“The next ten years are critical.” Stheno kept her voice steady, even when she wanted to weep. “Karrnath must be distracted before their undead army grows enough to threaten Aundair. For now, their necromancers only use the bodies the Karrnathi give them. Once the warmongers around the court unleash those hordes, and gain even a city’s worth of corpses to add to them….”
“So? Let the humans war with each other again.” Euryale shrugged. “It will only profit us.”
“It will not.” Stheno clenched her fists, claws digging at skin. “The paths have not changed! If Karrnath wins, the undead hordes come for us next. If Breland is the victor, the battle with us weakens them so Cyran survivors fracture the nation, and the Mournland spreads. If Aundair triumphs, they will tear Flamekeep from its foundations, and the demons prisoned there will bring darkness to us all. And if Thrane wins – the Church of the Silver Flame spreads, and is corrupted, and comes for us. We need another way!”
Euryale let out a hissing breath. “And you think these humans will be your unseen path? Sister….”
“If you find another alternative, tell me.” Crystal chimed in the sleeve of her dress, signaling that a player approached Stheno’s Cave. “I must do what I can.”
“Tread carefully, sister.” Euryale stepped away. “I am not the only Lord who doubts Beniryuu.”
Elegant as a steel blade, she stalked out of sight.
Stheno sighed, and found her comfortable carved-boulder chair. Took the crystalline diadem from her sleeve, and settled it on her brow. “Link start!”
She opened her eyes to another garden, and listened.
“They didn’t read it?” An unfamiliar young woman’s voice, incredulous and accusing.
“Everyone was nerved up for the boss fight.” Kirito’s reply was quiet, and maybe a little rueful. “Ten pages. You need to break it into smaller chunks.”
“Shorter’s always harder than longer, Ki-bou. I can’t believe they didn’t read it!”
“They did. After the boss fight.” From the echoes, Kirito had paused in the tunnel exit. “Stay here. And don’t make any sudden moves. The cockatrices aren’t aggressive, but the chicks are curious.”