Zafar had lain in the dungeon beneath Julara's temple for over a day. Sorenan was not sure what the additional time meant. The traitor had answered his questions and there was nothing more they could learn from him. The blond man walked along the river bank where the river passed through Dacia city. It was a sacred place that was where many gardens grew. With out their tenders, the gardens has begun to get a bit ragged as weeds invaded. Sorenan stopped beside a bunch of ornamental grass, passing his hand through the delicate blades.
They tickled the palm of his left hand but Sorenan paid the sensation no mind. He looked over the gardens of the nobles, not really seeing them. In his mind, Sorenan saw only the open desert with countless men marching across it. He struggled to think of how one would stop such a wave of humanity. The war with Temna didn't become real to him until Zafar described the sacking of Midthar. Now, the former mercenary questioned what he was going to do.
General Zalaz and Marcos had come to expect him to share some sort of his understanding of the art of war as they discussed fortifications, defenses, and maneuvers of the troops. His frustration with the seemingly endless waiting had turned to uncertainty for how he should proceed or what he could advise them. His skirmishes with his troop seemed inconsequential. A battle with ten or twenty men, Sorenan was confident he could plan and win. But when the men at his command numbered in the hundreds and thousands, Sorenan felt a little sick and unsure he could rise to the challenge.
It was in this frame of mind that Mina came to him. Sorenan half expected to see the dark eyes and dark skin of Julara when he saw her approaching. The white veils and robes with their girdle of braided silken cord that she had worn when Sorenan was lead by her to the chamber where Zafar was being tortured were replaced with Mina's customary black. At her waist, a silver girdle rested with a jeweled knife on her hip. It was something that she began to wear the day after it was apparent that war was coming. Within her black garments, Mina's pale skin seemed luminous and her green eyes shone with an almost eerie light.
A part of Sorenan wanted to breathe a sigh of relief that his lover was no longer godridden. He, however, couldn't shake the feeling that trouble was following in the wake of the High Priestess of Julara and Empress of Dacia. Sorenan turned to face her, sketching a half bow as she drew near. "Lady," he said, his tone sounding more solemn than he had intended. Mina stood at Sorenan's side and looked on the waters of the river Is.
"We are going to meet Temna on the sand plain," she said. Sorenan nodded, recalling that Zalaz had said such an action would help draw Temna's forces away from Dacia city. "You are to ride with Marcos," she continued, sounding tired and sorrowful. Sorenan reached over and took Mina's hand. "I didn't want this," she continued, "Mother has forced our hand. Even now, I feel her near. There is something more she would have me do, but I don't know what. Only that she told me to seek you."
Sorenan turned and looked intently into Mina's face. Lines of worry were etched about her eyes that he did not recall seeing before. Her typical expression of serene stillness was no longer present. Now, she seemed watchful and wary. "It has been too long since you have smiled," Sorenan said, reaching up to brush aside an errant lock of hair that had escaped the confines of her veil to lay upon her brow. Mina closed her eyes at the feeling of his fingertips against her skin. Gently, Sorenan cradled her right cheek in his hand.
"There is no reason for joy," Mina answered. Sorenan took her face into both hands and lightly turned it up so that he could gaze into her eyes when she opened them. "I will weep like Mother," Mina said, swallowing past the lump in her throat, "You and Marcos will..."
"Be carried through this by Ashur's will," Sorenan said, "And your tears will be joyful upon our return. The river Is is not only Julara's tears of sorrow."
Mina gave a shaky sigh. "I don't know what Ashur wants of me," Sorenan said, "But I trust in his might to carry us through this." Mina gave a weak smile.
"You trust them now?" she said with an air of forced lightness.
"What choice do I have?" Sorenan said, "They have both looked me in the eye and declared that I will serve. I am a mercenary, I go where my employers send me. Ashur and his wife send me to fight Temna."
Mina wrapped her arms about Sorenan's waist and put her head against his shoulder. "I don't want this," she said very quietly.
"This is not about what we want," he answered soothingly, "It is what is necessary. We must protect you and Dacia. And we shall do it well." Sorenan placed a kiss on the top of Mina's head. Muffled slightly by her head, he said, "Many will not come home after this. But I will bring him home alive to you. I promise." Quietly, Mina wept with her fear for her husband Marcos and the solemn man in her arms.