Ah, this was fun to write. I'd more or less finished the chapter and then Word decided to go and crash on me, neglecting in the process to store any recent autosaves, meaning I lost the entire original chapter. That was a bummer.
An Offer You Can't Refuse
At this point, Aedan felt like he could be excused for saying he'd learned how to read his wife.
"What is it?"
So, it wasn't with a whole lot of enthusiasm that he asked, upon seeing her sour expression and the crumbled parchment in her fist, what was wrong. He almost felt like he already knew. Talia's face scrounged up, like she'd smelled or tasted something out the arse of a dwarf.
"Know how I said I was tired of Alma sticking her crossdressing nose in everything we do these days?" he nodded, pondering whether it'd be worth it to point out what 'crossdressing' actually meant. Given how the old woman kept dressing up though, he couldn't fault her the term. Talia tossed him the parchment, pristine - and expensive - material now little more than a wrinkled ball of skin. When he opened it, letters he could not read greeted him; "She's done fucked me again. I swear..."
"I'm getting sick of her, honestly..." she grumbled, rubbing her forehead; "You'd think she's my mum the way she orders me around..."
"I can't read this." He admitted, though at this point they'd been here often enough she really ought know. He couldn't read Tamrielan, even if it sounded the same. He'd better chances at reading old Tevinter than these runes; "What's it say?"
"You..." her expression turned from sour to sardonic almost like the snap of a finger. A self-deprecating smile edged its way through her scowl; "Right, sorry I'm just... reads 'Don't fuck it up, stay a Warden', and...that's it." The scowl returned as she grabbed the parchment, and flames licked away until nothing remained; "No reason, no explanation, just her telling me what to do... fuck does she think she is, the bitch?"
"Stay a Warden?" Brelyna spoke up, her soft footsteps barely making a sound on the carpets. Aedan had heard her, but assumed she'd been walking off, not back; "Why would you do that?"
"I don't." Talia scoffed, gesturing at the fine ashes on the ground; "Alma can fuck off, I'm not just going to do as she says. I don't know if I'm actually clear of the shortened lifespan, and Bretons live short enough lives as is. If there's a cure I can find, I'll be damned and fucked if I stop looking for it just because she tells me to."
"She wants you to stop looking for the cure?" the Dunmer girl asked, head cocked to the side like a curious bird; "What did the message say?"
"Don't fuck it up, stay a Warden." Talia shrugged; "Don't fuck it up my ass, she's the one who keeps fucking up, playing with shadows and ten kinds of names at once for all we know. Nan this, Alma that, Leliana there...I'd beat her with a stick if I could. Fuck respecting your elders, she's frayed my last strand of nerves."
"Stay a Warden..." Brelyna repeated ponderously; "She didn't say to not look for the cure?"
"What's the difference?" Aedan asked, rubbing at his neck. Anger made him itch, and once more Alma was the source; "We find a cure, we get cured. Blights don't just repeat by the decade, there's centuries between them. We've done what we had to."
"And you can't stay a Warden if you're cured." Talia said, her voice calming down somewhat; "Not just because of regulations, but because you actually need to be a Warden to survive against Darkspawn. Well, that or a Qunari or an Orc, probably. Sten would've done fine on his own, I bet."
"There's the Taint too, though." Aedan muttered, and his wife nodded. He remembered too well by far how close she'd come to death before they'd even been through the Joining. He'd seen first hand what the Darkspawn poison did to a person, even a mage who knew how to treat infected wounds; "Wardens are immune. Lose the taint, lose the immunity."
"Probably why they gave Fiona the boot, too." Talia shrugged, her voice dripping irritation; "Unless Alma's going to have me running around killing Darkspawn or something for her, I can't see why she'd want me to stay a Warden. Maybe it's just to fuck with me, see if I just do whatever she says?"
"Maybe." Brelyna muttered; "I think there's more to it. I still don't know why she saved my life when the dead rose."
"For which I am grateful, trust me." she said; "Looking a gift horse in the mouth is frowned on, but I'd still like to know why she does what she does. Is this what soldiers feel like, being ordered around by some asshat without knowing why?"
"At least you don't have to obey her." he pointed out.
"True, and I don't intend to either."
"All the same..." the Dunmer said, a hand in her satchel. A vial of red, sloshing liquid came back out; "Time for your medicine, Talia."
