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"Can we make it in time?"

"I don't know," Ramdar answered ruefully. He really didn't know, and Vildir, well Vildir handled horsemen on the battlefield. He didn't plan campaigns involving thousands of battle mages, especially not a campaign that had already started to fall apart. It would have been impossible to gather battle mages from only one of the warring empires. Neither trusted the other enough to move that kind of destructive capacity anywhere without keeping the other in check. Now they were able to do just that, battalions of them, but that didn't make mages from Khanati and Rhuin love each other any better. Nothing but a shared need to hurt the western raiders kept them from each other's throats.

Ramdar fervently wished for the presence of Olvar de Saiden. A war in Keen should be led by the warlord from Keen, not a foreigner. Ramdar rode on. He regretted laughing in agreement when he first heard the plan, but at that time they had all expected small flotillas; not an invasion fleet, and now the entire western coast was stripped off defenses. There was small consolation in the knowledge that the southern raider fleet had suffered a devastating defeat at the Narrow Sea, hammered between two full regiments of battle mages and the powerful stone throwers Keen had brought there. Small consolation indeed.

The latest news arriving told him the westerners raided villages at will along the western coast and that they had already set up a fortified camp on the southern tip of the Ming peninsula, just across Hasselden. Now the only mobile defense left was a small unit of outworlders fooled into a wild goose hunt for Arthur Wallman along a burning coast he had never visited, and that unit didn't have any reason to fight a war that didn't belong to them.

And then there was politics, always politics. They weren't allowed to jump to or from any position they held in Keen because the power surge could be noticed in Verd.

Ramdar laughed bitterly at the idiocy. They had to lumber around cross country, awakening the curiosity of local farmers as they passed by, just to avoid aggravating the Inquisition, and if they arrived in time to protect anything at the coast they were supposed to let loose a magical firestorm that would be noticed half a continent away.

Gods, what a wasteful stupidity!

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