Corsordas sat at the head of the table, maps and tiny markers covering its surface. But his eyes were fixed on the Esafi Condeu who stood defiantly at the other end.
“I will not surrender, Corsordas!”
“You army is surrounded. You are outnumbered five to one. I have ten times your energy reserves. Why will you not surrender?”
“Death is preferable to defeat. Kill me, get it over with!”
“I have no intention of killing you.”
“You would let me rot in a dungeon? Fine. I still will not surrender.”
“I will not imprison you, Esafi.”
The Esafi glared at him. “Then what will you do? Rape me?”
“You are very beautiful, but no, I am not going to rape you. None of my men will harm you, or harm your soldiers except in self defense.”
“What is it you want? What trickery are you planning? You already control all my country.”
“Consider it under protective custody.”
She barked a short laugh. “That’s a new phrase for conquest.”
“You’re smart, Bessia. You’re kind. You’re honest. Your people love you, just as your late husband did. You are brave, and your troops respect you. I respect you. I don’t want war between us, I want an alliance.”
“An alliance, when you already control every city in Condeu?”
“Your army was stretched too thin to hold territory against the warlords that Kratia backs. By stamping them out, I free your troops to meet their real duty, stopping the dark Lord Kratia.”
Bessia was silent for several seconds before answering.
“You would truly have an alliance?”
“Truly. I swear by the spirits of the Elves.”
“What will you take of my country? Of my army?”
“I will take nothing. What I want is for you to join with me, freely. Unite our armies, march on Kratia’s fortress at Minas Palanar, and cast it down into rubble. I would have her head on a pike, and marched through our cities in a parade of celebration.”
“I would have this, too,” she whispered.
“Then we march together at dawn. Both our flags raised high,” said Corsordas. “And when we are victorious, I would ask one more thing of you.”
“What is that, Corsordas,” she asked warily.
“To marry me,” he said.