chapter 11

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Marceau gave her skirt one final brush as she stood, with confidence and bearing. She cleared her throat and waited for silence before proceeding. “Esteemed elders, please listen. Selatan is on the move. We stopped a troop at Tidur. They are simply regrouping. They will return.”

If there were any adults not listening when she started, they had all turned their attention to the futuretell programmer when she finished her statement. A terrible silence met the end of her words.

“Esteemed professors, scholars, officers, I thank you for this opportunity to address you all, concerning a matter that will once again disrupt the peace of our beloved Pendi. It is important that our information be relayed to you as soon and as accurately as possible, in order for the best preparations to be made.”

Marceau then proceeded to relate what happened to them, removing mention of the Selati they met, keeping everything else. Lan could not help but notice that in eliminating all mention of the Selati, Marceau attributed most of the observations and decisions to herself. Same old green hag, he mused, while keeping his head lowered. Beika looked to him and smiled knowingly.

“Esteemed elders,” she concluded, “they are coming sooner than we expect. They are taking a direct approach. We have to be ready for them.” She bowed to the assembly and sat down.

The mutterings and whispers began once more. They rose to mumblings and chatter.

“So soon!”

“We’re not ready!”

“Reconstruction of the halls are not finished!”

“The infirmary! It is not ready!”

“Order, please, order!” the moderator pounded on the gavel. “We will give each committee a chance to report on our current status.”

The moderator first called the head of the construction committee, who gave a speech on the improvements done to important buildings and to the capital as a whole. It was quite a long speech with illustrations and demonstrations, one that Beika found rather boring.

The next speech was much more interesting to her. Her direct superior at the infirmary gave the report on the overall health situation of the capital. The infirmary still had to get more supplies, and generally supplies still had to be given to important points within the capital, but on the whole they were ready. New heal programmers had been situated at important points.

Various members of the defense committee were called to report on the situation in each district. New soldiers had been trained to replace those lost in the previous attack.

Marceau bravely stood and bowed to the assembly. White, gray and graying heads, two hundred at least, all turned to face her. She gulped and squeezed her skirt into her right hand, but remained standing. Once recognized she spoke.

“Esteemed members of the council, the committee has requested that I search for one who could provide the overall defense for the capital. The committee still regrets the loss of fire programmer Corespasa, the Crimson Master, to the last attack. I now present the apprentice to the master, fire programmer Melancho of northeast.”

Marceau gestured to him. Lan reluctantly and slowly stood. He bowed to the assembly, but said nothing. He raised his head, revealing the two parallel scars across his left cheek. Beika lowered her head and tried to hide her face. Previously it seemed to be assumed that Lan and Beika just accompanied Marceau, thus sitting beside her.

Outside of the training halls, few knew that Corespasa had apprenticed Melancho, or knew the younger fire programmer at all. It was not common knowledge outside the fire programming guild and training halls that Corespasa had died. Even fewer knew, within the fire programming guild and the defense committee, that Corespasa was killed by an assassin. Members at Marceau’s level did not know that; Marceau only found out when she read Lan’s memory jewel. It was information disgraceful to the defense committee, after all, and it was kept hidden as much as possible.

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