A note from InadvisablyCompelled


“You’re kidding.” Blue sounded skeptical, and Iniri didn’t blame him.

“No. This is the thirteenth request, too.” Iniri rolled her eyes. “You’d think they would have given up after the first twelve.”

“I’m surprised it took you this long to bring it up.”

“I did bring it up before, Blue,” Iniri said gently.

“Oh. I’m sorry.”

“I don’t blame you,” she told him. He hadn’t really been in the mood to deal with Orrelin’s complaints when they’d sent the first diplomatic message about Blue’s Fortress passing over their land. She hadn’t either, and had summarily tossed it. But they’d kept sending them, demanding some unspecified restitution for Blue’s violation of their borders and supposed damages. It was bizarrely arrogant, especially once word spread that the Fortress had utterly annihilated Port Anell.

Yet there were no fangs to the messages. No threats accompanied the demands, not even an intimation of a penalty. It seemed to be just an annoyance campaign, as if they could pester Blue into compliance. Though considering the messages were coming to Iniri, it wasn’t like Blue really even saw them.

Iniri could only guess the constant messaging was some internal political gambit. Orrelin couldn’t forge Iniri’s magical signature, or for that matter, Blue’s. Until one of them sent a response, Orrelin couldn’t credibly claim to have gotten one, either to its citizens or the world at large. It seemed laughably petty in the face of everything that was going on, but everyone knew Orrelin thought of its own affairs as the most important thing in the world.

The annoyance could work in their favor, though. Blue certainly didn’t need to play politics, as the affair with Port Anell demonstrated with some finality. That didn’t mean there was no reason, as it was always better for people to cooperate than simply obey out of fear, and Orrelin’s complaint was a perfect opportunity to play the game.

“You know, it’s a good excuse to get Shayma into Orrelin,” she suggested. “We need to see if they’ve got blightbeast problems to begin with, and even if they don’t we need to harden them against the potential of such.”

“It’s a good excuse but I’m not apologizing for flying over a corner of their land. That’s probably going to counter any potential political points for going there by invitation instead of just sweeping in like I’d like.”

“In Orrelin, not likely. To everyone else? They’ll see you’re willing to work with them if they aren’t too difficult.”

“I guess we might as well, since as you say we have to go over there anyway.” Blue was silent for a moment. “Also, thanks for taking care of things while I was preoccupied.” Iniri smiled. It was good to have Blue paying real attention to things again, even if he’d perked up for a while when Marin was born. Not only was it good politically, she also missed just talking with him. If she was honest, she missed the intimacy as well, which had been summarily cut short and now might resume again.

“It was no trouble. It’s our Bargain, but I also know what it’s like to lose somebody.” For all that Blue was a Power and existed in some ways beyond her comprehension, he was also an ordinary person with ordinary worries for the people he cared about.

“Doesn’t mean I should ignore everyone else.” Blue sighed. “It shouldn’t be a problem in the future, but still, don’t be afraid to reel me in if I’m getting stuck inside my own head.”

“I’ll keep that in mind,” Iniri replied, centering the missive from Orrelin on her desk and weighting down the corners so it didn’t try to curl back to its original scroll form. “Do you want to warn them about the blightbeasts in advance?”

“I have no idea. I don’t know anything about them except that the representatives were very rude and their country is really creepy. Whether they’re smart enough to understand that they’re in real danger or not is beyond me.”

“I suppose we might as well.” Iniri tapped a finger on the paper, considering a reply. “Personally, I doubt that they’ll believe there’s a danger. They haven’t been properly threatened for so long that they probably believe they’re invincible.”

“That’s ridiculous. The Chiuxatli alone could take over Orrelin. Being in a plateau doesn’t mean anything!”

“I’m sure it’s not as ridiculous as it seems,” Iniri said with a laugh. “Those walls are probably part of a country-wide defensive working, so you can imagine how tough that would be to get through.”

“Eh. It’s not as impressive when you are a whole country yourself,” Blue said, though by his tone he was conceding her point. “I want to get things started soon, though. Next few days. The fact that I’m not noticing as many blightbeasts hurling themselves against the wall has me a little worried.”

Iniri glanced reflexively out toward the ocean, though the wall wasn’t actually visible from Meil. It wasn’t even visible from the shore, but she’d gone out with the [Torc of the Stars] to take a look. The wall was an unrelieved barrier of ominous darkness, anchored by white pillars projecting up from the ocean floor. The wall stretched over four hundred miles, from north of Tarnil to just south of it, and served to catch all of the unpleasant things that swam through the ocean or crossed the lowways. That wasn’t enough to catch every blightbeast released from the mage-kings’ islands, but it did a reasonable enough job. Or had.

“Then I’ll send this out today, and we’ll figure out where Shayma ought to go.”

“Thanks, Iniri! You’re the best.” He kept chatting with her while she drafted a simple missive back to Orrelin, even asking after Marin. Who was, according to the maid who’d volunteered to be the primary nanny, almost frighteningly healthy. Iniri was glad she had someone in her household who knew more about infants than she did. Somehow her instruction and education had been somewhat lacking in a practical understanding of newborn children. She could figure out most of it; mothers had been doing so since time immemorial. But it was nice to have someone who had some practical experience.

She summoned a page and sent him off with the reply before using [Swiftray] to move to her tower and check on Marin. Catherine had been with her throughout the entire invasion debacle, and while she wasn’t a Classer she had more than earned the trust to take care of Marin. As soon as Iniri entered the room, Catherine smiled and stood to hand back her son without Iniri needing to say anything. She knew how much Iniri doted on the infant.

The truth was, she felt far more secure about Marin’s future now that Shayma was back, and with the absolute monstrosity of an Artifact that Blue had made her. It was true Blue had made a Bargain to protect Tarnil, but if he did so grudgingly there was no telling what the long term effects would be. It wasn’t even impossible for Blue to break his Bargain, for all that doing so would hurt him. She’d seen the sort of depression that had taken hold of him in people who’d lost everything during the war, and it wasn’t always survivable.

Iniri just hoped his new, proactive stance didn’t cause trouble he wasn’t ready to deal with.

A note from InadvisablyCompelled

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