"...do I have to obey her?" Talia asked, sending him a stare that begged for pity. When she did that, with those deep, green eyes of hers, it could be damn hard to deny her, almost no matter what she asked. He sometimes suspected her of using magic on him, if he didn't know she was entirely useless with mind-altering spells.
"Yes, you do." Brelyna nodded, shaking the vial before her; "Now, open up and say 'Ahh'"
"So, there's good news and bad news."
Jonah would like to think of herself as the eternal optimist. Really, she did. She'd been keeping the upper lip proper stiff and all when Carver hadn't returned after the mess that was apparently Ostagar. Mother had wept, taking it...poorly, that they'd been forced on the run from Lothering before any news could reach them other than King Cailan being dead, and the Grey Wardens having betrayed them all.
Personally, she wasn't too keen on the second part. Seemed like bullshit that the Grey Wardens could do that, especially since she didn't see any gains for them. No way they'd grab power with, what all ten of them left in Ferelden? Less? She'd met two of them, didn't seem all that much like the traitorous types.
Then again, the redhead had been pretty easy on the eyes, same's her companion. Looked more like the good guys than the soldiers stirring up shit in the tavern. Tavern's probably burned to ashes, though...
"Bad news first, Varric, always." She pushed the empty mug aside, only foam still left in it. She didn't like foam, tasted like the ale smelled, and the ale tasted better than it smelled.
"Okay..." the dwarf seemed annoyed for a moment, not an unusual expression on him these days; "There's a guy we need to find for the expedition to not be a complete waste of time. Problem is, I've got no clue who or where he is."
"That is bad news." Bethany muttered, the pessimist of the two.
"See, that's the bad news, then the good news make everything better." Jonah assured her sister, directing a pointed look at Varric; "They do, right?"
"Good news is... Well, so basically we need a proper entrance into the Deep Roads, and we need a Grey Warden for that. Now, there's a Grey Warden in Kirkwall, according to my esteemed brother, not that I've seen or heard of him." The dwarf sighed; "See, it makes more sense to take the good news first."
"A Grey Warden?" Bethany perked up; "Are there Darkspawn here?"
"Wounded Coast has them, last I heard." Jonah said; "But you don't know where he is, or who?"
"Supposedly he's Fereldan." Varric said; "That's something to go by."
"A Fereldan Warden?" for a moment, her mind returned to the two she'd met back in Lothering, to the male one. He'd been especially easy on the eyes, yes. It'd be a right laugh if he was still alive, considering the stories she'd heard from the other refugees. Especially the more recent ones, that spoke of even Amaranthine having been attacked. Blights were nasty business, mostly because they involved Darkspawn, and she wondered if he was even still alive. Grey Wardens didn't tend to get old, so the stories went; "Any idea of when he got here?"
"Afraid not. Bartrand just said recently, but for all he'd be bother so were your arrivals, and your year with the smugglers' almost out." The dwarf chuckled; "Bartrand is many things, but concerned with personal details is not one of them. You're Fereldans though."
"Sister." Bethany admonished her.
"You wouldn't have any idea how many Wardens Ferelden's got?" Varric asked; "Blight's only just done with, can't be a whole lot."
"No clue." Jonah shrugged; "I think it was down to like...what, a handful, after Ostagar? They came through Lothering, I met two of them. These days though? Might be they're all dead, might be they've multiplied like rabbits, who knows?"
"Aren't Wardens sterile?" the dwarf muttered, half a question to them and to himself; "Anyway, I thought... Oh, Stubbles, how's it going?"
Jonah didn't at first grasp what the dwarf was on about, though turning her head did shed some light. Daveth was at the bar, rubbing sleep from his eyes. He nimbly caught the mug of some steaming brew slid to him by the barkeep. She gave him a small wave, willing herself not to think about him wading through the entrails of a dozen men, not all of them dead. Daveth is Stubbles? I mean... wouldn't 'Bushy' be more like it? That beard of his...
Wait, it was almost evening. Why would he'd slept until now, anyway? Spent the night working or whoring?
"Been worse." Daveth muttered, frowning at the brew he'd just sipped. Didn't look like he enjoyed it much. Jonah tried coming up with an answer for that, really, she did, but it wasn't exactly the kind of reply you could just keep a conversation going with. Was she supposed to ask how bad things had been? She knew he'd been through some real shit, or he'd not have carried himself like he did in Darktown, but still...
