Graven Ashe and Voices of Nerat could be heard even before I entered the command tent. Each extolled their own virtues while attempting to minimize the others’ contributions to the recent battles, trying to proclaim that their army deserved the glory of leading the charge to overrun the keep, in time to save us all from the Edict that otherwise proclaimed our deaths.

The Disfavored argued that the Scarlet Chorus had neither the training nor the sense of duty for such an important mission, while the Chorus’ argument was one of numbers – their recruiting practices meant their ranks had swelled with every village we captured, and only with a sizable force could the keep be taken. I allowed the two Archons to bicker, knowing they would get nowhere and eventually turn to me for input.

As their boasts and insults grew, the air in the tent seemed to grow thick, as if their egos were becoming a palpable force. Fists were shaken in the air, staves pounded against the ground, and even as lieutenants were called to give testimony of the respected successes and failures of the two armies, the Archons kept yelling over them, making empty demands and fruitless gestures.

Eventually it was Graven Ashe of the Disfavored who turned toward me, bowing. Everyone in the command tent knew the Disfavored held me in high regard, almost to the same degree the Scarlet Chorus chafed under my presence here, and it was obvious from my years at court that he was going to attempt to ply my decision with honeyed words. I asked several questions about the recent battles, answered several about the taking of Echocall Crossing, and allowed the two to whip themselves back into a frenzy – I needed time to think.

It was obvious the Disfavored had the discipline and ability to take the keep, but the Scarlet Chorus had the sheer numbers and magical talent. That more Earthshakers hadn’t been dispatched greatly displeased me, and while that was no fault of Graven Ashe’s, it spoke very poorly of their leadership. The Chorus were rabble, barely holding allegiance to their own command structure, let alone higher Empire leadership, but perhaps being forced to take and hold the keep would help them appreciate what military training had done for the Disfavored.

Once again the tent grew silent, their words having run out again. “With whom do you stand, Fatebinder?” the question came. “Which army will have the glory of taking the Vendrien Well Citadel?”

Graven Ashe all but exiled me from his camp, incredulous that I could side with the Scarlet Chorus.

I was escorted out of the Disfavored camp immediately, all of the army staring daggers into my skull. Even Barik attempted to say his goodbyes, claiming that my choice had “sealed [my] allegiance” with his enemy. I was able to convince him to stay with me at least until the end of the Edict, wishing to give him the honor or standing with me as the citadel fell to our forces. Once successful I would release him from my service. After some friendly ribbing from Verse, he agreed.

It seems my new home, at least temporarily, was the Scarlet Chorus camp to the South.