I agree to your alliance. My army will be on the move in three days. We will arrive at the Ninth four days before the invasion is due to begin. I suggest you travel ahead and warn the Genti forces that are gathered there.
~ Sacham Ahmet
The letter arrived a half hour after Navihm had returned from interrogating the captured Somali. He had just finished recounting the details of his private meeting with the Sachem to the others when the news arrived. They camped on the road outside Ira’s place, knowing they would be leaving in the morning before their tents would inconvenience anyone wanting to use the road.
Professor Ward, Rose’s usual conversational partner, spent the evening plaguing Navihm with endless questions about his use of elemental and spirit magic concurrently. Rose was left conversing with Ira’s brother Silas, who didn't speak a word of Ianterran and very little of the common tongue, with either Ira or Bohan translating. The boy was endlessly interested in the Lowlands and Rose’s upbringing as the daughter of a Duke. Normally, Rose would be flattered by the attention but the child’s persistent questions tired her and the language barrier made conversation annoying.
At some point in the night, Hue made a joking comment about Rose having an admirer. Rose was so irritated by the remark that she set fire to Hue’s sleeve and stormed off into her tent. Hue had managed to bat out the flames before they did any damage but Rose’s antics had soured the mood. The others went to bed not long after, leaving Hart to stand guard for the first shift.
The next morning, Navihm and the others left for the two day journey to the Ninth.
“Should we send for help from the school?” Rose asked the Professor. “The Nomads caught a spy, isn't that proof enough of the invasion?”
“How long did it take for us to travel here, my dear?” asked the Professor. Rose understood his meaning right away. “The invasion is a week away. Whatever happens will be over long before the school is able to send reinforcements.”
“But that was the whole point of our mission.”
“Oh, sweetheart, the point of our mission was to stroke the ego of the council.” The Professor looked at Rose with sad eyes. “They wanted to do something without actually doing anything. I don't think any of them actually believe that the continent is going to fall because of the events that happen in these next few weeks.”
“But they told me this was an intelligence mission. They said they couldn't send in troops right away without any idea of what they are walking into.”
“Navihm and I have already discussed sending the school a message when we arrived at the Ninth. Neither of us really expect the school to do anything about it. They will reason away any obligation they have to help. They’ll say that there is no way they can get here in time to help and that they need their troops to protect themselves if the invasion comes to them.”
“Why did we even come?”
“We didn't have much of a choice. If it wasn’t us, others would have been sent. I told myself that I would lend my magical talents to the cause, but I don't expect it will make much difference. Navihm is the only one that can win us this war, I expect.”
Rose was devastated. She’d wanted to be included on this trip because of the prestige if would give her amongst her peers back at the school. Her uncle was Dean Ambrose and when she’d heard that they needed an advanced student to go to the North, Rose begged for the chance. She thought that her friends and fellow students would be following her and she would be able to impress them with how influential she had been to the war effort.
All that she was faced with now was the very real possibility that she could die in this war and the continent could fall.
The Ninth was currently home to over a hundred extra men. They were camped around the east side of Mare Aspera Bay where most of the buildings of the Ninth were located. The west side of the Bay was much rockier and too steep to be livable. Though not quite as steep as the cliffs that lined much of the rest of the North Coast. Mare Aspera Bay was one of the only places where you could land a ship and not need to scale cliffs twice as tall as an average ship’s mast. That fact, combined with the Ninth being a fishing village with very little in the way of defence, made Mare Aspera Bay the most logical place of invasion.
Every Tribe in Genticus had sent soldiers to the Ninth for it’s defense. These soldiers were now milling about the village, drilling with their weapons and making other preparations for war. Their camp was arranged in clusters of coloured tents, identifying what tribe the soldiers were from. Gold for the First, green for the Fifth, Red for the Eighth and so on. The Second would add their silver to the clash of colours.
Coloured tents were usually only given to the guarding force of a tribe. This confirmed the theory Navihm had explained to the Sachem; every tribe has stripped their guard and sent them north.
They were greeted at the edge of the guard’s grounds by a patrol. A few brief moments of talking to Navihm granted them entrance into the camp and an escort to the home of the Ninth’s Rei. Rose glowered at the men of the patrol. They fawned and scrapped over Navihm when they found out he was the the great Enfeitar Navhim of the First. Rose was growing weary of these sorts of meetings between Navihm and others from his country. She wasn't to know that Navihm was feeling the same way. He’d found life in the Lowlands refreshing and even came to enjoy Rose’s stubborn refusal to acknowledge the feats that earned the admiration of his countrymen. It had always made him feel a little unworthy when people talked of his Bon Accion. He was proud of them, yes, but they were no more than what anyone else would have done in the same situation.