Chapter 25 of Quest for the Blue Crystal

“Lord Kratia, I appreciate your concern, but I’m not sure that more troops will solve anything.” Jed Nalton’s tone suggested he care about anything, either.

“Palatine, may I remind you that it was your idea to form a citizen’s militia? That was an idea in the right direction, but common citizens just don’t have the training or discipline needed to defend the town against a Rep attack.”

“And the Esaf’s soldiers will?” He shook his head. “No one can stop those bastards, Lord Kratia. Nobody. Why should I ask more people to come here, only to risk more lives? No, I can’t do that.”

“Palatine. Jed. Can you afford not to? The Reps will come. I have been tracking and studying their attacks. And while I can’t predict their moves precisely there is a definite southern trend that will bring them close to Hornblower. And it’s clear from the attacks on Tolan and other villages that the Reps are no longer adverse to conflict with people. I learned first hand that magic is almost useless.”

“I know you did what you could, Kratia,” Jed Nalton sighed. “What do you expect of me?”

“Palatine, you have a responsibility to Hornblower. We will be attacked. It is inevitable. You can sit here, holed up in your grief and sorrow as dozens or hundreds of citizens die helplessly. Painfully. Without a fighting chance. Or you can give them that fighting chance. Pit some real soldiers against them. Make the bastards taste steel, Jed. Make them pay.”

Jed Nalton sat brooding. The loss of Tunnea was a deep pain; but the thought of the Reps dying kindled a need for revenge that nearly blotted out the grief. He did not want more deaths on his head; but deaths were coming, either way. He doubted that the soldiers could minimize the loss but Kratia seemed so sure. And maybe real soldiers could strike a telling blow against the cursed monsters. Damn bastards! If he could send them all to the deepest pits of hell, he would. But he was reluctant to send more innocent people to their deaths. But wasn’t that the risk soldiers were paid to take?

“Very well, Kratia. I will honor your request. I will petition the Esaf for a garrison of troops. I will stress the need for speed; but I will not minimize the element of danger. In any case, the Esaf Condeu will have the final say.”

Kratia bowed, smiling. “Perhaps I can arrange some entertainment for the troops. Their bravery should be recognized and appreciated.”

The Palatine nodded absently, daydreaming about the destruction of the Reps.

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