Above his troops, Khudu, the Khan's Spear and Shield, stood proud and erect as an unyielding lance. Beneath the Centaur's leather armour, Gwen could see the welted scars glowing like little red ley-lines, channelling the vitality that fuelled the "Pilum of the People", the Centaur's speciality.
As the leader of up to ten thousand Free Riders, the Cherbi could utilise the Khan's skill, which made him a dangerous presence even for one imbued with the foul sorcery of Bone Armour and Sanguine Mantle.
"Fingers crossed," Gwen mumbled while maintaining an expression of self-importance, watching the stubborn body of the horse resist her Aura of Desolation without furrowing a brow.
Taking a deep breath, she decided she should nip Khudu's belligerence before rebellion could blossom.
"Honoured Cherbi!" She called out with Clarion Call. "There is no shame in humility! The steel that bends is the steel that endures— while the unyielding metal is that which shatters!"
Informing Golos to tackle her from the air if the Cherbi should try his luck with a democratic assault, she continued her speech.
Once again, she longed for Gunther's Radiant aura, simultaneously pondering if Faith Magic and its myriad of empowered glamours would make convincing folk like Khudu less complicated.
Though she had previously urged the Cherbi to speak, she could read from his tensing body that her responder wasn't a man of words but action. Therefore, in his sullen defeat by Golos, she hoped that another round of demoralisation would thereby smooth the dying pillow over the Horse Lords' opposition.
"Look about you, Cherbi!" She swept her arm in a grand gesture. "I've turned Shalkar into a paradise of food and produce! Would you destroy it for pride and let the Sawahi starve? Do you think the Rat-kin who worked these fields, whose hearts are now filled with hope and their bellies full for the first time in generations, would return to slavery and deprivation at the behest of your crushing hooves? They're ill with the phage, Horse Lord, but their hearts are now hale! To move them would wound the Golden Pavillion beyond repair, yet achieving nothing in return."
She pointed to the three trees imprinted upon the low sky.
"See there! Elf-made tree homes! Gifts from Sanari, Demi-goddess from Tryfan's World Pillar and its immortal Wyrm! Would you raze it, Khudu? Would the Khan make so many enemies so readily? How many horses has he to spare? How far does he wish to stray from his dream of an all-conquering Golden Horde?"
She could see the veins of Khudu's scalp pulsing like pink caterpillars.
To hammer the final nails on the coffin, she sent a command for Garp to make a show.
The ground trembled, causing the line of Centaurs to pace restlessly.
Khudu steadied himself, more so for the sake of his mental health than from being staggered by the shifting sand-scape. Just as the Cherbi howled for the nervous stallions to halt, the ground some hundred meters behind Gwen shifted, with the sand rapidly swirling into the teeth-lined interior of a sinkhole, exposing the immense form of Garp behind the Priestess of the Afaa al-Halak.
The Centaurs fell into chaos, some absurdly with laughter and relief, perhaps thinking Gwen was ambushed. Others, more observant, knew that no Sand Wyrm that size would breach without striking its prey in an explosive eruption, and that combined with her earlier words, this was a demonstration of their worst fears.
Slowly, Garp sailed closer to the dune while Gwen drifted toward her Shingleback until its cobra-like head was close enough to touch.
Towering above the Centaurs and their bloodshot eyes, she patted the Wyrm on the snout—
Then she shielded up as a blast of affectionate sand ejaculated from its tip to rain down on the Chebi and his bodyguards.
"GARP!" The Sand Wyrm burped.
"Cheeky whelp!" Golos remarked, amused by the Horse Lords' dismay as his wind-wrapped scales dispersed the sand blast.
"You're a Worm Tamer?" Khudu's expression grew hard enough to whet blades. "If so, why did you not appeal to the Khan personally? Were you hiding your powers, and if so, why? You could reign over entire regions of the Sawahi with our support and the Khan's blessing."
"You speak as if taming the Sand Wyrm was a convenience." Gwen shook her head as Garp slithered away, retreating into the safety of its underground burrow. "Whatever the case, you know what the Khan had chosen for my Rat-kin in Shalkar. That's a kindness I hope to repay, Khudu."
"The Khan is too honourable for that," the Cherbi protested at once, his tanned face growing darker. "It was the deceitful Saran, a scheming woman and a Şöpter slave whose sweet whispers clouded his judgement!"
