Finding Mattias was much easier than I expected; the Scarlet Chorus we ran into set up camp just outside the Unbroken’s barricade, so as to torment them day and night until their wills gave out. I approached the scarred battle lines and was stopped by sentries who demanded to know my purpose. I didn’t want to tell them that my purpose was to demand their surrender, but it has been a long time since I was any good at lying – too many years studying the law in terms of black and white, I suppose.
Hearing the commotion at the front gate, Mattias himself approached, after ensuring that we weren’t the lead-in for another Scarlet Chorus attack. He walked proudly, warily, though there was a tiredness about him. Recent conflicts had taken their toll on the tall veteran, but the mental strain of leading a doomed rebellion had aged him beyond his years. He gave a token bow of respect to me, addressing me by title. “I know who you are, Fatebinder. What brings you to Jagged Remedy, and to my camp in particular – have you come to support the Scarlet Chorus in our extermination?”
His voice was clear, eyes narrow as he spoke. “If it comes down to a choice between life or death, I’ll choose life for my soldiers every time, but the challenge of leadership is dealing with those who disagree.” Considering me for a long moment, he waved the gate guards aside. “Let them in. They know we’re weakened, but strong enough to pay back treachery with cold metal.”
By the time I had taken a survey of their small camp, I found Mattias loudly arguing with another impressive figure, undoubtedly one of his senior lieutenants. “So long as the Edict of Storms is satisfied, and our people can live, I’ll be at least content to know we tried,” he explained, a finger wagging in the others’ face.
“You’re a coward, Mattias. A coward and a traitor.”
Stepping in to avoid bloodshed, I asked what must be done for the Edict of Storms to be resolved. “The bastard Regent who betrayed our kingdom has to die,” the unnamed soldier spat. “Instead we’ve been dodging Disfavored and dying to Chorus blades, getting us nowhere.”
The man cast a disapproving look at his superior and walked off, mumbled words caught behind clenched teeth. Mattias apologized and introduced the man as his second-in-command, Irentis. “Surrender is a kick in the teeth, but it may be all we have left. Some do not see it that way.”
I found that I appreciated the old soldier’s resolve, ill-fated as it seemed to be. He and Barik were on opposite sides of the war, but could share a mutual respect. At times I see the same between myself and members of the Scarlet Chorus – our methods and intentions may differ, but our ends remain the same. Though I was no trained diplomat, I had an idea that I believed neither side had considered as a peaceable end to this conflict.
“Have you shown the Scarlet Chorus any good will, that negotiations made in good faith would be received?”
It was with that simple suggestion that I soon found myself back at the Scarlet Chorus camp, arguing for the release of several Unbroken prisoners as a symbol of the army’s promise not to murder Mattias’ soldiers if they were to be conscripted.
It was also with that simple suggestion that I shortly thereafter found myself face-to-face with Unbroken who, rather than allow themselves to be taken by the Scarlet Chorus, would rather take up arms against their former commander. Standing with Irentis, they rallied against the impossible decision Mattias had made.
What a day.