreement beside her sister. Denam had the grace to take compliments well despite his lowered inhibitions and nodded in response with a smile, but would give the two women no more satisfaction than that. It both surprised and pleased the commander to see the sisters so happy; Sherri was such a dour thing, sad, quiet, lonely, and Denam knew she hid her pain well. Olivya was a woman who looked like she should constantly smile, yet kept herself busy enough that it never reached her eyes. Both of the women were aloof, but it was a way they protected themselves. Denam and Olivya were similar in that regard, for neither had time for themselves - or they kept themselves busy so that they did not have the face the harshness that was reality; it was these small events, together in the warm room protected from the harsh weather that beat down upon Phidoch, with the stars hidden away behind the raging clouds in the sky, that gave them the time they both desperately needed to relax and bond with those who shared their heart. Denam turned back to the women completely after a moment, when the color faded from his cheeks; he did not remember how that conversation started, but he knew that if Sherri was anything like his Catiua, she would latch onto his weakness and exploit it whenever she desired a reaction from him. It was not often that Denam showed such emotion, and when he did, it was worthwhile to note.
"That's more than enough of that." Denam forced his words firm, but his hidden smile at the brunette women told them his stern words did not indicate he was upset. A momentary bout of embarrassment would not set him into anger, he had tougher hide than that. Sherri looked down at her empty goblet with a pout, she had more wine than Olivya and Denam put together and she certainly did not need any more, before she shakily poured herself a glass of water from the pitcher that was on the large table alongside the empty wine bottle. The normally-composed woman's hair was a mess and fell in her face and she had long lost her cloak, likely somewhere on the floor. She did not seem to care when, every so often, her cleavage fell openly out of her dress, breasts far larger than her sister's, and dress cut so it purposely revealed more of her than the more moderate Sibyl. Denam was honorable man enough not to look, but he also did not know how to quite bring up the subject 'Sherri, your breasts fall from your dress' in a mature manner. Olivya, too, looked more disheveled than her normally controlled appearance allowed; her well-kept hair was twisted around the charm she kept around her forehead and for some reason she had removed both of her socks. Like her sister, she, too, had lost her cloak and wore only her pale blue cloth that marked her of the church. But where it was Sherri's breasts that were exposed, Olivya's legs showed far more than was decent for any woman, married or otherwise. Was Denam more of right mind, he would have removed his own shirt to cover her, but as he was, warm, comfortable, and entirely too defenseless for his own good without armor, more, he barely paid any heed to the two attractive woman, who he only just began to reacquaint himself with. They were not objects for him to stare lewdly at, no matter their dress – or their lack of it. In truth, no matter his rationalization he simply did not wish to remove his shirt, no matter how proper it might have been to do so.
"Sherri, please tell me about the day we met." The young commander finally forced the subject away from Olivya and the earlier topic of their childhood infatuation with each other. Though their meeting had been meant to bond the sisters and Denam together, and give the newly-found Sherri a sense of belonging she did not have when in Heim, it had eventually turned into a discussion of the past, most of which Denam did not remember. The older Denam's memories, the less he recalled them; he had Olivya and, to a greater extent, Sherri fill in the blanks for him. He had been far too young at the time to visualize little more than faces, colors, and emotions that varied from confusion, desperation, sadness, happiness, and laughter. He was finally able to piece together what particular emotions and feelings meant and represented. It was an odd sense of self-identity that he had lost that was slowly regained as he spent more time with the Phoraena family.
Sherri paused her sip and placed the glass of water of the table in-between she, Olivya and Denam. "I was little more than a decade then, but let's see." Sherri mused, hand on her cheek and she stared at the stone roof, lost in thought. "You were three, maybe four. Your sister, Catiua, played with us for years before you were brought to the manor for the first time. I'm not sure why Prancet did not allow you to come as well - your age, perhaps? Ah, but I digress. You were shy, scared, I would liken you to a doe in the forest." Sherri turned her gaze down to Denam, her smile, a precious rarity that the commander knew he should cherish, was still small and secretive and she pressed her hands together against her chest. She seemed to be quite fond of this memory. Olivya, too, had quieted and all of her attention was on the elder sister. "You clutched your father's hand as if it was a rock in the midst of a hurricane. It was not until Cistina poked at you that you pulled away from him." Olivya giggled at the image; though the thought of a precocious Cistina, curious about the odd newcomer, made him smile as well, what drew his attention was the implication of Sherri's unsaid words. Denam was pleased that the two women could discuss their fallen sisters without pain. Denam wished he was so strong; the very thought of his father brought upon a sharp pang and a sense of weak desperation. He forced the despair away as he imagined, in greater detail, a small hand encircled tightly around his 'Pa's, as Cistina poked at him with a stick like a foreign creature - or, if she was like her sisters, perhaps a piece of meat. "But, truth be told Denam, I did not spend nearly as much time with you as Olivya. Those years were the most critical in our, Cerya and I, education, we spent much time in our studies and, when we did not, we simply watched you two from afar. I will admit, at that age we viewed you as naught but annoyances."
Denam's spirit faded lightly at Sherri's blunt admission, but he certainly could not blame her. He, too, had found those younger than him obnoxious at that age. Olivya, not nearly as calm or accepting as Denam and not nearly as respectful, glared at her sister for her rudeness. Denam held back his chuckle at the look; Olivya was simply not meant for firm glares, she was far too soft and it intimidated him far less than it amused him. Her voice was high in pitch, which only accented her youthful displeasure. "You musn't be like that, Sherri! Denam wishes to know about times long forgotten and all you do is speak as if he was an 'annoyance'?" Sherri did not bother to hide her amusement and her already-red face turned even brighter as she held back outright laughter. Olivya's brows furrowed together and her fists clenched against the end of the large armchair she sat at, her nails dug into the thick leather and she bit down on her bottom lip. Denam, too, suppressed laughter at her livid response, but interrupted before the younger of the two before she could explode in her rage. He could barely keep the amusement from his voice.