"Daveth, you're not too long off the boat from Ferelden, right?" she asked instead. It seemed a safer course, even if the subject was probably still pretty touchy. Ferelden was a mess still, what with all those new outlanders stirring things up with the Chantry, and Orlais trying to invade; "The Grey Wardens, are they all snuffed out back home or did some of them survive?"
The question seemed to take him by surprise, and for several seconds he did not even move, much less reply.
"Some did." His voice was...odd, when he finally did speak. It wasn't enough to betray his thoughts, but there was definitely something there; "Not sure how many there are now, but there's the Hero of Ferelden, Talia and... Aedan Cousland, one of the Fereldan nobles who got conscripted. At least those two, I think."'
"Two Wardens isn't a whole lot for all of Ferelden." Bethany muttered.
"It's not." Daveth said.
"Talia and Aedan..." Jonah mused, her fingers dancing on the table, one by one they struck. Had she ever gotten the names of those two at the tavern? No matter how she raked her mind, she couldn't recall; "Talia's a woman, right? Any idea how she looks?"
"Red hair, so bright you'd think it was magic."
Again, hesitation before he spoke. Less this time, but still it was there, like for some reason he didn't like to speak of the Wardens, or maybe just Ferelden in general. It'd make sense either way, very few fled a place they were fond of. Did he flee though? He'd come here looking for elves, but he never actually said whether he was going back to Ferelden afterwards, did he?
"You're not shitting me, she's still alive?" Jonah found herself grinning, most of all because of the sheer implausibility of it. She definitely remembered that girl, but hadn't ever in a hundred ages thought she'd end up with a title like that; "She's the Hero of Ferelden? How'd that happen?"
"Killed the Archdemon." A slight grin slipped across Daveth's lips, just enough that it almost looked like pride. Jonah could have spat her ale, had she any left.
"Ain't no dog-shit, I saw it." He shot back, to her and apparently his own surprise too, curling his lip in irritation; "Darkspawn Horde attacked Denerim, you probably know. I was there, trying to stop them from butchering the city, what was left of it anyway. Most had been evacuated to Amaranthine before the Horde arrived."
"It must have been horrible." Bethany said quietly, softly like the memories might break him.
"Understatement of the Age..."
"You said the Hero, Talia, that she killed the Archdemon. How?" She'd not seen the girl bear arms in Lothering, and had at first thought she might be a mage. But mages weren't discrete, at least not usually. She of all knew how hard it was to do anything without a proper staff, and she'd seen not even a twig on the redhead, much less anything resembling a staff; "She a mage?"
"And a damn powerful one too." He nodded, taking a renewed swill of his brew, whatever it actually was. She didn't know. His words surprised her; "She took the Archdemon on, face to face, and tore it to pieces. Shredded the fuckin' lizard like a butcher's cleaver... Imperials came into it around then, bombing and blasting the remaining Darkspawn apart, hunted them all the way back to the swamps and Deep Road openings."
"So that's where they got involved." Varric noted, not asking; "I'd heard they showed up around then. Didn't figure they'd literally come in during the battle and...bombed the Darkspawn?"
"Airships." Daveth said, and here Jonah really did wish she'd had more ale. If nothing else then because she wasn't drunk enough to buy that dog-shit; "Stuff the look, I'm not making this up. Fuckers really did come in from the sea in ships strapped under these...like wine sacks, but full of some kind of magical air or something... Didn't ask about the Imperials though. Why're you interested in the Grey Wardens?"
"Ah, that..." Right, honestly she'd almost forgotten that was even the point of this interrogation, though Daveth's irritated expression was enough of a reminder; "Right, so you know about the expedition to the Deep Roads, right?"
"Only a short time after a Blight where they're...relatively, safe." Varric said; "It's our enterprise, my brother Bartrand and me. We recently got it fully funded, courtesy of some Tevinter archeology enthusiast, decadent types all love to get their hands on old stuff lying around in the abandoned Thaigs, you know."
"Knife would be faster, if you're out to kill yourselves." The man scoffed; "Deep Roads are dangerous, more shit in them than just the Darkspawn. Giant spiders, deep stalkers, golems going nuts after too long time in the dark..."
"Ever been down there, in the Deep Roads I mean?" Bethany spoke up, her tone cautious. More so as her words seemed to cause Daveth only further irritation; "Or, do you know someone who has?"