“That Şöpter SLAVE is your Dini!” Gwen snapped back, feeling a sudden annoyance. "Horse shit, Khudu! How dare you shift the blame onto—"
She was about to say "woman". It was typical that a woman would be a scapegoat for a patrilineal Horse Clan dealing with a Faun, but that wasn't right either. They weren't blaming their Dini for her sex, but rather for the unusual position she had wrought for herself— that of a female Major-domo and therefore, like Lady Macbeth, the Khan's Thanes felt both slighted and jealous of the "Şöpter slave" who had young Temir's ears. If things had gone well, the Free Riders and the Generals would remain silent— but if their fate were to sour, then clearly the slave woman had disturbed the great Chain of Being and needed to be punished.
In that regard, Gwen did feel for Saran— though for now, their mutual positions did not allow for sisterly camaraderie.
"Strewth— for the love of the Khan, take some Gengis-damn responsibility, Khudu," she sighed with theatrical exasperation. "It's not hard. Your Khan's honour is better preserved by coming out with food security for the next decade or two, time to train your warriors and restore what you can of your livestock herds. During that time, I'll tell the Rat-kin to give you whatever aid you require in exchange for protection and alliances, AND the Mageocracy won't undermine your restoration of the Khanate, certainly not if the Demi-gods from Tryfan had anything to say. If all parties can uphold their dues and be RESPONSIBLE adults, then together, we'll create a paradise out of the Sawahi."
"Responsibility…" the Cherbi masticated the word as a cow over green fodder. "I shall not refute that you have put us between two precipices, Magus Song. You are wily for one so tender."
Gwen felt the gallstone that's been catching in her throat drop. "I am glad we agree. Have you thought of the terms yet? I have prepared plans that should be amicable to Temir Khan and your people. The Hvítálfar Demi-goddess with your Dini also has a hand in overseeing its fairness. That said, can you be responsible for this negotiation? Or does that fall to your Shaman?"
"As the Khan's close-kin and his general, my decision holds weight." The Cherbi came closer as she spoke, drawing another snarl from Golos. "And you are right, Magus Song. We all have to take responsibility for our actions."
"We live and learn, now then—"
Khudu halted her before she could deliver the offers she had in mind. "But I am the Khan's honour."
Gwen fell silent at the nonsensical interjection, wondering if Golos had punched Khudu too hard in the head.
"I am the Khan's Cherbi."
"So you are."
"Then I shall take responsibility for our Dini and Temir's tarnished faith."
Gwen furrowed her brow at the Cherbi's verbal Sodoku, feeling an unpleasant premonition.
The Cherbi's back grew suddenly straight. "Challenge me, Magus Song. We will negotiate through trial by combat. Win or lose— the Golden Pavillion shall accept your suggestions— though if you refrain from honouring our traditions, then you shall rally only the survivors of the Nayzağay Qani' to fight the Elemental Sea. You said we must all take responsibility, correct? To challenge you is my duty to Temir. I am an Orkok, Magus Song— I was a fool to rely on words when the strength of my arm and legs would suffice."
It took Gwen a few seconds to realise what Khudu was asking.
Fuck. Gwen silently cursed her earlier grandstanding, realising her well-groomed high horse was now mounted by a bucking stallion.
From the sound of Khudu's words, there was no rescinding his demand to a honourable duel. The act did make sense, for the Horse Lord was trying to find martial logic in a rapidly emerging world that rejected the high romance of valour.
Still— to fight Khudu, even in an exhibition match, it was a bother.
"Khudu." Gwen stepped back from the Centaur. "You imply that we fight for supremacy, correct? Not life or death?"
"All duels of honour are a matter of life and death—" Khudu's expression remained solemn. "I need to feel your earnestness, Priestess of the Afaa al-Halak. Are you not toying with the lives of my kin? To put your life on the line is the least you can do."
I already fought a fucking Sand Wyrm. Gwen wanted to protest but duly acknowledged that Khudu would retort by pointing out that he was freshly returned from charging a crack cabal of Dao Warlocks. She had no idea if Khudu was trying to kill her— for without the "Pale Priestess", who would steer the Rat-kin? That said, the possibility certainly existed, and Taylor or Bekker could replace her if push came to shove.
On the other finger— did the Centaurs know of Contingency Rings? Did the Cherbi know that killing a Mage like her required complete and near-utter obliteration of her vital components?