"What I remember most was your supper table." The image flashed brightly in his mind, warm, open, very large compared to what he grew up with in Golyat, well-lit with many candelabra and a small chandelier; Denam would never forget the latter, for he had only very rarely seen such things since then. They were signs of one truly wealthy and powerful family. "I admit, I don't remember what we ate, I simply remember the event to be chaos embodied." In Denam's mind flashed a constant struggle between sisters and parents and servants. Where sisters yelled about they did and did not want, where parents scolded, and servants ran about in a panic in attempt to listen to the orders of both the young girls and their parents. Denam did not need to be told that he was likely sent there by his father for prolonged trips over the course of his childhood if he remembered dining with them. It seemed his relationship with the Phoraena family went beyond play – and that his father was a far busier man that the one he had known in Golyat.
"Oh yes, that reminds me!" Sherri burst out suddenly. Denam's reverie and memories were shattered and Sherri enthusiastically spoke; she acted a completely different woman, as if the past brought back the person she used to be. Denam enjoyed her smiles; it was for they which he fought. "You were so well mannered. A perfect little prince, Cerya once said. I don't quite think Catiua paid nearly as much attention to her lessons as you."
Denam's heart leapt at the mention of Catiua, both with warmth and a deep regret, but his alcohol-induced lightness did not allow him to dwell upon it. It was a later memory than the ones with the Phoraenas, but the Bakram man saw himself and Catiua at the table with Vyce and both the young Pavels had scolded Vyce for his atrocious mannerisms while at their table. As Sherri said, Denam had always done well for himself when it came to manners; he strictly followed the rules of the supper table and event went as far as to treat his sister like a proper lady and pull her chair for her. Denam remembered his lessons quite elaborately; they had been incredibly strict and were repeated for hours upon hours a day until he was perfect and it became natural for him. He could even repeat the words his trainer had used; it had not been his father, but a different man who had taught him. Perhaps a younger Mreuva? Denam didn't know. He supposed it didn't matter, as it had little to do with the subject at hand. If he even bothered to remember the question or thought tomorrow, it would likely come to him when he had a clearer head for his past.
"And Catiua?" Denam tried cautiously; he only knew the Catiua he grew up with, he was fascinated by what influenced her – other than him, of course. If Denam had been subtly molded by his past with the sisters, perhaps Catiua, too, had been influenced by the Phoraena family. "What can you tell me of her?"
To Denam's surprise, it was not Sherri who spoke, but Olivya. She had been silent for a time as Denam and Sherri shared their words and she looked weary, her eyes with large circles under them. After her small fit of anger, she slumped deeply in her chair as she leaned upon the armrest for support as she looked to Denam. "Where Cistina always looked up to Cerya, Catiua was quite fond of Sherri." This earned a nod from the elder woman. Was Denam more alert, he probably would have mused on the similarities and differences between his sister and the second Phoraena - perhaps another time – for he could see them as clearly as his face in a mirror. "Whenever Catiua wasn't with Sherri, she always foiled our plots with her tattles." Olivya giggled quietly and earned another light smile from Denam and Sherri. No matter how severe they had ended up as adults, perhaps they were mischievous as children after all. "To be quite honest, I don't think she liked it when Denam's attention was on anyone but her."
The Sibyl sat back in her chair as she finished. She looked exhausted. Sherri noticed it too and both she and Denam shared a common understanding with one another. Sherri had been a member of the Bakram army for some time and was a well-practiced Witch, where Denam was used to long, sleepless nights and exhaustion not only from his time in the Resistance, but from when he hid after Golyat had been destroyed. At that time, Denam and Vyce had been so worried that neither slept for days until either collapsed, bodies run down and weary, thin from lack of nourishment. Catiua would heal them as best she could, but without proper food and water she was limited in what she could do. Denam sighed as he looked onto the Sibyl; Olivya pretended to be strong, but she was perhaps the most fragile of them all. Her whole life had been as nobility and then within the safe walls of the Church. Did she know suffering and need? Her time in the Resistance was likely difficult for her. Denam's mind cleared of its fog slowly; it had been well over an hour since his last drink and such powerful thoughts made concentration easier. How blind could he have been? Olivya was not the strong woman she pretended to be.
As he stared at the vulnerable woman, he supposed it was soon time for rest, for all of them, but he was not quite ready to give up the warmth and familiarity of the quite family setting they had built up yet. 'Twas a time of happiness for them, of warm memories and nostalgia, of kindness, of a time where the pain of loss did not sting so deeply. This night would not last forever, no matter how he wished it so, and Denam was unwilling to give it up so easily. He didn't mind if Olivya fell asleep, it likely would be a more peaceful sleep here, in the presence of Sherri and Denam, than one alone in her own room. The young commander took the initiative over Sherri and stood from his place on the couch, as he did so, he picked up a pillow. He walked over as quietly as he could to the Sibyl's chair; she smiled up at him with wide, watery eyes as the young man learned down and placed the couch's pillow behind her, and then lowered her head onto it. The young woman clutched at Denam's hand, as if she wanted him to rest near her, to which Denam gently released - it was not his place to take advantage of a young sleepy woman so - before he turned back to Sherri and sat down on the couch across from her.
"Did you have a brother?" Denam mused quietly, as to not disturb Olivya, his mind on his earlier internal questions. The Cleric was not yet asleep, but Denam could tell she was on the verge as she cuddled into the large pillow, her knees were drawn up close to her and her breaths long and drawn out; she would have looked very much like an innocent child had her thighs not been exposed in a very inappropriate fashion. Denam's eyes wandered dangerously up the pale flesh before he realized his actions and turned away in shame. After Olivya's revelation about his father, small memories of his youth had started to float back. Denam had been so focused on the Walister, Valeria, Lodis, and the war that he realized he had forgotten so much. He had forgotten what it was to be Denam and not just the Hero of Golyat. One of his most prominent memories was of a male - definitely not Vyce, for he was far younger than the man Denam remembered, who had told stories to him of grand knights and fair maidens. Pa certainly had not done such, for his stories had always been of Philaha. Denam did not know if it was the same person who had taught him his manners.
