The Voices of Nerat, leader of the Scarlet Chorus and general thorn in my side, regarded us coldly as we approached. His greeting was stoic, aloof, until he saw that Sirin traveled with us. The mocking tone he then took up did not win him any points with any of my companions, as he teased her for running away from his protection. It seems there was more to her story than I had known; she was a very powerful force within the Chorus, not that long ago. When did her allegiances change?

“Step back or our reunion will be blood-soaked,” she replied flatly, refusing his invitation for an embrace.

Turning back to me, he talked little of his strategy for dealing with the dangers of the Stone Sea, instead focusing on how he was planning to humiliate Graven Ashe and his army of Disfavored. He wanted every man, woman, and child in the Tiers to swear allegiance to him, crushing the Disfavored with an unstoppable wave of followers. I was not appreciative of his idea, as I was sure my higher-ups would not be, but I asked him to explain further, to help me understand his plan.

“Conquest is a delicate matter. It needs feeding, watering, soft caresses, a lullaby before bed,” he cackled in a most unpleasant way. “We will invite the leaders of the resistance to join us. If we have their leaders, the people will follow.”

He suggested I could best help Kyros by assisting a gang boss of his, known as the Censor, to breach the walls of the Burning Library – result of the first Edict I cast during this campaign – and retrieve a scroll of “great power.”

He also suggested that I should return to Lethian’s Crossing and bring several of the Forge-Bound mage-smiths to his care, so that he might come to fully understand the secret of ironworking, that prized and private technology that by writ of Kyros himself shall only belong to the Disfavored. The madman continued rambling, ideas pouring from his mouth without seeming rhyme or reason.

It took a great deal of control to temper my ire at the self-absorbed general. While he did not technically have standing to give me orders, my survival was at his whim, and the land for miles around was controlled by his red-coated Chorus. That he brazenly thought I would turn my back on Kyros’ law, the very thing I am sworn to uphold, spoke either very poorly of his loyalty or to the vast extent of his madness.

He dismissed me with a wave of his hand, turning back to watch the tumultuous and craggy lands below. I could do little but shake my head before collecting my party and venturing forth. Evidence against Voices was mounting, but I would not return to Tunon to pass judgment without fully exploring both generals and their hand in the disastrous campaign in the Tiers.

I could at least explore the remains of the Vellum Citadel, now known as the Burning Library, without betraying my allegiance to Tunon and Kyros. We would start there; Barik, Verse, Sirin, and myself.