"It's common knowledge." He said instead; "Still doesn't explain why you're asking if Ferelden's still got Wardens."
"Expedition needs a guide." Varric explained; "And who'd navigate the Deep Roads better than a Grey Warden?"
"And you think Ferelden's going to send one over, to help your expedition?" his chuckle was not one of honest amusement, if anything. More like he'd heard better plans from tavern drunks. Honestly, he probably had; "Last I checked, there's still Darkspawn back home."
"Rumor has it, there's one in Kirkwall right now." Jonah grinned, edging one over her pissy countryman; "That other Warden, Aedan? We know it's a man, somehow don't ask me how, so maybe it's him?"
Daveth had stiffened where he stood, the only part of his body still moving were his eyelids. Then his lips, pressed into a thin line hardly visible at all beneath the beard. Probably would be good looking if he didn't scowl that much...and shaved. And dressed better.
"Maybe." He shrugged then, as if he'd not just frozen stiff. Jonah squinted at him, trying to tell if it'd just been her imagination; "I've not heard of any Wardens here, you'd think it'd be bigger news. Especially a Fereldan one."
"Yeah, you'd really think that, wouldn't you?" she gave Varric a pointed look, then directed one at Daveth too. Strange, that he'd not just buggered off out of her existence after the one job. Usually that's how it went. With Daveth, it was just weird, and the weird seemed content on piling higher these days; "I'm getting the distinct impression you're not too fond of the Wardens, I am... or, maybe you are a Grey Warden?"
She meant it only in jest. Daveth was as far from her idea of a Grey Warden as one could get and not just be a Darkspawn. Or the Viscount. Both were honestly around the same thing anyway.
"You got me there, Hawke." He snorted; "I'm not just a Grey Warden, I'm actually the Commander of Ferelden's Grey Wardens, here undercover. That's why I'm staying in this lovely establishment, and why I'm trudging through the sewers with a pair of apostates and their dog."
"Maker's Breath, really?" Bethany whispered, apparently entirely missing the point where he called them apostates in the middle of the Hanged Man. It wasn't exactly common knowledge; "Then Varric, you should hire him for the expedition. We need a Grey Warden, and here he is."
"Bethany..." Jonah sighed, though Daveth did get a strange look in his eyes as her sister babbled on, like he was reliving something; "It's called sarcasm, dear sister. Daveth's as much a Grey Warden as I'm the Viscount, or Varric is."
"I'd make an excellent Viscount, Hawke." The dwarf objected; "Don't knock it till it's been tried."
"Your expedition, you said some Tevinter lord was financing it?" Daveth's question dragged her - screaming and kicking - from her amusement at Varric's theatrics. He'd at some point finished his brew, and now leaned against the wall, eying the three of them with interest; "Can't imagine there's a lot of those who'd bother with Kirkwall." The guy paused, as if chewing on his words, before he spoke again; "Got a name on him?"
"Bartrand said it's someone called 'Darius', a frequenter of the Free Cities." Varric said; "I don't know much about him, just that he's apparently got the coin to throw at these things. Didn't meet him myself, Bartrand's the one with the mind for pulling in investors, so I can't tell you much more."
Strange, it's almost like Daveth's breathing got a bit deeper there, wasn't it?
"...if I said I could find your Grey Warden for you, might you be so kind as to let me tag along with your little excursion?" He said, sounding for the first time like he actually gave a damn. Different from when he told her and Bethany to stop carrying around staffs and mage robes in public, that is. This was something else; "If the damn thing's properly funded anyway, I mean."
Varric raised a brow at that, and gave her one of those looks. The kind of looks that told her he'd seen this coming miles off. She knew them at this point, which really should be enough to make it clear she was spending way too much time around Varric. Not a bad thing, really, but she spent more time with him than her own family, Uncle not necessarily included. Mum would probably not approve, though...
"I thought you called the expedition a suicide?" Bethany noted.
"Varric's my main source of coin." Daveth just shrugged; "I'd be happier if you didn't get yourself killed down there, dwarf. Best way of seeing to that is being there, I figure."
Oh, there was definitely a lie in there somewhere, she could tell. Jonah frowned, chewing on her cheek as she watched her countryman, trying to read his mind. Sadly, she didn't know how to do that, not yet at least. People willing to teach blood magic weren't exactly widely available. But she knew he was lying to them, somewhere in all the things he'd said.