Sherri tilted her head to the side and shook her head as if the question had been unexpected. "Brantyn perhaps?" Sherri offered; Denam did not realize how openly he expressed his shock until his elder continued. "Don't look so surprised, Brantyn was not always like. . .this. Ambitious, yes, but I do believe he was quite fond of you." Denam searched his memory, but clouded as it was by the remains of the alcohol and the utter shock of the thought of Brantyn as 'kind' he did not get farther than the feel of comfort and kindness and intense interest for whatever his companion spoke about. He could not deny Sherri's proposal that Brantyn had some part in his upbringing, nor could he confirm it, but in the current strife the thought of such warm actions from the Regent of the Bakram-Valerian Kingdom was extraordinary. "You always were quite good at that. Dragging people about to your will, that is." Denam was surprised at Sherri's rapid change in the topic of conversation. What did this have to do with Brantyn? Or perhaps Denam had simply focused on Brantyn so thoroughly he had forgotten what the earlier discussion was about. "Your big watery eyes worked often enough, but when they didn't you always had a backup plan. You got your way more often than Prancet or my father would dare admit."
Denam was shocked at the playful accusation. He never quite thought of himself like that - the contrary, 'twas he who lectured Catiua about her desire to see events go her way. Denam was glad he seemed to have grown out of that phase, or at least he hoped. Perhaps that was what Vyce complained about whenever he snapped that Denam always had to be the leader? The Bakram man frowned internally; perhaps he did not quite know himself as well as he thought he did. The silence between the two dragged for a time, comfortable. The fire finally got itself started over the disagreeable wood and crackled loudly, the only sound in the room that interrupted the harsh beat of rain upon the castle walls and Olivya's consistent, deep breaths as she slept. His insecurity faded as he reveled in the moment. This was what he fought for: the safety, the peace, the companionship of friends.
"Thank you, Sherri." Denam's voice was softer than he intended, and he did not know if said woman heard more than a mumble. "You've given me a wonderful gift." Renewed reason - and some warmth in a time when Denam most doubted himself. He would never say such aloud, of course, but he felt as if he regained some sense of himself - to not just act a leader. He was refreshed, liberated.
"No." Sherri walked over to Denam boldly, who stood in response, her stride surprisingly controlled despite of her earlier excess consumption of alcohol. "Thank you. You saved me when I needed it most. You spoke the words none other would." She encircled her arms around Denam and hugged him close. Denam mimicked the motion, his hands ran up and down her back and through her hair fondly; she was even more thinly built than Olivya, perhaps too thin, as she had been in hiding in Balmamusa less than a week previous, and Denam felt almost like she would break if he pressed too hard into their warm, familial embrace. Denam would not call it familiar, for Catiua was not so warm and passionate in her hugs, but it was certainly welcome. She was short, she barely reached his shoulders, or perhaps Denam was simply taller than he realized – yet more evidence that Denam did not know himself. Their hug ended hesitantly with none of the youthful embarrassment that many might feel at such an action. Sherri looked down at Olivya before she put her hands on her hips, a stern look on her features. So that was where Catiua learned the look. "I'll take care of her. Go rest, Commander." Her tone was playful and had not lost its familiarity. "You need it more than all of us."
Denam nodded. As he leaned over Olivya and lightly kissed her cheek as well, his bangs fell over her face and Denam worried he might have woken her. The young Sibyl did not stir, as exhaustion had gotten the better of the youngest Phoraena. Denam smiled down at her and took in one last moment of uncharacteristic warmth before he stood. Sherri walked Denam through the small room to its large, thick wooden door, built for strength and efficiency more than attractive appearance. Denam kneeled by his informal boots, new and comfortable, but not suited for battle so Denam did not wear them often, as Sherri leaned against the wall and spoke.
"Oh, and Denam -" Denam glanced up at the woman who seemed to have lost her amusement and was replaced with all the sternness one would expect from an elder sister. "She won't say it, but you are everything Olivya strives to be." Before Denam could question the brunette, she elaborated, quietly, as if she did not want Olivya to hear. "She seeks to be strong and able to fight her own battles. She admires your confidence, but it is clear to all of us that she is not Cerya nor will she ever be. More, she seeks prominence; the girl fades away into the background around others, as if they forget her existence."
"You give me too much credit." Denam spoke more loudly than Sherri as he stood up, boots tied. The supple leather warmed his feet and would protect against the cool stone of Phidoch's halls. "I do what is necessary; I suffer just any normal person because of it."
"Let her dream. All young women need someone to look towards, one who keeps them strong and secure. Olivya is no different, especially now that mother is gone. In her eyes, you are immortal." Sherri, despite being a woman, walked past Denam and opened the door for him. Was it anyone else, he would have been shocked at such a display, but he let it be because his mood was still far too light. As Denam nodded respectfully to Sherri and passed through the door, the woman's words echoed through him, more chill than the air of the empty hallway "Don't let her down."
The pub was filthy.
Denam outwardly held back his cringe as he walked, or, more accurately, pushed, his way through the rowdy tavern in what seemed to be exactly the center of Rhime. It was a large place, built to hold at least three score, and the walls inside were weathered and worn from years of customers and drunken brawls. If he ran an ungloved hand over the tables, he would likely get a splinter. For such a prominent establishment for merchants, traders, women who sold themselves, the black markets, and whatever other distasteful practices Denam could not name off the top of his head, the Bakram was amazed by its lack of upkeep. Denam kept his head down and his eyes from their tendency to stray, he knew it was better to mind his own business in a place like this. So long as he didn't bother others, they wouldn't bother him. With his hair brushed back formally instead of its normal casual loose bangs over his face and in common clothes with no armor, though he did bring his sword with him, Denam hoped he would not be easily recognized. He had grown up Walister and in his heart he considered himself such; he knew the people, and the accents, well enough to blend in.
The Bakram man made his way over to the bartender and ordered a drink as he haphazardly tossed his coin down and glanced over the tables. Many were filled with loud groups who, from what Denam could hear, spoke openly about their assaults or were young braggarts who took pride in their first hunt. Denam shook his head at the patron who asked if he would like anything else as he took his mug and politely slid his way between chairs, tables, and the warm bodies to a small two-person table in the back corner, far away from the door. Denam chuckled as he put his ale down; such a cliché spot to meet someone, he might well have been in a story. Denam looked on at the citizens; in truth, this was a place Vyce was far more suited for than he. If his father would have known he came to such an establishment, he would have been horrified; he had been raised better than that. It was arrogant of him, he knew, but this was not the place a man like Denam normally frequented. He was the son of an Abuna, one well trained and well mannered, who helped others and thought little of himself, one who loyally lived in the light of the Great Father Philaha. He had not even stepped into a tavern until Vyce and he secretly slipped him into Golyat's most prominent waterfront establishment on the eve of his fourteenth celebration of birth. He had been less than impressed then and he was even less amused now; it was the smell that overpowered him most. Denam had long since grown used to the smell of countless dirty, sweaty, men in long marches, but these men looked and smelled as if they could not even wipe after they relieved themselves. They were the shame of the Walister; Denam did not blame outside Bakram and Galgastani who saw these men and reacted with disgust, they would be right to do so.
