After Heroneus departed, the war-council was still two hours away. Telford issued orders for his Guardians to resupply and sent out others to report back on the East Shore’s defenses. If matters proceeded as they now seemed to be, this could be a very difficult night of fighting just to hold the East Shore, leaving aside the fate of all those citizens left to their fate in Korvosa proper. There were hard choices to be made in the next few hours, and fate had conspired to make the Meltorian Archon a key player in those choices.
Nikias made a gesture to Erlak. The two ducked out and found a table in the Garrison District Ale House to confer where they could not be overheard. Although they had not known each other before the voyage, the past day of heavy fighting had done much to demonstrate to each the qualities of the other. Uncle Meteelin was right again, thought Erlak, you get to know what people are made of in battle. The Kerdosian’s and Aldeosian’s accent and mannerisms were different, but already they were adopting shorthands in communication.
Nikias chose from amongst the blandest of foodstuffs offered. Kerdios was a long way away, and never more so than at meal times. Dethripian chowders were too heavy for his tastes, in particular. Better to fight on a half-empty stomach than bent double by Abu Homos’ Revenge, he thought wryly.
Erlak chose from the heavy meats. Although he’d been raised in Aldeos, fish had never really been his preference. To business: what did Nikias think of Heroneus suggestion? The Oracle’s thoughts mirrored his own. The plan seemed sure to anger the Templars, and although neither of them cared overmuch for the Sisters, better to have another ally than another enemy. While Nikias was intrigued by the prospect that shattering the crystal would provide for research, some shadowy “project” in Melthore didn’t exactly thrill him.
“Here’s the problem I’m having,” Nikias started. “On a basic level, Heroneus’ plan doesn’t make sense to me. Destroy the crystal to overwhelm the invaders with Carnoids? All that will do is double the Leukeen advantage: they’ll still have the blessing of Leuokos, while the Korvosians without personal cystals will have no protection.”
“Heroneus seemed far more interested in taking advantage of the situation to further that mysterious ‘defense project’ than in the defense of Korvosa,” Erlak agreed. “Either that, or his definition of ‘acceptable collateral damage’ and mine differ by a factor of about a hundred. And did you notice that beat when he mentioned transporting the fragments to Melthore: ‘Not my favourite place’?”
Nikias nodded. “We are too early in Telford’s service to know his mind on these matters, but one thing is for certain: he is not an Archon to blindly toe the Imperialist Line. But we need clarity from him on his politics if we are to advise him well.”
“It is the nature of the Archon to take other’s counsel but keep his own,” quoted Erlak. But his expression made it clear he too was perplexed. “This is a matter to revisit in a quiet moment.”
“If Heroneus’ proposal is a non-starter, where does that leave us?”
The proposal to rescue Crixus had appeal: a run across the High Bridge to the Arena might be feasible with a small force, and the gladiators would be a valuable force multiplier – if they sided with the Empire. But what if Meliandros had already swayed them to join the Tyranny? They could be walking into a fortified camp of enemy fighters. Had not Meliandros arranged the fight, and was he not the owner of Tyrax? It would be reasonable to expect the powerful Vrykolas to be acting as the Praetor’s lieutenant.