Was their duel merely the final, prideful harrumph of antiquated tradition? Still, she had no desire for her capitalist endeavours to be bludgeoned by the Pilum of the People. Could she use some Void-driven means to absorb the Centaur's premier assault? Or perhaps, end the matter with Garp? No. She needed Khudu on her side to explain his surrender to the Khan and his Generals.
"Very well," she replied quickly to demonstrate respect for the local custom. "Now?"
"Yes." Khudu inclined his head at her Wyvern and the trench where Garp rested. "I will fight alone."
"Then so shall I." Relieved, Gwen decided against bringing Dragons to a horse fight. Drawing on her prior experiences, she then decided on a strategy of high mobility and submission by a thousand Void-cuts. That and she knew precisely where to fight. "Gogo, don't interfere."
"Hehehe," her Wyvern snickered with sadistic wickedness, revelling its sadistic nature. "Whatever you wish, Calamity. Just promise to tell Brother not to blame me if your body's broken in two."
Saran, Dini of the Nayzağay Qani, listened quietly as the holy Hierophant of Tryfan relayed the wishes of the ageless Queen, pondering the choices of her past and where she had misstepped, if at all.
Though she was a mere Şöpter, her life had been infinitely richer than most, for the ordeals that came with Cataclysms can be wildly inconsistent.
Some thirty cycles ago, when the Fire Sea rent the landscape asunder, she had been a nameless Şöpter Shaman serving the Pavilion, then ruled by Temir's Grandfather, Kazahr Khan.
Even before the great burning of the plains and the drought that followed, the lives of Şöpter slaves were gruesome existences. When young, the Pavillion raised them beside the stallions and mares to breed loyalty and servitude, each assigned to a promising future Nokud, or if they were lucky, one of the Khan's many children as playthings.
As they matured, the Şöpter slaves would learn very quickly that the will of their master was absolute and that their sole existence was in service to their lords or ladies. Their Elders taught them that they should apply every intrigue, act, and every mote of their being for the Horse Lords' benefit— else death may very well be preferable.
Often, it wasn't even the Horse Lords, who were seldom malicious, but often cruel in neglectful ways, that made a Şöpter's life impossible, but their fellow servants, who saw their kin only as competitors for the favour of a Jagun or Mingat. Saran's mother, a pretty Faun, had been traded so often that it wasn't until her expiration that the bruised woman recognised her child.
Saran was luckier. Her burgeoning talent with the sorcery of the Clan's Shamans was enough to elevate Saran from the rat pit of Şöpter cannibalism. She did not starve, though frequent beatings, unwanted advances and neglectful injuries common to her kind remained plentiful.
Then the cataclysm happened, and the hierarchy of things since the inception of the old empire under Gengis grew strange.
Raiders returned from their grassland forays, but empty-handed, saying that the Rat-kin slaves of the east had gone to war with one another, resulting in fallow fields and a cessation to the trading of fodder for prisoners of war.
To the east, the suddenly boiling sea brought strange new beasts wreathed in the lands' Elements, indiscriminately razing tribe after tribe, driving boars, wolves, jackals, Kobolds and Greenskins westward to harass the Horse Lords' vast domain.
Likewise, the Humans with whom the Khanate always held an ambivalent relationship all but ceased contact as their cities burned and their empires shrank.
For Saran, it was in a burning yurt, beside Kazahr Khan's scorched body, that the nameless Şöpter girl, a favourite of the Khan of Khans, met an ageless Hvítálfar for the first time. Crushed by the Brass Legion, the rest of the Clan had fled, abandoning their leader in a great rout. Saran could not leave because she was chained to the Khan's golden throne, like a trapped Kobold.
The Khan's visitor was a beetle-black death God— that was her recollection of the grim-faced, mantis-like Eldrin.
The Elf proclaimed to have been in partnership with the Khan in what she would later know as the "Accord", and he asked the Khan if he had the strength to continue the fight against the Elementals.
The Khan replied that he was spent— and that he had seen the truth— the Hvítálfar's disregard for his people— that generations upon generations of their kind had been the Hvítálfar's tool, first against the appearing Human empires, now the Elementals. He was tired, the Khan said. He no longer cared for longevity.
The Hvítálfar appeared perplexed.
"You will give up the gift of Tryfan then?" he said. "You and your descendants."
"I return everything." The Khan's wound wasn't mortal, but the scorched and bleeding mass that spoke must have been in exquisite agony. "I know now the curse of your kindred upon mine. Let me die, Warden. For my half-century of service—"
"The Bloom would be very disappointed," the beetle said.