Denam took another sip of the ale, it was not particularly strong and almost felt watered down as if it was too mass-produced to truly be quality, and tilted his mug about in effort to distract himself from the chaotic assembly around him. He did not have to wait long before a new man joined him at his table without a word. Denam knew this one, it was the entire reason he subjected himself to these people; despite his guest's thick clothes and shadowed face that was covered by a large hat and a high coat, the Bakram commander nodded. This man was one of most well connected shadows. This particular man had contacts that ran deeply and went well beyond Rhime; Denam had personally taken advantage of his sources in Coritanae, Heim, Almorica, and even his own Phidoch. If Denam asked for anything, be it information or items, he could get it. It was difficult to gain the trust and assistance of such influential men like him, but the Resistance commander paid well; it also helped that by sheer coincidence that the shadow happened to be a Walister supremacist. Serving Denam helped further his cause, but the Bakram Resistance commander knew it would be better if this particular shadow did not learn of Denam's true origins.
"We've found her." The man spoke with a heavy traditional Walister accent, one Vyce shared, but it was rasped and quiet, muffled lightly behind the thick clothes that masked his appearance.
"I need details." Denam took another sip of the ale before he placed it aside in disgust, his attention fully on the other man. There was no need to keep up the charade any longer; it was a foul drink.
"Of course. She was seen practicing alongside Dark Knights in Barnicia Castle, in the north Regent Brantyn's territory." The man spoke in a bored tone, but respectful, and held out his hand, gloved in black leather. Denam nodded and took the small pouch he carried on him from his belt and placed the Goth into the shadow's greedy fingers.
"Thank you for your assistance." Denam watched as the shadow quickly glanced through the coin; they had worked together long enough that the Walister man trusted Denam to pay him as promised - as Denam always did - but it was understandable that he count anyway. "As discussed, the rest will be given to your. . .aide in Phidoch. I assume this is satisfactory?" This particular shadow's arts did not run cheaply, especially for such dangerous and difficult tasks such as those Denam requested. Such a large transfer of Goth was far too risky in public, particularly if one considered the nature of those who commonly dwelled in this particular tavern.
"It has been excellent working with you, Sir, as always. Have you any other special requests?" Despite his shady profession, his contact was not only a respectful man, but also lacked greed. For many other men, his voice would have rang of pleasure at the gold he received, but the Walister shadow seemed to care little about the reward beyond paying his own information network and instead assisted because he supported Denam's cause. It was one of the reasons the Resistance leader continued to work with him.
"No, stay with our standard arrangement." The man was to watch for any valuable information that spoke of plans, movements, and possible uprisings of the Lodissians and Bakram, as well as any issues the Walister and Galgastani nobles spoke of that went against Denam's orders. At his acquaintance's nod, Denam stood. Denam did not often meet with his shadows in person, let alone with no guard, but information on Catiua was far too important to send via his messengers and parchment. The Lodissians and Bakram watched his actions and Denam worried they would intercept an important, high-priority message. To have Catiua moved because the Lodissians learned Denam knew of their presence would have started his search anew, more wasted time and manpower that he could not risk.
Denam nodded in return to the man before he began his journey through the bodies. No one cared about his discussion, for meetings such as his were all together too common in this particular tavern to be noteworthy. It was not that no one saw him, quite the opposite, it was simply that it was a silent, unspoken contract that one was not to speak of what they saw. Denam, too, passively acknowledged the rule and did not bother to glance at the corners, dark in both figurative and literal sense, where there were yet more arrangements like his own discussed.
Denam pushed open the large doors and breathed deeply in Rhime's air, still fresh from the harsh rains that ended only a few days prior. It was warm and dry, if he ignored the still-wet cobblestones that made up the streets, compared to the sticky humidity of the closed-off bar. The midday sun was high and the city was bright; there was little evidence of Denam's battle with Loslorien and the Bakram only three scales previous. Walister and Galgastani walked through the streets and trade seemed to bustle, with the large central shopping district filled with countless citizens, shopkeepers and their wares, and even soldiers. The city, in odd contradiction to its historical nature as a site of racial conflict and tension, was one of the few places where Galgastani and Walister freely intermingled. If Denam really looked, he could find a few Bakram that dotted the area. They had a look to them, different, distant, not quite haughty, but their manner did not fit. Denam knew that well; even as he had aged he had not quite been the same as the other Walister in Golyat. His father's influence, no doubt, as his father, too, had been different than the people of the port city. Catiua and Denam had been seen as proper, perhaps even spoiled children. In truth, they had not been raised any differently than the Walister children, other than their emphasis on religion, their father had simply been stern on both their manners and what he considered to be "proper." Both Denam and Catiua were loyal followers of Philaha and though Denam lacked the skill in priesthood that his father and Catiua shared, he still followed the ways of the Great Father. The bias that their upbringing had been privileged likely came from Prancet's position; all in the city respected him and his home, on the outskirts of town, was quite large and comfortable. Many came to him for advice and healing, yet more came to him for wisdom, as if he was an elder. As Denam thought on it, his manner of speech and education was more Bakram than Walister, he had to admit, and he'd never shared the accent the rest of the Walister in Golyat had.
