Yomadan rode back to his camp, ruminating on his parley with Eamus. He was just as devious as ever, Yomadan had seen in his eyes that his brain was working at full speed trying to come up with a way to outwit his foe. This concerned Yomadan, however. If there was one thing that he did not want to do, it was underestimate his old rival.
Upon arriving at the camp, he saw that the men were in good spirits. This was to be expected; after all, they were a force of twenty thousand bearing upon a city that couldn’t have more than five hundred soldiers at its disposal.
He entered his tent Aurya, his second and command, sitting and smoking the bubbling hookah that was perpetually by her side. The smell of it was acrid and it permeated the tent, causing Yomadan’s eyes to water.
“I really wish you wouldn’t smoke that here, Aurya,” he said.
“I know,” said Aurya. “But I wanted to be the first to speak to you when you got back, and you know I can’t go long
without a smoke.”
“You’re lucky your fighting days are over,” said Yomadan, waving his hands in front of his face in a futile attempt to try and dissipate the smoke. “With all of the smoke you inhale, moving at even the mildest of brisk paces would leave you in a gasping heap.”
Aurya gave Yomadan a humorless smile and said, “Yes, I really am lucky that my fighting days are over.”
Yomadan stared at Aurya, wide eyed. “Aurya,” he said, his mouth moving in an attempt at speech but words seemed to desert him in this moment. “I am sorry. That was… insensitive of me.”
Aurya’s laugh was hacking cough that was more pain than merriment as she waved her hand and said, “It’s fine, Yomadan. It’s fine. The herb I am smoking is strong, it has clouded your mind. Think no more of it.”
Yomadan bowed his head, still dismayed by his uncharacteristic lack of tact, and then said, “I suppose I should tell you how it went, then?”
“Please,” said Aurya.
“Eamus is just as arrogant as I remember him,” said Yomadan. “He tried to talk his way out of it, tried to weasel information out of me.”
“And how did you react to that?” asked Aurya.
“I gave him his options,” said Yomadan.
“Which are hand over the armor or die?” asked Aurya.
“Yes,” said Yomadan. There was silence for a moment which Yomadan broke by saying, “I am aware that I revealed something to Eamus by telling him that we would attack should he not provide the armor. He now knows that this is not just a show of force, that we are here to bleed and die in order to get it. He knows now of how desperately we need that armor. He knows this, but this is all he knows. One piece of information.”
Aurya took a deep puff from her hookah, exhaling the smoke as she said, “If Eamus is all that I remember him to be, that one piece might just be all he needs.”
“By Urumbar’s fiery breath,” snapped Yomadan, “it has been years since we met him. Years since we knew him. Eamus has been running a far flung, forgotten citadel in the cold northern mountains. He knows nothing of war, not anymore. He knew nothing of it back when we knew him either. Enoch was always the warrior, and a damn good one. He is going to put up a fight, but he’s not…”
“Not what?” asked Aurya after the pause lasted a few moments.
“He’s not like Eamus,” said Yomadan. “He’s not… smart like him. Eamus was smart, I will give him that.”
“He was not smart,” said Aurya, “he was a genius. And more than that, he was a fighter. He was a mongrel, an outsider even in his hometown of outsiders. In spite of all of that he grew so mighty in stature that he accompanied that diplomatic envoy to Uru Digir, and in spite of being treated lower than a servant he managed to become Shalmaneser’s favorite from the envoy.”
“The Emperor was swayed by his charm,” said Yomadan, “but that does not make Eamus some kind of god. Our forces will overcome Basileus, no matter what he tries to do.”
“So you have made up your mind then?” asked Aurya.
Yomadan hesitated slightly before saying, “Yes. Yes I have. We need it, Aurya. You… you know this to be true.”
Aurya turned to Yomadan, and now that the mangled left side of her face was visible to him Yomadan could not help but look away. “Yes,” said Aurya, “I know of our need for this armor. I know that the disease that crippled me is killing thousands back home, and that if we do not retrieve it perhaps the whole world would be in peril. And yet, somehow I do not have the same blood thirst that you possess right now.”
Yomadan remained silent and continued to look away. Aurya arose and walked up to him, favoring her right leg as she limped. She gently placed her hands on either side of his face and guided his gaze back to her. “Why do you look away?” she asked. “I know that my visage does not bother you. I know you love me still. Why then do you look away?”
Tears streamed from Yomadan’s eyes but he remained silent.
“Is it perhaps because you feel guilty for what happened to me?” asked Aurya.
“You should never have been there,” said Yomadan. “I should have led the expedition into the outer towns.”
“I am a general in Shalmaneser’s army,” said Aurya. “I was doing my job. And you, in following orders and staying home, were doing yours.”
“But that’s where you got sick, Aurya,” said Yomadan, grimacing as he spoke.
“As did half of my soldiers,” said Aurya. “I am the luckiest of them all, for I still live. For now, at least.”
Yomadan’s silent tears quickly became sobs and gasps. Aurya held him as he buried his face into her shoulder. He quickly pulled away, however, turning his face and roughly wiping his eyes. He stood up straight, looked at her and said, “I will get the armor. Tomorrow morning if Eamus does not send it out, we attack.”
“Good,” said Aurya, “that is good. But do not do this just for me, Yomadan. Do it for the ones at home who are suffering. Do it for your soldiers who believe in you. Everyone’s need for this victory is equal. Do it for all of us.”