"Sister, we could take him with us, couldn't we?" Bethany said, almost like she was asking her permission to keep a stray mabari pub. Honestly, looking at the mess that was Daveth, it wasn't entirely wrong either. He was lying to them, yes, and she couldn't tell what about. But, she could tell he wasn't going to up and stab them in the backs with those long knives of his; "I'd feel safer with more people I know down there."
"You know Aveline." Jonah argued, recalling the older woman nearly jumping her when she'd suggested it. Apparently, the Guard was a boring assignment, much less valorous than the redhead had expected; "And Varric."
"Two people." Beth protested.
"What am I, chopped liver?" Jonah grumbled, rubbing her forehead; "You know that means we'd have to split our finds with him, right?"
"How's ninety-ten sound like?" Daveth asked, nonchalantly as if he wasn't offering to throw away mountains of gold. She stared at him, hard, trying to guess his dog-shit. She couldn't see any; "Financer's Tevinter, he might know about the guy I'm after."
"You...would throw away all that coin...for a meeting?" she forced the words out because they sounded wrong. Like, what sane man would throw away that much coin and still go to the Deep Roads? Was Daveth insane? "Well, in that case, - and provided you can find our Warden - consider yourself hired..."
Because insane or not, she kinda liked having him around.
The Captains' compound was one of the larger buildings within the walls of the army camp, and one of the few that deviated from the standardized designs of the rest. Rather than sharing in the long, hall-like layouts of the barracks, it was a square building, made from brick and hewn stone, adorned only in few places with carved wood for ornamentation.
It was, Philippe had noted, both spartan and not in its appearance. Something he doubted was by chance. This was where the Captains of the army were quartered, men of Fereldan birth rather than outlanders, and seemed to incorporate the styles of both. It was rugged, practical and yet bore an air of being just a little finer than the cramped quarters he'd been getting used to these past months now. Months... has it really only been months? I feel more like years.
The most obvious Fereldan traits on the face of the compound were the carved Mabari heads guarding its entrance, large and fearsome, they were crafted with skill and seemed almost lifelike to him. He remembered them well enough from his own training, how much and often his instructors had stressed their threat. No amount of barding would stop a Mabari hound from getting under the horse, tearing its belly out from underneath it. The Fereldans were right to take pride in such beasts, much as he'd have liked them never to have existed at all.
Within it was much the same, a hybrid of clearly Imperial designs, and those of the more familiar Fereldan carvings and furnishings. The floor was dark stone, likely from the quarries he knew existed up on the northern coast. Before the conflicts, before even the first occupation of Ferelden by his country, stone masons had carved the black limestone from that coastline, and dressed the entrance hall to his family's estate with the results. He'd spent countless hours as a child, wondering at the strange creatures that seemed locked within, like skeletons buried before the world was made. Simpler times, those. Before the Chevaliers and the politicking and...Illia. All this mess, for what?
It was dark outside, but not cold. Still, the pit occupying the center of the room was lit, bright flames flittering and dancing betwixt smoldering logs. He still didn't know for certain why he had been summoned here, nor it seemed did the other nine men. He recognized none of them, bar that they all were from fourth Century, same as himself. Each Cohort had six of them, eighty men in each, far as he understood. Someone talked about another twenty men somewhere, but he'd seen none of those, and anyway the sleeping quarters couldn't hold more than eight soldiers. Where were the rest supposed to sleep?
The uncertainty gnawed at him, not knowing why or what for the Centurion had pointed him out to Captain Irondahl. The others seemed as much in the dark, though they were obviously not near his worry. He did not speak with them, worried if this somehow was a trap or likewise, he'd doom himself only further. What if he'd been caught, and these men were all here to apprehend him on someone's order? A word given, and they would throw themselves upon him?
And if they knew of him, would they not also know of Illia? There had been no attempt at keeping their "marriage" a secret from the others. After all, it'd only help his cover, and hers. No, he had to calm himself now. If they knew of him, there was no reason to go through with all this, rather than just have him thrown in a hole. The Imperials were nothing if not pragmatic, they'd not waste time if they knew of him.
He had to cling to that.