"DAMN THE BLOOM— Give me peace!" Saran recalled that the Khan's smouldering flesh had smelled like grilled Şöpter, the ones they murdered for fodder in winter.
"Long-earred God— if the Khan doesn't want it, I'll do it!" Saran recalled the choice she had made that day, an act so bold that her very existence changed as a result. "I'll perform his duties for your Accord. Give me the means and the power to move the Clan, and I'll abide by whatever you or your Masters wishes."
The Hvítálfar had regarded her as though seeing her for the first time.
"An Interesting proposal."
Eldrin's Mithril irises were inhuman, almost insectile in their coldness.
"Slave! Don't you dare!" The Khan's dying body suddenly filled with vigour. "Silence yourself, now! Rip out your tongue, or I'll do it for you. You—"
There was no resistance, mental or otherwise, as Saran drew the scimitar from the Khan's discarded saddle, then plunged the gleaming Mithril blade into Kazahr's soot-encrusted belly.
Twisting the blade had been one of the most pleasurable acts Saran had performed in all her life.
"I will inherit your will," she had said to the dying Khan. "Your children, and your children's children, they will think themselves the lords of the Steppes, but in reality, they will fight the wars of the Gods, dying by the herd. Every generation will know only war. There will be no solace, no rest, only futility. That will be your legacy, Great Lord. I'll record it on the Totems for all to see."
She recalled Kazahr Khan's horrified expression.
If dicing her torturer's guts had been a pleasure, watching the old horse's eyes fill with despairing pearls of water had been a greater pleasure.
"Tell me of the Accord," she had then demanded of the death god. "Gift me that which you had given the Khan, and I'll give you his people."
She would never forget Eldrin's affirming approval.
Three decades later, Tryfan's goals remained consistent— for the Steppes must be restored, and the elemental balance returned.
In the intervening years, through subterfuge, subversion and the supplication of the Steppes' grassland refugees into the Tasmüyiz, Saran had performed admirably in bringing order to an otherwise unruly and bloody Khanate of chaos. With fingers as bloody as they were fair, she had hand-reared Temir's father until he too outlived his purpose. Thankfully, the grandson was reliant and obedient to her counsel, perceiving her as a mother more so than the filly Saran had chosen to deliver him.
The rest was history— though watching Sanari speak, Saran realised something.
Gwen Song, the subject of their conversation, was not a member of the Accord.
Nor was she a servant.
Instead, the girl was a Vessel of an Old One.
One powerful enough to manifest the minute oasis of Shalkar into an emerald valley, terraforming the landscape in under a week.
Listening to the Sanari speak of the "need" to find common ground with the sorceress, Saran couldn't help but feel cheated by her years of service to the Accord.
Was her ascension to the role of the Thunder Blood Dini merely a measure to stem the tide while the "True" instrument of Tryfan matured elsewhere?
A quarter of a million horses had perished since the night Kazahr died. Since then, she had abided by the promise to keep the blooming Elementals from the Flame Tree pruned.
Now, Sanari said that deliverance was at hand— though it was up the Horse Lords and Saran if they wished to continue their marauding ways.
"Was this always a part of The Bloom's vision?" she asked the serene Druid. "To put us at the mercy of the Humans?"
Was Humanity now the favourites of The Bloom in White? Unbidden, Saran recalled that the eastern Humans had an aphorism: the dog was stewed when the rabbits were hunted— as the bow was unstrung when the pheasants are shot.
A millennia ago, the Horse Lords were unrivalled instruments of the immortal Hvítálfar.
How long would it take for Humanity to fall from favour?
Before the Druid could answer with a non-committal response, an earth-shaking roar erupted not far from the thicket of squash vines. A battle had been joined, though, from the lack of war cries, the conflict had not gotten out of hand in her absence.
"Come, Dini Saran." The Druid did not wait for Saran to give her approval. "We should move on. The Sawahi has remained fallow for too long."
One could not compel Tryfan to intervene in the competing interests of the mortal world. For their present circumstance, whether the Horse Lords chose dignity or servitude, or the middle path of cooperation, that was "her" choice to make and her burden to bear. She was on her own, for even should Temir discard Saran, no Elf would materialise from between the grapevines to rescue their agent. More likely, in her absence, Saran scoffed, Eldrin would offer Temir the same boon he had given the grandfather.
The pair cleared the squash patch.
