Book 2 - Text Updates 006
There had been one tough condition on the trip to Jetstone; Jillian and her little armada had to make it all the way here without being spotted. It made the trip long, dangerous, and annoying, but she did it.
To minimize encounters, they'd flown a tortuous route over the most difficult terrain. Charlie didn't want either side knowing he had significant forces in the battlespace. But he had still gone to great risk to give her cover along the way, using veiled Archons to scout out safe routes. These were probably detectable only by a Foolamancer, another Archon, or a lucky/smart Warlord. Unfortunately, Gobwin Knob had all three of those things.
Most nerve-wracking was when they weren't moving. When she could, Jillian ended turn on the ground, hidden away in dense forest or high mountains. This at least minimized the chance of being scouted from an adjoining hex, but the enemy could still discover them on any given turn. However you planned, there would always be times when you were helpless. It was all part of the Titans' great sport.
So they had done a lot of camping, but with very little hunting or gathering. Charlie's Archons occasionally brought them some extra provisions, but mostly she and her units ate popped rations. It was strange having a treasury again. The upkeep for herself, three Warlords, and all of these heavies (and for Titans' sake, a Caster) would have been a lot more than her purse could have supported as a Barbarian, even if she'd had the mercenary income to fill it up every turn. With a capital treasury again, she didn't have to do the brutal addition and subtraction. She didn't need to make a disbanding order in case she started going broke.
But those nights along the way were hard for other reasons. She was lonely.
The Jillian of seven hundred turns ago would have sneered. In her days of swinging steel for Shmuckers, "alone" was a good thing, maybe her second favorite thing after "winning." She'd had her encounters, her companions. She'd shared a bed with a few clients. But running her own show is what she did, and anyone who stuck around long enough to get close to her always wanted to mess with the way she did it. However it happened, getting free again was always a relief. Mostly.
Now she had people problems again. Duncan, for example, took his Chief Warlord title literally and traditionally. He expected her to give him the latitude to plan strategy.
Yeah good luck. She didn't even have that. Charlie and Don King were watching her, pushing her, using her...
Her other Warlords treated her as an untouchable force, to be feared and obeyed. They loved Duncan, and were great friends despite their rivalries. But if Jillian sat at their campfire, she had to drag the conversation like a sled over gravel, or there would only be awkward silence. She could talk to Charlie, but she didn't enjoy that much. And the Caster had almost nothing to say at all.
So she had people, but she was lonely.
She did miss Vinny. On their third turn out, though, he had found out about Ansom. She spent two nights passing notes through the hats with him, trying to explain. Then they both just stopped sending. He didn't get it, or didn't want to. And to be fair, she still was not giving him the whole picture.
To be really fair, she wasn't giving herself the whole picture. She knew the plan. But sitting now in her saddle above the parapets, looking at the armies massed on the green horizon, all her certainty just blew away like a leaf. Very soon now, they would be here. Maybe to talk, but probably to fight.
She might have to croak one of them. Could she bear it? Could she swing?
Or they just might croak her. Which would leave her...
At Ansom's side, and under Wanda's delicate control. Her heart pounded in her chest like it was trying to break its way out. Titans disband.
She really didn't know which one she was here for any more.