While my immediate goal is to cross the Matani river and take the keep at the center of Vendrien’s Well, aided by both armies rallying under Kyros’ banner, my larger responsibility is to interpret and enforce the laws of our empire. Justice is that standard or boundary of right which enables civilization to render to every citizen their just due, without distinction or prejudice. My role is to arbitrate the dictates of Kyros, not to make friends, but so far afield from the capital, with no allies here save those I make, I have to recognize that a strict adherence to every law, which often conflict with one another, would get me nowhere.

As a personal rule, when in territory controlled by the Scarlet Chorus I give their traditions and rites more weight than I would otherwise. Similarly I defer to the Disfavored when traveling in their camps. This does not mean I bow to the every whim of my host, but that I consider their desires and long-held standards more carefully when surrounded by their warriors. Some may call that cowardice, I call it prudence.

The last stop on my list before helping the Disfavored strike at Echocall Crossing was to a remote settlement where the Scarlet Chorus hoped I would be able to convince local leadership to surrender rather than fight. The Chorus’ newest members tend to form the vanguard, leading any battle charge, with survivors being promoted into full rank. Gaining even a small village’s worth of recruits could turn the tide of battle in the coming days, while having to skirmish in another prolonged battle could mean doom for their warriors when the real fighting started across the river.

My small band traveled the two hours through the unmarked wilderness to the camp, finding it both more well-structured and -defended than we had been lead to believe. This was no small camp but a large habitation, with permanent buildings and tilled farms. At once my eyes narrowed with suspicion, a feeling shared by my two companions. Making our way to the center of the village, no souls in sight, I decided I didn’t have the patience for childish games. “I am here to save you. Join the Scarlet Chorus and your lives will be spared. Rebel against us and die.”

Finding their backbone, several well-armed peasants emerged from the shadows, ready to fight. Sighing, we drew our blades and set to task.

Only after the rebels had been subdued did the Scarlet Chorus members hiding nearby make themselves known, boasting that they would have killed the oathbreakers in fewer sword strokes. I was not pleased, and told them I would be taking my ire to Death Knell, their superior.

Returning to their camp, I marched directly to the command tent. Far from humble, or acknowledging any wrong-doing, Death Knell gave me her sword and a bag of coins. I let her know she was getting off easy, as I had more important matters to deal with. Only the presence of so many well-armed Scarlet Chorus made me refrain from breaking her nose for insolence and then the insult.

After making sure the Chorus were finalizing their preparations for the battles ahead, I turned my attention to the nearby Disfavored camp, largely to see whether the Earthshakers had actually arrived as expected; I admit I had my doubts, particularly with the poor showing they had made at our first meeting.