Outside the grove, Saran bore witness to why the Magister from Clan Taylor had boasted about the Mageocracy's "Void Sorceress".
She briefly recalled that there had been another as well, a double-edged blade that had returned as a revenant to bite at the Mageocracy's plump flesh.
What made this one any keener and less likely to slice off a thumb?
Whatever the case, across an open field, the sorceress was proving her worth as she flittered about, stinking of Necromancy, with half her body covered in blood that may or may not be her own.
Below the sorceress, Khudu steamed and stamped, his armour in tatters and his sculpted form covered with wounds, marking a trail of crimson from the dune to the battleground, painting the sand in the manner of scattered petals.
At first glance, an uneducated observer would think that Khudu, who still burned with vitality, was the clear winner.
But Saran instantly saw that the sorceress was trying to give the Khan's Cherbi a platform from which to descend to diplomacy, for there was no Kirin, no Void Wyrm, and no Wyvern aiding the sorceress as she teleported every few seconds to whittle away the Cherbi's Vital Haze.
At a safe distance, Sanari stopped, then regarded Saran with one of her expectant smiles.
Saran sighed, acknowledging the new and burgeoning world. Yet, unlike the lucky Kazahr Khan, she had many distances to go before she could sleep.
Gwen chose the vast, flat expense directly adjacent to the field where Saran and Sanari held their scheming conference.
Sure enough, after a dozen exchanges where she and the Cherbi both drew blood— she by literally cutting the warrior with shaped Void Bolts and his by near-hits that triggered her armour and mantle— the pair emerged.
In the communion of their interchange, she empathised with Khudu's death wish in challenging her as an individual and not through the power of his people, whose barrage of pilums would nail her to the sand lest she borrowed Garp or Golos' power.
Presently, she gritted her teeth and endured the thrilling pain of dodging fatal javelin tosses to preserve the possibility of perfect diplomacy with the Golden Pavilion. Even if the Khan had the wisdom to see that Khudu was on a path of suicide, she doubted the Rat-kin's future would hold much kindness if she tossed Temir the honourable head of their Cherbi and cousin.
Thankfully, as anticipated, Saran demanded a halt to the hostilities in the name of her Khan.
Without waiting for Khudu's protest, Gwen withdrew her Desolation Aura, simultaneously suppressing the manifestation of her Bone Shield, signalling an ambiguous end to the battle with the Cherbi still standing "on top".
Khudu looked more demoralised than if he had suffered a crushing defeat, tempting her to send up Caliban from below the battlefield to deliver the warrior lest he later changed his mind.
Heeding the Druid's gestures, the foursome convened in the open.
"We shall listen to what Magus Song has to say," Saran announced to the Cherbi. "I'll take responsibility for relaying the loss of Shalkar to the Khan."
The Cherbi shook his head. "No, I shall shoulder that burden."
The Dini of the Centaurs appeared genuinely surprised. "The Khan will not be pleased."
"I am his cousin. What can he do other than dismissal?" The Cherbi shrugged. "The war's over, for now. There's no need for an Orkok to serve as his honour guard anymore. I could use the rest. My sons are maimed or dead. My stables need refilling."
The two exchanged a mutual look of puzzlement at one another's amicability.
"Right, so we're ready to negotiate?" Gwen tested the waters. "Sanari?"
"Make your case, Magus Song." Sanari nodded at her. "I am merely a witness to your agreements."
Gwen nodded. "I would invite the Rat-kin's Elders as well, but there's no guarantee they may nor may not be carrying the phage, so I shall speak in their stead."
She gestured to the fields. "I am no farmer, so you'll have to trust Sanari in stating that a fully developed, one-hundred acre compound around Shalkar should be able to sustain the Golden Pavilion's needs with about half of our produce, a feat made easier if the grassland's elemental stability can be restored and the seasonal rain returned. To this end, I have two choices for Temir Khan. One, the Khanate becomes our business partner, part-owners of our enterprise. By the law of the Mageocracy, which all of its governors shall abide, the Khanate and us will engage in profit-sharing. Yes, PROFIT, not produce. The foodstuff shall be sent to auction. The resulting gross— which should be substantial— can be used by the Khanate to purchase seeds, livestock, rations or hired help. In this way, you have complete flexibility."
Perhaps not knowing the importance of cash flow and liquidity, the Cherbi did not appear moved by her grand and generous gesture. "Our other option?"
