10th Trial, Vhalar, 719
Continued from here
"It's... well... it's a bit..."
"Actually... no. Not really."
The little man cocked his head to one side, and Moira was immediately reminded of what they used to call him. Vorund's Hound. Bloodhound, sometimes, when his violence had to be preceded by a hunt. The image, the overlapping personas, struck her as bizarre for a moment. The tics of a dog, the body of a man, the mutations of something neither, and less, and more. Sitting opposite her, drinking tea, like one of her friends from the Lady's Social Compact. She shook her head again and poured herself a fresh glass. "One to warm, another to loosen", as her husband used to say.
If something like Kasoria can be walking around the city, well... how strange can all this be?
"If it was four, five arcs ago? I'd have scoffed and called you a madman. But... things are changing. Fates, that's what usually happens when half the city and all living around her are wiped out or go running from the land. I know most of the Council survived, of course-" she spared a small sneer, mirrored by Kasoria. Bettered herself, she had, but she'd never lost her quiet contempt for the "nobility" that had always run Etzos from on high. No matter the calamity, the moneyed and well-off always found a way to clamber over corpses to breath another trial's air. "-but the way the city is run, the direction, the tone..."
Kasoria thought back on what he'd seen over the last few seasons. Especially on the journey back from Rhakros' burning ruins. They'd been bloody and cleaved and exhausted and horrified... but they'd won. That buoyed them. Yet Kasoria had noticed something more, on the long trials marching back home. The word of an Immortal, spoken not with clear, honest contempt but a sort of grudging respect. As one would for an enemy turned unlikely ally. Mayhap with the hope they would remain so.
He couldn't believe it. That his own block, his own men, his own people, would be speaking such of an Immortal! Who had clearly used them like cats-paws against a rival! A drooling fucking idiot could have surmised her "help" as such, yet trial after trial, he felt the mood shift. There was a gratitude embedded in the Etzori Army, if not respect or affection. They brought it back with them like a disease, like an infection, spreading it to all those citizens and spirits who remained in the city.
"If ever Sintra wanted t'make 'erself public inna city, it'd be now." He said with a shrug, as if it was obvious. "She an' 'er little crawly babies helped us, dint they? Dint ask fer shite fer it, either. Still ain't. But she will, and now-"
"Now the Council will be unlikely to deny her-"
"-especially if she's already got slaves on the fuckin' Council."
Speculation fed into deduction and bounced from mouth to mouth as the potential plot was laid out. Moira looked into her glass and drained half of it with a single, thirsty slug. She was't a fool. She knew no city, no matter how ravenously anti-Immortal, could keep the followers of those monsters out. In the dark, deep places, the cults and priests and chanting slaves waited. Festered. Expanded. Who could tell how long the Arch-Manipulator had been building towards this? Buying influence, building numbers, subtly moving pieces this way and that, until she was ready to step into the light.
"Bangun used to say, the best way to make friends of your enemies, is to find an even bigger enemy of you both. Maybe the truce won't last longer than the battle, but you can build on it." She nodded to herself as she finished her drink. "Aye. That sounds like what this is."
Kasoria leaned forward, shoudlers bobbing for a moment like a cat about to pounce.
"That's why I need t'see yer husband's notes, ma'am. Cuz what his contacts mighta' known, could point me inna right direction. It's... like a chain. They're the first link. Then it's those assassin bastards workin' for the spider bitch. Then it's the people they know, that they've been usin'. And finally, the people above them. The rich folk an' the powerful." He shook his head and sipped at the tea, now growing disappointingly lukewarm. "Can't jus' pull the leaves off a weed, ma'am. Gotta rip it up by the roots, make sure it don't come back."
Moira nodded and Kasoria hoped nothing more would be needed. He hadn't mentioned Marshal Webb; that nugget alone could have gotten her killed, if she breathed it to anyone else. That it existed in Kasoria's own skull was a worry enough. Part of him wanted to spread the truth as wide and as fast as he could. Let the whole damn city know that Marshal Webb was little more that a stooge of an Immortal.
But now, this season, this arc, would that see his head on a pike by nightfall? After the Siege, and Rhakros, and that spider cunt aiding us? After all the praise for her you heard on the march back?
Kasoria ground his teeth and tried to loosen them with that rest of his tea. Then he got to his feet, catching Moira's attention with the movement.
"His study. I need t'see it. Search it. Ev'ry crevice."
"I don't know what you expect to find," Moira said, rising with stiff slowness. "The lawyers went over the room after he died."
"Aye, well," Kasoria said with a soft smile, letting the older woman lead the way. "They wuz lookin' fer deeds an' titles an' such. Weren't thinkin' like sneaky bastards. Fortunately, I'm a very sneaky bastard, so I'll be lookin' a wee bit differently..."