Mandrean stormed into the room and threw himself upon his throne. Then he pulled up one leg onto the seat. He braced his elbow against his knee and used the fist on the same hand to hold his pouting face. As more of his party entered, they observed the Emperor and sat quietly.
“How could this happen?” Mandrean asked rhetorically. “We are the greatest empire in the world and some pathetic half-breed nearly kills me, defaces my palace, frees my prisoner and scorches most of the capital. I curse that Linvin Grithinshield. He will pay for this. I will make him suffer more than any man has. He will be hunted to the ends of the world. In the end, he will die.” There was pure silence in the room after Mandrean spoke. He looked at his court with disdain.
“None of you did anything to prevent this,” Mandrean continued to vent. “How many times could we have killed him? Now he is gone. Well, if he thought the trip here was hazardous, he will find the journey home deadly. Pawns.” The young boys with the numbered shirts who’d represented Divisions jumped to their feet and ran with haste to their positions on the map.
Mandrean took to his feet and folded his hands behind his back. Then he paced back and forth looking southward on the map. “Generals. How will he plan his escape?”
General Maxion was the first to speak. “He is running blind. It is a miracle Grithinshield has survived to this point. He will easily be chased down by a score of Imperial Guards.”
Donorus quickly spoke in reaction. “You really are a fool, aren’t you? Did you not listen to Grithinshield’s credentials? His acts were not random. He planned his escape and waited for the right moment to act. To accomplish one of the acts from today could be called luck, but to do all he did to us was planning. He is not running blindly as you stated. “Those Imperial Guards you want to chase him are busy trying to keep our own citizens from looting the city during the chaos. Even if they were not doing so he would wipe them away like chalk on a board. He has a plan. From the sound of his record, he always has a plan. He wants to get home to Sartan. He will head south. All the forces in the Southern Province should be sent to crush him immediately.”
Tecious entered the fray with cane in hand. “That is an easy thing for you to say. Only a small number of your forces would be involved. You heard me earlier when I said my divisions were not battle ready. Even if they were, mobilizing them would take time. Placing the burden on my trainees is no way to resolve this situation.”
“My men would be at risk also,” Donorus reminded. “The one route he knows to go home is at the mouth of the river where my men are stationed.”
“He nearly escaped them beforehand,” snapped Tecious. “I doubt that with his new power he would have any trouble displacing your men.”
“At least my troops are in fighting condition,” baited Donorus. “It sounds like you cannot even train your own divisions anymore without them dying of old age first.”
“I know your men are well trained,” barked Tecious. “I trained them. Just like I have trained every division in this army. You simply are unwilling to sacrifice any of your men. You would rather throw away two unprepared divisions than risk your precious, if undeserved reputation.”
“I still lead my men from the front lines,” Donorus proclaimed as he looked at Tecious’s cane. “When was the last time you led anyone in battle? You just sit back and let the rest of us protect you. A Great General, indeed.”
Maxion sided with Donorus in the argument and attacked Tecious. “You are a coward if you think your soldiers are not ready. Perhaps you simply do not want it exposed how incapable you have become.”
“Stay out of this,” Tecious yelled at Maxion as he shoved him back. “With Sartan being to the south, your forces are unaffected by this emergency. So stick to what you do best. Nothing.”
“Enough,” yelled Mandrean. “I am in the mood to kill someone. If Grithinshield is not to be had, I am inclined to settle for you gentlemen. Now shut your mouths while I think.”