"Old friend, this is not what I had in mind when you mentioned this Parakka of yours. I wish not for battle, I thought you understood that," one middle-aged man said to the other, standing face to face in a small room, the office of the Mannali stables.
"But if we do not strike now, Macaan will begin the war, and then we will have no chance. Our spies have uncovered his preliminary plans, and I tell you, it bodes nothing good for us. Please, heed the cause."
"It makes me ill when you speak of the King that way, apparently only to me and a few of your other people from Parakka. I am satisfied with the way things are; peace suits this Kingdom," the first one said, sighing and turning his back on the other.
"It will not stay this way for long, I tell you this, old friend," the second man said, hanging his head. "How is the boy?"
"My son is fine. 17 winters by next harvest. I've told you that he's safe here, with me."
"And I'm telling you, Orem, he will be safer somewhere else."
"I am not letting you take Cero away from me," he said in his gruff voice, suddenly turning to face Banto, banging his fist on the only table in the room. "I don't care what you say he is."
"You mean that he's a Resonant, or that he's in danger from the King?" he said, saying the last word with such contempt that made the other man's skin cringe. "We're protecting another girl in the same situation. Barely eight winters old, Orem, and already on the run from Macaan. I can help you keep him safe."
"I've heard enough, Banto. King Macaan couldn't do the atrocities you accuse him so wrongly of."
Banto, the Parakkan leader, was silent. After a few moments, he spoke again. "Why do you still defend him so strongly, when your own wife is a victim of his peaceful reign?"
Orem gripped his fist, and his face looked as though to slam the table once more. Instead, he let out a deep breath, the tension in his face dissipating. "Sometimes, Banto, when there's so much to protect, it's better to leave the hornet's nest alone."
"Very well, old friend," Banto said, approaching him and laying his hand on the other man's shoulder in a comradely way, but which communicated the weight of his disappointment. "I will bother you no more. Take care of your home, and your family. The King's army can show… little self-restraint, at times."
It was Orem's turn to be silent. He patted Banto's shoulder and bid him well. "Goodbye and see you soon, dear friend."
"Considering our roads, old friend," Banto said, chuckling sadly, as he left. "I doubt you will."