"The other is easier, though not one I would personally recommend." Gwen had initially not wanted to offer the more straightforward route for fear of the Centaurs screwing themselves. Still, looking at Khudu's confusion, she realised she might have vastly overestimated the Horse Lords' economic acumen. "A portion of the food here will be given to the Khanate as tithing for its alliance and the protection it offers. This portion will be enough to feed the Horde in its current scale and then some. It's a healthy, symbiotic relationship in which, the more food the Rat-kin produce from Shalkar, the more your Horse Lords will receive."
Gwen explained that the second offer lacked the flexibility and locked the Horse Lords into maintaining the status quo. Rather than having the means to develop their lands and culture, the Horse Lords would only grow more reliant on the Rat-kin— and unless another rat holocaust occurs, that would eventually invert the rulership of the Sawahi and the Steppes. As with Tryfan's stance, Gwen preferred a balance between the Horse Lords, the Mageocracy and her "Ratopia".
"One more thing, I shall be taking one-hundredth of the proceeds, or one per cent of the net."
Neither Saran nor Khudu appeared to care.
"These are ambiguous choices beyond our ken, Magus Song." Khudu shook his head. "Dini?"
"I would choose the first option," Saran appeared confident. "Mistress Sanari?"
"Well done. I have witnessed the agreement. Magus Song, please proceed."
Gwen readily agreed. "I'll inform Magister Hill and Taylor as well as Meister Bekker. More than likely, someone from the Foreign Affairs department will be raking over trade agreements from the Shard. Rest assured, I'll remain here to oversee the development of the agricultural hub. Will you be staying, Sanari?"
"If you wish it." The Elf's golden orbs lingered on her face.
"I wish it very much." Gwen remembered that she knew next to nothing about farming, much less optimised horticulture in a desert setting, with Essence-enhanced plants fertilised with Wyrm spice. "Please inform The Bloom that for adopting me as your agent without consent, I'll take the seeds as payment."
Sanari appeared unmoved by her insolent remark. Beside the Elf, the Mithril-horned Dini of the Centaurs grew suddenly rigid.
"Lord Cherbi." Gwen then turned to her challenger. "You're still oozing. I regret to inform you that nothing short of Essence sorcery is going to heal the lesions entirely."
Though their conversation had been quick, Khudu had refrained from drawing vitality from his kin, and as such, had been slowly bleeding out from his two-dozen Void wounds.
"I'll seek assistance from the Dini," the Cherbi acknowledgd the wise woman Faun. "Should your terms fail to deliver, Magus Song, such as treachery from the Tasmüyiz, or the withholding of our fodder and supply, I shall personally ride with my Nokuds to raze your Rat-kin city to down to the last stone."
"And so long as your people stay away from Shalkar and refrain from raiding east of the Sawahi, I will additionally supply the Golden Pavilion with healing medicines in the instance of an unforeseen outbreak." Gwen did Khudu one better. "The devil's in the details, so have hope. If the Khanate can additionally provide escorts for supplies, border patrols and regular Purges of Elemental incursions, we shall be more than happy to accommodate in HDMs or fresh produce."
"That does not sound… disagreeable," the Horse Lord mulled over her words.
Of course not. Gwen almost rolled her eyes. Given the choice of gainful employment versus mutual destruction, why would the former sound anywhere near disagreeable?
She produced a bundle of towels, threw one to the Cherbi, then mopped up the blood from her face and neck.
For Stian and his people, a careful agreement with the Centaurs was merely the beginning.
Once the Dwarves can be consulted and the Rat-city and its satellite pseudo-citadels established, they can begin to absorb the Tasmüyiz who would inevitably flee from the Khan's tyranny into the Mageocracy's Ratopian protectorate. Once the new status quo is established, that would be the beginning of their problems.
What would Temir think then of their labour practices? Would Saran possess the means to stem the exodus? Could the horned wise woman summon enough clout to counsel Khan of Khan to choose cooperation and compassion? What would the other tribes under the Khan think? Would a civil war engender over differences in the opinion of enslaving those with a furrier nose or pointier ears or pinker tail?
As Gwen was no desert prophetess, only time would tell.
Whatever the Elves had planned for the region, her prerogative as an individual agent was only her Rat-kin, over whose suffering she had chosen the act of Noblesse Oblige.
To this end, their Pale Priestess would not sing of psalms to love thy neighbour and turn the other cheek. Instead, she would do her people one better.
Instead, she would bring profit.