Pelthe 3, 5682---“She’s had her one day,” Prince Nomolo said to those sitting with him at the table. “I do not know what is keeping Tora’Sor, but her time is up. Send the scouts into the cave to find the entrance to the Underground, and prepare the first five companies of soldiers.”
“Is that wise?” someone wondered. It was Commander Toparez, a grizzled man with hardened features. Although his appearance made him look as if he desired combat, Prince Nomolo knew the opposite was true. The Commander merely wanted to be ready for any possibility, however remote. “Do we dare send scouts in without armed escorts? You know what the Queen of the Sea said about the people living in the cave. If Tora’Sor was unable to reach them, how many men must be lost to their barbarism?” the Commander said to explain his question.
Rarla’Nun stepped into the room. She gave a nod of familiarity toward a corner in the room as if someone was actually there, an action that left the prince with another reason to question her sanity, before walking toward the table. “I saw Tora’Sor reach her destination,” the old woman said. “I cannot know what they spoke about, but she remains unharmed. I believe the people will leave us alone.”
“Who asked you to this meeting?” Commander Toparez quickly asked her. “How can you know the exact topic of our most recent discussions unless you were eavesdropping?”
“That is hardly avoidable with such thin walls,” Rarla’Nun told him.
“Enough,” Prince Nomolo interrupted. “Although charges of eavesdropping are serious, everyone here is privy to the task at hand. We have no secrets among us. If Rarla’Nun decides to keep us informed, we should welcome her involvement. I expect it is difficult for a woman of her age to travel this great distance with us by sea, despite our best efforts to see to her comfort.”
“Thank you,” Rarla’Nun told the prince with a smile. “As I said, Tora’Sor is among the people in the caves, and does not seem to be in any immediate danger.”
“Might there be any delayed danger?” the commander asked.
“Perhaps,” Rarla’Nun answered with a shrug, “but I cannot know more than what I see. She is with Sushala’Mol, who was recently reunited with her family.”
“We will send the scouts regardless of any danger,” Prince Nomolo decided. “We need to find that opening.” He looked at a map spread on the table. “From what my father said, the people live down one tunnel of the cave, and the opening is down another tunnel.”
“Pirate lies,” Commander Toparez scowled. “I wouldn’t believe a word they told your father.”
“That is why we send the scouts,” Prince Nomolo said. “The first five companies must be ready to stand guard at the opening while the rest of the army prepares for the expedition into the Underground.” He turned to Rarla’Nun. “Is the Sisterhood of Jadela’Mar prepared to provide us our means of escape?”
“We are ready to make the potion,” Rarla’Nun answered, “but it will leave many of our members useless. We can safely supply only fourteen thousand soldiers if you wish to keep twenty of us capable of fighting off any Dark Magicians you encounter.”
“It sounds like a bad idea,” the Commander decided. “We are taking an army into a strange land, and cannot take with us the majority of the individuals best suited to fight our greatest enemies. We should draw the enemy from the cave, and then engage them.”
“Your opinion is noted,” Prince Nomolo said, “but they are an enemy that thrives on biding their time in their underground land. We must take the battle to them since they will not come to us.”
“As you command, my prince,” Commander Toparez said. “I was merely stating my strategic opinion on the matter. I will send out the scouts and five companies, and make sure the rest of the army is ready to march at your command.”
“Very good,” Prince Nomolo said. “I do not expect it will take too long for the scouts.”
While Commander Toparez departed, Rarla’Nun stepped toward the prince. Perhaps scouting is unwise,” she counseled. “The cave dwellers attacked the pirates, killing many of them. You should go in force. Send out the scouts if you must, but have the army close behind them.”
“I thought you said there was little chance of danger,” the prince observed. “Why do you now claim otherwise?”
“I said Tora’Sor did not appear to be in danger,” the old woman answered. “Still, she is surrounded by many of the cave dwellers, who could kill her at a whim. Your scouts, however, should they chance upon the cave inhabitants unexpectedly, could incite an attack.” She glanced toward the empty corner again.
Prince Nomolo frowned. “We’ll need to take that chance,” he decided, standing up. He walked over toward the empty corner, and stuck out his hand to feel if there was something he couldn’t see. “Why do you keep looking over here?” he wondered. “What do you see that I cannot?”
“You would ask an old, blind woman what she sees?” Rarla’Nun huffed.
One of the advisors stood up from the table. “The Prince means you no offense,” he told her. “What he means to say is you always know your surroundings without seeing them. It is very strange that you seem to sense something the rest of us cannot see.”
“Perhaps my senses are growing old,” the woman said. “I think I should get some rest. Prince Nomolo, send for me the moment your army prepares to enter the Underground. I wish to come as a last resort to close the doorway from the inside if your plans go poorly.”
Prince Nomolo turned from the corner to face the woman. “Very well,” he told her. “I guess this means you have nothing else to tell me.”
Rarla’Nun shook her head. “Nothing else right now.” She gave a slight bow, and stepped out of the room, shutting the door behind her.
“I don’t trust her,” one of the advisors said once she was gone. She sees without eyes. She is blind, but not blind. If she sees Tora’Sor so clearly while she’s far away inside the caves, there must be something in that corner.”
“I felt nothing,” Prince Nomolo said, returning to his seat. “She might seem unbalanced, but I’ve never known her to be misleading or tell lies.”
“Everything we’ve seen happen to the Sisterhood of Jadela’Mar in the past few months leaves me uneasy,” another advisor claimed. Several others nodded in agreement. “They’ve gone from a structured organization to a loose group of acquaintances with no authority to govern their actions. Even their final option for some semblance of leadership voted themselves out of the position. It’s as if someone was tearing apart the Sisterhood of Jadela’Mar from the inside.”
“Whatever is happening, you can know Rarla’Nun and Tora’Sor are in the center of it,” one of the advisors added. “We all know Tora’Sor was accused of being from the Underground, and Rarla’Nun defended her. Perhaps they are working together as agents for the Underground.”
Prince Nomolo shook his head. “I believe Tora’Sor is who she claims to be. I cannot believe the Lunari would aid her rescue at Razhinoch if that were not the case. If anything, I’d say her situation is being used and manipulated by someone other than her. Rarla’Nun, however, is certainly someone to be wary about. She has yet to provide false information or withhold assistance, but she does seem to manipulate everyone around her.”
“Then why would you allow her to join your expedition to the Underground?” an advisor asked. “Why let her into the caves if that’s what she desires?”
“I don’t mind her entering the Underground,” Prince Nomolo said, “but if she does anything strange, I do not want her leaving with us.”