Overcoming the Monster – 15 min.

           “It’s a growing threat, Your Grace.  Our correspondents in the East write that the Orient army is fortifying itself for what could be an invasion.”

            Aubra leaned back against the bone stays of her green corset, her eyes half-closed in thought.  The information being presented to her now was nothing new, thanks to Theresa’s vast spy network.  She still had to let her Council do its job.  “Are we to assume they are preparing to attack or is the Khan sending supplies to reinforce his men?”

            Sixteen pairs of eyes slid towards her.  “Your Grace,” a voice from the end of the table came to Aubra’s ears.  “With all due respect, the idea that the Khan could be doing anything other than preparing an invasion is naïve indeed.”  The silence that descended upon the room was deafening.  Aubra smiled icily.

            “He has not historically been a quiet neighbor. What exactly is he sending to these outposts?”

            “ Supplies, horses, likely munitions and extra weaponry,” another voice floated towards her.  “They are probably laying supply lines back to the capitol as well.”

            “What is the Council’s recommended course of action?  Should we not send someone to ensure these reports are true?”

            “ We should,” a voice at Aubra’s elbow.  “Your Grace.”  A dark young man bowed.  Aubra straightened immediately to hide how startled she was.  “Master Riley,” she acknowledged him.  “Was there something you had intended to share with the Council?”

            “Only that the Khan has been in power for over a quarter century, Your Grace, and he knows the business of running a far-flung kingdom better than we at this point.  He could be resupplying his outposts or he could very well be arming them for an invasion.  Were I in Your Grace’s position, I should send a trusted, informed person to discover the absolute truth beyond the observations of a few jumpy noblemen—”

            This brought murmurs of discontent from the group.

            “—to better inform us so that we could act appropriately.”

            “And if the Khan is preparing for invasion?”

            Riley’s face, already masked in partial shadow, grew darker.  “We would have no choice but to call upon our allies.”  Aubra’s brow furrowed.

            “Your Grace!” a messenger clad in royal standard approached Aubra hastily, knelt, and presented her with a sealed letter.  Aubra wondered if her Private Advisor, Tymon, had had time to read it.   As she lifted the wax seal and scanned the hastily written words, her face paled. 

            “Your plan comes too late, Master Riley,” she said in a less than satisfied tone.  “The Khan has already made his intentions clear.”

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