Episode 50: A frank exchange of views

The Lord turned out to be quite personable. As he explained, he was on a fact-finding mission: "Black Jong's actions, while initially having a provisional authorization from the authorities most immediate to the scene, have come under investigation by the Free States and the Church. There have been . . . inconsistencies . . . between his stated motivations and his actions."

Arthur was not impressed. "And? If what he's been doing is not to your liking?"

"Officially? I don't know; I report back and they make the decisions. Unofficially? We were told to come here fully armed and ready for remote operations. I can't act without orders from above or I'd lose my authority—I'm more restricted in that than most, given the nature of my title—but I can get orders pretty fast if I need them." He stopped and waited for Arthur to consider this before switching back to the main topic. "What can you tell me about Black Jong's operations?"

"We just captured a fair sized operational group, and it's not a pretty picture. Care to ask them yourselves, or will you take my word for it?"

A slight smirk. "I am not unaware of Arthur Avallonis; I will take your word for it."

Arthur told him what they knew. Then he told him what they didn't know. "Their supply trail just disappears; their main assault force is traveling by magic, I think. Care to enlighten us?"

There was some hurried discussion between the Lord-at-Large and a pair of clerics before the conversation continued. "I can say that a military . . . person of interest . . . is currently suspected to be with Black Jong's main force, and his whereabouts are a matter of some concern. This is publicly known within the state which most recently employed him." He named a name.

Arthur cursed.

"I take it that we've said enough. We'll communicate your information to the Free States and see what they decide; I suspect that they will be issuing a request for the capture and extradition of Black Jong."

The parley adjourned.

Later, Aurora thought over what she had seen and heard and came to a conclusion: This was not the war of liberation that she had been promised. She wouldn't defect to the Empire, but it was definitely time to stop working for Black Jong. She told Arthur as much.