This is another piece about an NPC in Color of Dreams. We were on a long hiatus in February and now I have the game on the brain. This piece is set in time immediately after the daring (and disastrous) rescue of Kalarus from the Imperial Army. This is the same Persephone mentioned in the “Introspection in Wundersplatt” piece. Comments in brackets are provided for the readers’ context.
Persephone’s hand tightened on her quarterstaff. She so desperately wanted to turn around and thwack Kalarus upside of the head with it. But she had already done that once tonight, and it had cost her the only home she’d ever known. Even if it had been for his own good. She kept walking and was quickly swallowed up by the shadows of the forest. She clicked quietly, and her horse came trotting to her side. The beast was tired she knew, but she wanted to put a few miles between her and the boy she had once called Lord before rider and mount rested.
She slid her quarterstaff into its sling and mounted up easily. She pointed the horse’s nose north and let it walk at its own pace, picking slowly through the velvety darkness of a forest at night. She knew this patch of woodland was not large, and all too soon she would think longingly of the trees’ protection from unfriendly eyes.
What was it about that boy that got her so riled up? She was the best military strategist in 700 years. And Kalarus was definitely turning into a bigger and bigger liability by the moment. He was young, inexperienced, reckless, and selfish. Unfortunately, he couched it in deep patriotism for his homeland, and political fervor, which caused too many to overlook the dangers to himself and his duchy. None the least of his flaws was a disastrously misplaced sense of honor. The lost potential made her want to cry. He could have been great. He could have been the next Corvana [a crucial historical figure from his homeland]. Or even the next Kaladin [the hero of the revolution that overthrew a tyrant and the founder of the current imperial line].
Worst of all, she had fallen for it. She had let herself believe that he was a man worth serving – or would become one. One who would raise his people, and the country at large, from perdition. Alas, messiahs it seemed were for a bygone age. She would never stand beside him on the field of battle in bloody victory. The rush of joy, knowing that a great wrong had been righted was denied her. Of course, she’d never have to bring his still body home to a grieving people either. She’d done enough of that in her last lifetime.
She grudgingly admitted that the fact that she now occupied a 19 year old’s body might have something to do with her current emotional state. Which also probably explained the longing with which part of her contemplated the forested land of Wundersplatt, now lost to her. This was unacceptable. Even Caleb [the high general of the imperial army] was able to resist Kalarus’ inexpert baiting. So why couldn’t she? She wasn’t sure she could prevent Kalarus from destroying himself, but she sure as hell wasn’t going to let him take the country, and her own cause (the accceptance of Dreamspeakers), down with him.
Idly, Persephone broke off a dead branch from overhead. Meditatively, she ran her hands over it, learning its every detail by touch, and the faintest violet glow from her own eyes. In doing so, she poured all of her anger at Kalarus, all of her pain at the sting of his words, all the longing for that warrior’s duchy to accept her, into it. With a deft movement she snapped the branch in half. She let the pieces fall to the ground from her open palms. Now was no time for sentimentality. There was a war to be won.
Persephone examined her options coolly, limited as they were. If her scouts were to be believed, she had precious little time to reach the capital of Desh before the enemy. Which meant that a return to Wundersplatt to beg, inspire, or manipulate support was out of the question. And of course, in this time and place, a Dreamspeaker could hardly raise an army along the way. What could one woman do?
A grim thought occurred to her. A string of small towns lay between the army of the spider and the capital city of Desh. It was likely that the spider would send troops to these unprotected towns to attack them. It only made sense. The garrison of imperial troops stationed in the capital would be obligated to respond, and the reinforcements from Caleb would likewise be diverted, thus diluting the city’s defenses. The spider’s invisible army would slip between them like wind through the stargrass. The capital of Desh would burn. There was no avoiding that.
But maybe things were not so dire as all that. It was in multiple small attacks that Persephone’s best chance lay. A few appearances – timely aid from a figure with glowing purple eyes – would build sympathy to her cause among the citizens of Desh. But what to do about the capital? The city was too big for a single guerrilla fighter to make much difference. She’d have to get into the Lukyanenko estate. [The Lukyanenko family is the ruling family of Desh and has long been at odds with Kalarus’ duchy of Wundersplatt.] The timing would be brutally tricky – to arrive in time to save most of the Lukyanenkos, but not so early that the fighting had yet to begin and people had time to worry about a dreamspeaker in their midst.
Still, she was the best military tactician in 700 years. If anyone could turn the tide of the battle to come, it was Persephone. The only question was whether she’d be allowed to.