As Denam rounded the far corner to the north gate, he was stopped in his tracks. He resisted the urge to draw his blade immediately as he saw what was very obviously an armed and armored Loslorien Templar approach him, with a fast confident stride. Rhime was well within Denam's territory, the Lodissians should not be there – more, how had they known Denam would be away from Phidoch? He had kept his plans hidden. Luck, perhaps, the Wheel cursed him this day. As the two men got within range of each other, the Templar, too, kept his blade in its sheath as he stopped, three paces from Denam. Denam looked flatly into the helmet's eyeslits; if there was one there was likely-
"Sir Denam Morne of the Resistance forces from Almorica?" Denam would have jumped in shock had he not been more surprised at the way the Templars addressed him. The voice came from behind, feminine but masked by her helmet, Lodissian by accent. He cursed his foolishness in that he decided to come alone. He had hoped to get the information and leave before he was noticed. His mind worked quickly; even if Denam had only recently learned who he was, the Dark Knights had his father for some time, yes it made sense they would know. But their loud, vocal declaration worried him. If any had heard his name, problems could arise.
"Who asks?" Said man replied cautiously. From behind he heard the steps of two more Templars approach, the sound of their armor gave them away, and Denam could hear they encircled his sides. One he would have no issue with - he had dueled Ozma's brother in battle and won - two Templars may not be much threat, but that depended on their skills in weaponry and magic, but four, if not five if one remained hidden as he believed, was enough to kill him with ease unless he fled. Worse - he was not armored and had left his supplies, native herbs and flowers he used to heal himself, back in his room in Phidoch. Denam knew he was at a disadvantage. But they did not seem ready to murder him; what did they seek?
"Commander Balxephon Von Rahms of the Dark Knights Loslorien." Denam could not keep the frown from his features. He had met the man once, as he took Phidoch, and Hobyrim and Ozma had spoken enough about Balxephon to tell the Bakram man more than he needed to know about how trustworthy the Dark Knight was. Balxephon had not been hostile to Denam in the way Oz was; he felt more as if he had been judged by the elder. He had read Denam like a book, a feat none but perhaps Catiua could do. The Lodissian had thrown Denam's weaknesses in his face and brought back unpleasant thoughts, memories, and regrets of his actions that he thought himself long past.
"If that is the case, you've the wrong man." His tone was dry and his words sarcastic as he grasped the hilt of his sword in caution, a necessity in case events came to blood. The Lodissians knew who he was whether or not they questioned him and there was no question the Templars who had been tasked to find him had Denam surrounded; if he was to go down, he would do so fighting. The Templars immediately noticed his tenseness and took a step back, as if to show they continued to treat in peace. Denam allowed himself to raise an eyebrow in surprise at the space they gave him - that had certainly been unexpected. The Lodissian in front of him raised his hands, palms upward to show they were empty, as if to demonstrate he meant no harm; Denam did not believe it for a moment.
"Sir, none of us wish for this to turn to violence. The Commander simply wishes to parley." Parley. Denam repeated with a sardonic amusement in his head. Just like Loslorien wanted to parley with the fake 'rebels' in Golyat? With Rhime? With Hobyrim - they even attacked their own with Ozma! No, Denam had no interest in their 'parley.'
"We are told it will take little of your time. He is little more than a few moments away." The woman from behind him spoke. Her accent was not nearly as strong as Ozma's, nor was her manner as firm. It was her words that struck him silent for a long moment before he willed his voice to speak.
"Balxephon is here?" He could not keep the shock from his voice. His mind worked frantically as he worked to glean a reason for their presence. Why? What does Tartaros' Second have to do in Rhime? Perhaps he came for the same reason Denam did – to speak with one of his whisperers? It was enough that the Templars were in his territory, but one of their ranked Commanders? He cursed; he lacked the men for stricter border controls and the Lodissians apparently knew his orders well enough to slip under his nose. Worse - what could they want? Did they seek to incite rebellion? Or perhaps even attack Denam's flank and retake Phidoch? They did not have the men for the latter; the total strength of Denam's forces outnumbered Lodis' unless the Bakram assisted them. If his shadows and Ozma spoke truly, the Dark Knights and Brantyn had a falling out of sorts - perhaps "disagreement" was a better description, for Brantyn had no intention of giving Catiua the throne. If the Lodissian Commander thought Denam would deal with Brantyn for him, he would quickly learn how mistaken he was.
"Sir, please follow us." The female Templar from behind him took two steps forward and lightly poked at him to push him forward in the intended direction. Had it been a Walister woman who did that, he would have been shocked at her boldness, but he almost laughed at the absurdity of an armored Lodissian Knight who poked him in order to ask him to respectfully move. The Bakram held back his annoyance, as well as his sardonic amusement, as he walked forward quickly in the direction he was led. If any saw him, with these Templars, the rumors would be unpleasant - even moreso than the ones he had earlier worried about his relationship with Brantyn. Best get this over with as quickly as possible.
The Templars led him with great efficiency towards the Inn, just to his northwest, no more than forty paces away. Its name, most suitably, was North-Gate Inn for its location in the immediate vicinity of the Northern Gate to and from Rhime. It was not a large building, but unlike the tavern he had earlier entered it was well taken care of and clean. Denam kept his face impassive and forward as he walked between his armored 'guards;' though he had lightly modified his appearance to hide his presence for the meeting with the shadow, it appeared to have more use, as fewer would recognize him as Denam, unarmored and with an his odd casual formality to him. It was not enough to throw off the Lodissians, but Denam knew that they had likely tracked him for some time; his abduction was no coincidence. The Innkeeper and all of the patrons kept their gazes strictly away in effort to pretend they paid no heed to the Templars, for which Denam was glad, but he could hear the quiet, curious whispers about him that questioned who he was, his purpose, and if he was a traitor to Valeria. At the latter, Denam felt a well of disgust internally that he had so passively accepted their demands, but what could he have done? He had no doubt they would have taken him by force, or even killed him. That was a scuffle he could not have dealt with alone.
The wood stairs below their feet creaked at the weight of the Lodissians and Bakram man as they passed through the halls. The walls were plain except for a few portraits, Denam assumed them to be former residents of Rhime, as he recognized none who was portrayed in them, and candleholders, well-used and dripped with a thick wax. There was a large window at one end of the upper hall that allowed fresh air to flow in; it was entirely a dull and boring place. In that sense, the inconspicuous inn was excellent because it lacked any prominent traits, just what one did not wish to be found looked for - even more perfect, because one did not expect a Loslorien commander to visit such an average establishment.
