â€œSo thatâ€™s the situation. Iâ€™d like to start finding ways to integrate Tyr as quickly as possible.â€ Damian sighed, shaking his head. â€œI wouldnâ€™t come to you normally, butâ€¦â€
â€œDonâ€™t mention it.â€ Sesus Nagazzer sat back on his cushions, taking a long draw from his pipe thoughtfully. â€œThe preservation of House Cathak concerns our own plans quite intimately, after all. Andâ€¦ it might be useful for Fokufâ€™s plans, as well.â€
â€œBecause heâ€™s known to be less than devout when it comes to Anathema.â€ Fokuf nodded thoughtfully, carefully penning a missive on another matter. â€œWhich could potentially make him someone to approachâ€¦ cautiouslyâ€¦ on the religious angle.â€
â€œExactly.â€ Nagazzer nodded slowly, shifting to take a sip from a glass of water sitting beside him. â€œPersonally, I am rather fond of the idea, if only because it helps me reconcile some of my ownâ€¦ difficultiesâ€¦ with the Doctrines. Although I suppose it is a bit hypocritical to espouse belief in a system you are attempting to create.â€
â€œNot at all.â€ Damian shrugged. â€œItâ€™s as much a philosophy as a religion. I may not believe in the full history that weâ€™re designing, but I certainly agree with the goals and ideals of this doctrine, and thatâ€™s the part that we should be focusing on.â€ Nagazzer nodded thoughtfully, and Fokuf took the chance to step in.
â€œWell, if weâ€™re settled that we want Tyr in power, the question remains on what to do with him for the moment. Bringing him back to the Blessed Isle wonâ€™t exactly open many doors for him. He needs something to help restore his reputation, and Iâ€™m not sure I have any ideas. Preferably, something that will tie him more closely to the Roseblack, since weâ€™ll want Cathak supporting her.â€
â€œA military campaign.â€ Damian nodded thoughtfully. â€œWeâ€™ve no shortage of potential targets, but most of them are going to be much to dangerous to move against. After all, if Ejava dies, all of our plans are going to collapse like a soufflÃ©.â€
There was a short pause, and then Fokuf spoke again, sounding a bit embarrassed. â€œActuallyâ€¦ I have an idea for that. I didnâ€™t bring this up idly, you see.â€ Looking up, he found Nagazzer and Damian both staring at him, and he sighed. â€œYou both remember Paar, I presume?â€
â€œOf course. It was barely more than two months ago, and it set off this latest round of your grand plans.â€ Damian smiled. â€œWhy, has he made contact?â€
â€œBetter.â€ Fokuf suddenly grinned widely, and raised his voice. â€œYou can come in, sir.â€
There was another pause, as the doors opened. The man standing in them was not someone whom either Damian or Nagazzer recognized. Apparently only a mortal, he was nonetheless over six feet tall, with crimson hair and a carefully-trimmed but massive beard. His clothes were those of a simple guardsman, although he walked unarmed. He bowed low to the three, rising with a smile. â€œMy lords. A pleasure to meet with you.â€
There was a pause, and Nagazzer raised an eyebrow delicately. â€œAnd you are?â€
â€œMaster Khory Ironthews, sir. I am here representing the Celestial Caretaker, Mokrelus.â€
Damian blinked. â€œThe Celestial who? I donâ€™t think I know the nameâ€¦â€
Khory smiled. â€œHeâ€™s beenâ€¦ out of the loop for a good long time. But he recently met with Master Paar, and your situation came up. To make matters short, I think we have a problem you can help with, and you have one that we can help solve.â€
â€œReally.â€ Nagazzerâ€™s voice sounded doubtful. â€œAnd, pray tell, exactly what problem that might be.â€ He shot Fokuf an accusatory look, and the regent put on his most innocent expression.
â€œSimple. You havenâ€™t been able to get Tepet Ejava enthroned. But youâ€™re getting close. Tell me â€“ how do you think it would help her popularity if she were to destroy the Mask of Winters?â€
Silence descended on the room. Finally, Damian managed to speak, in a choked voice. â€œYou canâ€™t be serious.â€
â€œVery much so.â€ Khory smiled again. â€œWe can destroy him, but only if our man gets close enough. For that, we need to draw him out â€“ which needs an army.â€ Slowly, carefully, he explained his plan, laying it out step by step. When he was finished, he looked across the stunned expressions of Damian and Nagazzer.
â€œYouâ€™re sure that this works?â€ Damianâ€™s voice was almost nonexistent.
â€œAbsolutely. Canâ€™t you feel the rightness of it?â€
â€œYes.â€ Nagazzer spoke in a whisper. â€œDragons above, but it might just work.â€
â€œItâ€™s a riskâ€¦ but I know that Khory is not lying. And if it fails, we can still break off the attack with few casualties.â€ Fokufâ€™s grin widened. â€œSo? What do you think?â€
Damian shook his head helplessly. â€œItâ€™s astounding. Itâ€™s exactly what we need.â€ He looked up at Khory. â€œThere are people Iâ€™ll have to discuss this with, in order to convince them, butâ€¦ itâ€™s absolutely brilliant.â€
â€œWish I could claim credit.â€ Khory bowed again. â€œIâ€™m just the mediator.â€
â€œWell, Master Mediator, I think you have yourself an army.â€ Fokuf nodded formally. â€œThe Mask of Winters is never going to know what hit him.â€
And silent in the shadows, Perfected Tears Upon Alabaster Sorrow listened to it all.