The sound of footsteps, slightly offset, betrayed the uneven gait of Captain Irondahl before he'd emerged from the shadows of the inner corridors. The compound was shared between all the Captains of the Legion, and probably divided itself between their private quarters. When their superior did emerge, he was clad in the battledress designating him as an officer of the Royal Army. Mail and partial plate, both of seemingly fine quality. Once more, Philippe was struck with the seemingly boundless treasures Ferelden had suddenly come upon, if they so soon after a Blight could equip their army to such standards. Had the Imperials brought it all, and if so, just how rich were they, to afford such altruism?
They all saluted once Irondahl came into full view, fists lingering upon their chests until he nodded, curtly, and they stood at ease. Philippe felt like a salt statue, a pearl of sweat rolling down his neck. He still did not know what was going on, and all unforeseen events were bad news when you were a spy. Which, though he tried his best to not think of it when amongst his 'comrades', he very much yet was.
"Pryvit, soldaty." He greeted them, earning brief confusion from those who'd not yet recognized his accent; "Introductions, to those who need. I am Irondahl, your superior officer and Captain. I've been punished for my deeds during Blight, with command of First Cohort. I command peasants, or will when the Imperials think you're soldiers."
Despite the harsh words, Philippe felt himself calm down. Clearly, this was unrelated to him, or at least his cover. The Captain was instead bemoaning his own ill fortune, it seemed, that he'd been given command of raw recruits. The Orlesian could sympathize, somewhat. His own instructors had reacted much the same with each fresh-faced son of some lord or count who came to them for tutelage.
With his mind more at ease, he listened.
"Now, not all are completely marnyy, useless." The Anders' harsh tone softened somewhat, though with his scars and eyepatch, and the natural gravel in his voice, it still sounded fierce; "You ten. And other tens, from other Centuries. You're picked for being useful, maybe. You show promise, skill with arms and mind. You will be made Optio, a word of the Imperials that means more duties. It is better than the common soldiers, yes, but harder too. More pay, yes, but more duties also. You will be responsible that the men in your small groups adhere to orders. This is not reward, but a test to see if you can handle responsibility."
Optio? Philippe blinked, taken aback. He was being promoted? The thought was wrong to him, something entirely beyond what he had imagined. He'd feared imprisonment, discovery, torture, not...promotion. He felt dizzy. Irondahl whistled, a sharp and harsh sound that brought him back to clarity. One of the camp servants, of which there were many, appeared. It was an elf, of all things, speedily making his way to their group with a tray in hands. Upon it, a wooden tankard closed with a lid, and several small cups.
"All the same, promoted, yes?" none answered the man verbally, though like Philippe they accepted the small wooden cups with hesitant gratitude. It was small, much smaller than he was wont. Wordlessly the Captain had them hold the cups out, and he filled them with a scentless liquid that looked most of all like it was water.
Philippe doubted it was water.
"Ura" Irondahl raised his cup to theirs, a gesture they all quickly reciprocated. When he threw the swig down in one motion, Philippe did the same; "King Fergus."
It was an action he regretted within the very moment. Vodka! The swill! His mouth and throat felt like he'd swallowed flames, and the burning only continued as the colorless drops washed themselves down his gullet. From what he could see through teary eyes, the others suffered likewise. Only Irondahl himself was entirely unaffected, though he seemed also entirely too satisfied with their pain.
Once more, Philippe felt kinship with the Fereldans, though he could have done without the cause.
"kha-kha, yes." The Captain grinned, his large nostrils flaring; "Cleans out the head, it does yes. Another, for the Queen."
One more became another again, and another, and another. Not even his training as a Chevalier could bring Philippe the courage to say no, and with each swig down, with each toast to first Queen Anora, then General Cauthrien, then Andraste, the Maker, the outlander Emperor... in the haze of it, he eventually stopped listening.
Kind of a contrast from last chapter, which was way longer than I'd planned it to be. I know that in longer chapters, it can be difficult to keep a track of the going-on's, so here's a shorter one. Kind of.
I actually forgot how much of a hazzle it was to constantly have to dig around the internet for Ukrainian phrases, since I don't entirely trust Google Translate to be accurate. Irondahl's a fun character to write though. Like Talia herself was at the start of the story, he's a deliberate stereotype, and all the lovelier for it. The new Fereldan Army is less lovely to keep track of, though, and I ended up having to set up spreadsheets to keep things in order. Looks all fancy, too.
Anyways, that's the end of the interlude, folks. When next we meet, it will be in the next book.