The Templar in front of him stopped before a small door two rooms away from the end of the hall. Denam approached and the Templar knocked three times before gave a nod before he pushed the door open and entered. He held the door for Denam, who continued forward at the not-so-subtle urge of the Templars behind him. The room inside was not expansive, nor was it expensive. The guest chamber was small enough for one or two, likely the other Templars had rooms elsewhere, and its most prominent feature other than the clean, well-made and unused bed in the corner was its large table in the center of the room used for dining or, in the Dark Knight's case, work. Atop the table were countless parchment in both piles and stray about, with an organization that only their owner could follow; Denam knew that look, it was an almost perfect mirror image of his own work desk in Phidoch when he dealt with reports. Denam's eyes made their way up the table to the owner. There was nothing unexpected about the man, he looked just as Denam remembered, red robe, groomed and meticulously cut hair, dark armor, but Denam found himself surprised at the meeting. It felt oddly informal, as if he saw a side of the elder man that only his allies saw: one who surrounded himself with his work, not simply the calm professional he showed when Denam and Leonar had gone to Phidoch for Ronwey, the villain Denam had met when he took the castle from under him, or the dark sibling Hobyrim had spoken about. But appearances were deceiving; it would be a terrible mistake to let his guard down around the Lodissian. Denam's eyes found their way to the corner of the room, where he saw the large spear he knew to be Balxephon's weapon of choice that leaned on the wall.
"Walking about with no personal guard? Bold - or foolish. The inexperience of youth." The man did not even look up as he continued to write, his long quill scratched loudly across the parchment in the uncomfortable silence of the room. He raised his left hand, the one he did not write with, and the Templars left the room and closed the door firmly behind them. Denam risked a glance around and saw that he truly was alone, though he did not doubt the guards remained just outside and awaited a simple word from their commander before they would rush in to his defense. "You will not make the same mistake again." The Dark Knight Balxephon finally looked up from his parchment and placed his quill back into the inkwell as if bored. He did not condescend in his manner, it was merely a flat statement, a fact.
"Why have called me here? Would it not be better to kill me and be done with it?" Denam could not keep the spite from his voice or the hate from his eyes, which glared with a fire that would do Catiua proud. At the thought, he was instantly reminded of Catiua's openly hostile words to the Loslorien commanders before Balmamusa; Denam had silenced her then, but it seemed he acted in her stead now. His words served no purpose but to antagonize the Dark Knight, Denam knew, but he felt remarkably testy after his 'abduction.' As if to further anger the young man, the Lodissian chuckled. To Denam's rather unpleasant surprise, it reminded him of Hobyrim's rare soft laughter.
"Do stop that, Denam." Denam raised an eyebrow at the informal use of his name, not quite understanding what the elder meant, or even why he had taken on such a tone with him in the first place. "You do not intimidate me." Denam realized his glare had turned dark and forced his face temporarily into its impassive mask he normally wore; it was not like him to show such emotions, or give into such childish bouts of anger, he had best not slip again. "Your death is not something I desire." Were Denam a less cultured man, or of less self-control like Vyce, he would have snapped out that Balxephon's death would most certainly be desirable to him. Instead he kept his breath calm, as if he simply accepted the elder's words, when in truth they only created more turmoil in him. What did he plan? The Lodissian's lack of explanation served only to worry the Bakram further.
"Then perhaps you should allow me to leave and we can both pretend this encounter never occurred." In direct contrast to his calm words, Denam's imagination vividly imaged running his sword through the man, with each detail, the way his flesh tore, the sound of his clothes as they ripped, his gasps of Balxephon's shock all spread within him. He was amazed at his own brutality; his hatred had been held in for so long that even the normally-calm Resistance commander could not keep his emotions in check. Or perhaps that simply made him more dangerous; where Vyce was open and blunt, he often spoke about murdering Martym and Barbas in revenge, Denam held his hatred within secretly, to show proper face. But Denam's emotions boiled and lacked Vyce's constant verbal catharsis. With Balxephon before him, Denam worried he might well give in to more primal desires, especially after Hobyrim's recent story that shook Denam to his core. It was not only Golyat this man had helped in the slaughter of, how many other lives had he stolen in his revolution? Worst of all, he was a kinslayer.
As if in time with his thoughts, the Lodissian chuckled again as he looked Denam up and down. He had a surprisingly pleasant expression of his face, but the look only warned him yet more of the danger of unpredictable foes. The Bakram did not even bother to hide his hostile body language, even as he kept his expression flat, as the Dark Knight spoke in the rich way of his where his words held his emotions more than his face did. "You've caused me no end of problems, young man." The tone was comparable to a father scolding his son. "Phidoch was no issue, that was planned, as was the support of the Order of Philaha. But you've forced me into a perilous political predicament by allowing Ozma and my brother to remain together out of my grasp. Worse - the Princess remains disobedient to all but you. She listens to not a word the High Champion says. Let us not forget that whole affair with Prancet - traitor that he was."
"Planned." Denam was amazed at how flat his voice sounded to his ears. He did not like the implication behind Balxephon's words, but he also did not have time to muse on it, for he worried more about why the man was so open about the political situation. Some of what he discussed would be imperative information in regards to the Dark Knights' position. Denam locked the words away, but he knew better than to put too much trust in them, for the words could be meant as lies meant to manipulate and control. His father was no traitor to anyone, he had only spoken when broken beyond repair. "I could say much the same of you and the troubles you brought upon Valeria." Denam took a deep breath; the air smelled of a familiar fragrance that he could not quite place, but he definitely knew it. "I am sure you did not summon me to speak to me of pleasantries, Sir Balxephon. I'd much rather speak business."
Balxephon nodded in acceptance of the Resistance commander's words and picked up a small glass of water that was on the table and took a long sip. He motioned to the large open pitcher and the nearby empty glasses as if to offer Denam some; instinctually, Denam shook his head to decline before he realized the foolishness of the situation and looked away. Was he being mocked?
"Your hold on the South is tenuous." Were his plain words; as with before, they did not condescend, nor were they meant to provoke, but held a simple truth that Denam wished he could deny, but he above all knew how rightfully true they were. The Galgastani may no longer be under Balbatos, but that did not simply do away with years of ethnic hatred. Peace may officially be declared between the peoples, but acceptance and equality was on a distant horizon. It was perhaps Denam's and the Resistance's presence alone that kept the two major factions in the south from in-fighting. Denam said nothing in refusal to show the Lodissian his weakness, but it was not necessary for him to respond. Balxephon knew he was right and it irked the Bakram in turn. "All it would take is a few words and that control would slip away."
"What are you saying?" Denam felt a chill within him, even if Balxephon's tone remained warm and respectful. Balxephon tilted his water glass about as he stared at Denam, their eyes met and neither would look away.
"It really is quite the shame so many saw you come meet with me today, is it not? Alone, in secret, dressed as if you've something to hide. Or perhaps the commons would be pleased to learn that the man who raised you was blood brother to Brantyn Morne - the same man who abducted the Princess from her very cradle. Or that you're not the Walister you claim to be." Balxephon took another sip of his water and Denam felt his fists clench. They were all true, no doubt, but with various levels of lies set within them. Catiua had certainly not been "abducted" by Prancet and Denam did not speak to Balxephon willingly. "A few would stay with you, no doubt. Those who trust you most, but how long could you hold to the support of the people when they learn the truth?" To Denam's surprise, Balxephon laughed loudly, unlike before, this was a sarcastic sound, as if he was annoyed as well, before he spoke again. "It need not even be the truth, but they will believe it, the fools. Did you know word in Heim is that Ozma left because she was enamored with you?" Denam could not keep a straight face at that, but was not sure whether to laugh, shocked, or be horrified. His face contorted with an odd mixture of all three that only caused Balxephon to laugh more. "Not to worry - 'tis nothing inherently wrong with you - the people simply believe what they are fed and I have quite a bit of information for them to feast upon."
"You threaten me." Denam clenched his fists. It was all he could do to remain stationary. At last, the true motive behind their discussion was revealed. He closed his eyes and focused on his deep breaths. Killing him serves no purpose save to get yourself killed. Denam rationally told himself. After a few moments of tenseness, Denam calmed; if Balxephon thought he would give into petty threats, he was mistaken. It pained him to admit, but the Dark Knight spoke a bitter truth: the people would believe what they chose to and would turn a blind eye when it suited them, but such an uprising certainly would not decimate all of his support. Denam was certain. He trusted his troops.
"Smart boy." Balxephon took another sip of his water, apathetic.
"I will not stand for this!" He finally bit out. The anger was not in his voice, but Denam allowed his indignant response to hold more strength than his usual calm words. He continued to stare at Balxephon, whose interest in Denam seemed to have dwindled slightly, for the Dark Knight was no longer completely focused, he seemed distracted, as if there was something else on his mind.
"I was not aware that I gave you a choice." As expected, Balxephon's reply was clipped and curt. A frown made its way across his features as he stood from his table with a deep sigh. He did not put the glass of water down, and continued to take small sips as he spoke and paced to and fro. "I admit I've made some. ..mistakes. Prancet was an irrational fool, Brantyn blinded by his own greed. But you are not like them, no, you've a good head on your shoulders, I've seen to that. I'm sure we can come to an arrangement that benefits both of us without having to resort to the use of such messy, barbaric tactics."
"Do not speak of my father if you knew him." Denam bit back his anger just in time, outraged that the Lodissian who claimed to be a Knight of the church would speak so badly of the dead. "I will not deal with Lodis. Slander me all you wish, words will not break the Valerian people." His tone regained its confidence and the young commander used the same strength he did when he spoke to his troops, but his heart was not in it; Balxephon's truth planted the seeds of worry. How long would they endure? How long would they trust, if they'd reason to believe lies? Would he lose the support of all of the Walister if they learned he was Brantyn's nephew? His soldiers had lost faith in him before, after Balmamusa, Denam was no stranger to dissent.
"I would not expect such optimism from you. Or such stubbornness." Balxephon took a sip and tilted his head toward Denam."Do not be so irrational, you are not fool enough to reject a proper agreement before it has even been discussed." Denam cursed at the man, but knew he was right. While Denam likely knew his answer before Balxephon spoke, to reject him simply because of his distaste for Lodissians and their methods would be foolish, even childish.
"Speak." Denam bit out. Balxephon did not stop his bored stride as he did so.
"You seek the Princess, we seek her cooperation. In her current state we fear she might act our rashly. Dangerously." Act out? Of course she would act out, they had stolen her away! She had been emotional from her argument with Denam and the Lodissians preyed on her at her weakest moment. Denam would have been more surprised if she agreed to everything they did. It was a relief to hear Catiua was still herself, and not a brainwashed tool of the Holy Empire.
"You wish me to speak to her and make her more agreeable?" Denam mused, but held back his pleasure. The true reasons for the discussion finally arose; they certainly could not just "abduct" Denam like they had Catiua, he was far too prominent in the political battlefield and most would know he did not go willingly. Loslorien did not use such underhanded tactics openly, they did so in secret, and Denam's life was an open book for those who chose to look.
"In blunt terms, yes." Balxephon faced Denam with a similar flat expression comparable to the one Denam wore in order to hide his intentions. It was too easy. Likely Balxephon sought to deceive the younger man with promises that were easy to complete, then he would tighten his leash with stricter demands and force Denam to fulfill further obligations, an endless cycle of slavery. An appropriate stratagem and Denam even saw the basest benefits he could get from it, namely the return of his sister and more thoroughly united people, but the commander was no fool; he would not give into the Lodissians and their sweet false promises.
"Why would I agree to that?" Denam asked, curious. Balxephon was an intelligent enough man that he would know the Resistance commander would not agree so easily, and to simple threats no less.
"We both wish to see her on the throne with as few complications as possible. Her cooperation is mutually beneficial, not only to Lodis and the Resistance, but to the whole of Valeria." Balxephon finally stopped his paces and turned away from Denam to look out the small window on the wall, as far as Denam could tell the view was nothing special. Denam felt the Dark Knight looked away from him in subtle mockery; the man knew Denam had no intention of attacking him and did not care that he exposed his vulnerable back.
"My sister is not a tool." Denam was annoyed at the Dark Knight's declaration. He knew how the foreigners viewed Catiua, barely as human at all, but he refused to lower himself to their level. Catiua was his sister first, nay, a woman - a person -, before any other position, even if they often argued and disagreed. In his eyes, she would never be the Princess everyone so desperately wished her to be.
"Truly?" Balxephon raised an eyebrow with his sarcastic response in a similar way Denam often did when he scolded Vyce. "You wish to 'save' her and hide her away, then? No - just as we do, you will parade her about and rally those to her aid to garner support before you take Heim from the Regent. Do not think you are any better than I." Denam opened his mouth to deny him immediately, but could not find the words. It was true, to some extent. There were times Denam had thought on how useful Catiua would be to his cause, and how much her absence would damage support for the Dark Knights. Catiua was his sister first, yes, but Denam, too, in his most unbiased, coolly analytical moments, saw her as an object no matter how much he pretended he did not and hated himself for it. He felt a deep well of shame as he admitted the truth to himself. Vyce would have been furious had he heard Denam's internal response, for 'twas his friend who openly scolded Denam about his habits of failing to see people for who they were, rather than as simple tools, the trait Catiua shared with him. It had happened in Brigantys, too, where the young man had spoken sweet promises about Galgastani and Walister unity, and of how there should be lessened tension and hatred. It was not that Denam did not believe such words, as he desperately wished them to hold the truth, but then he had spoken in such a way that would properly draw a reaction and garner support. He was not so blind to see that such peace would not come in his generation, or perhaps even his child's. Denam was more of a politician than he would dare admit aloud.
"Perhaps in goal we are not so different, but 'tis my methods that show I am different from Lodis." Denam finally spoke, his voice weaker than intended. Yes, he and the Lodissians shared the same goal: the end of the war, and Catiua on the throne, but Denam would not -
"Those same methods that left a mountain of corpses in Balmamusa? The ones that tore through the walls of Coritanae and slaughtered its inhabitants until they begged for mercy from your 'justice?' Oh, certainly you did stop - eventually - once Balbatos and his nobles choked on their blood at your feet." Denam clenched his jaw. So it went back to this, always this, and Balxephon had a point that Denam could not deny. Where the Dark Knights had destroyed Golyat, so too had Denam allowed the destruction of Balmamusa; where the Bakram and Lodissians took Rhime, so too had Denam killed many in his attack on Coritanae. Many of the Galgastani supporters of Balbatos had been sadistic in their own right and had deserved no less than death and harsh judgment at the hands of the Great Father, but Denam could well admit that many of the more innocent had fallen to his attacks as well.
"If you seek to offend, you do a poor job of it." Denam felt himself calm as the words released. He knew what he had done and he did not shy away from it. Just as he and Balxephon had spoken in Phidoch on this same issue only a few scales previous. The jabs were a constant pain in Denam's hardened heart, but he was harder on himself than any other could be on him. Balxephon's words angered him only because they brought up a hypocrisy that showed the young Bakram commander was not so different than the Dark Knights he claimed the moral high ground to, not because he was upset at the truth. Denam simply smiled sadly, the words went past him as water and oil slide past each other. If one was constantly burned, another small flame would not cause more damage. Balxephon turned back to Denam and their eyes met once again.
"No, I wish to show you why an arrangement will benefit both of us. We are not so different; you have but simply accept this truth. To save lives, you know that we must often act in vile ways. You rightfully distrust my intentions, but I assure you, Brantyn is an obstacle to both of us and the Princess a strong ally." When he spoke in that manner, Denam almost shook in rage. Did Balxephon compare Denam to himself? Denam would never kill his family for peace – yet was that not what he did with Brantyn, who stubbornly stood in the way of his revolution in the same way Balxephon's father stood in the way of Tartaros's? Denam did not like the direction that thought wandered; he could not doubt himself, not now, nor could he let Balxephon's words confuse and manipulate him, just as they were intended. As much as he did not wish to admit it, the Dark Knight's truth pierced his shield and Denam knew he would muse on the statement every evening for the next week, nay, scale, until he once again came to terms with himself. Would he internally justify his actions, as he always did, just to reaffirm his devotion to his country? Worse, as Balxephon implied, was it necessary to justify them, or should he accept death as an inevitable consequence of war? Denam steeled himself, as he always did, by pushing his worries aside in attempt to persevere; there would be a time for doubt later, he first had to deal with the Lodissian. Balxephon would not win.
"So you would have me rid these isles of Brantyn so you would be free to take over as you will? I think not. No, Sir Balxephon, I do not believe we can come to an agreement. I do not seek to parley with you, nor do I desire your 'peace.' My goal for Lodis is to see you leave these islands forever." Denam's mask was back, impenetrable and determined. His weakness was for his own time, like any proper politician he was to only show strength around others. The Lodissians were the threat, not he. If Denam was to be judged for his crimes at a later point, and he most certainly deserved to be, he would meet their attacks head on. He had nothing to be ashamed of.
To Denam's surprise, Balxephon smiled and nodded. It was not the dark smile he had earlier, but a pleasant one, as if he respected Denam's wishes. "I see your devotion and I will speak no further. You are free to leave." The immediate change in both subject and demeanor worried the Bakram, but he nodded cautiously as he took a step backwards without turning his back to the Lodissian man, who finally sat back into his chair and looked at the piles of parchment with weariness, as if his talk with Denam had been a welcome distraction. Denam turned away from the man and walked towards the door, but before he could reach it, Balxephon called out. "Oh, and Denam, when you next speak to my brother, ask him about the twelfth of Windscale. He'll know of what I speak."
Denam frowned and turned away. What in the Wheel was that about? Denam pushed open the room's door to the surprise of the two Templars outside, who obviously had not expected Denam to simply walk away from the encounter with their commander. Denam ignored their badly hidden curious stares as he walked quickly from the Inn and back out into the streets of Rhime with little care to heed the shocked whispers of the Inn's patrons and inhabitants. He immediately turned toward the gate; the sun was still bright in the sky, he had plenty of time to return to Phidoch and none would question his slightly prolonged absence.
Denam put aside his discomfort from his earlier discussion and brought to mind more pleasant thoughts: He had located Catiua. He would need to recall his forces for the assault on Barnicia and he needed a solid strategy to throw off the Bakram as well, but it seemed the Resistance would be able to move for its next large assault within the scale. Thoughts of Balxephon's threats were nearly non-existent as the young commander focused his attention on the future; Denam trusted his people, they would not betray him to simple words.