Chapter 6

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I immediately set out in search of Jaron. Luckily, a Waster chief traipsing through Palace corridors isn't too difficult to track down, and I soon discover him dining alone at a table in the Great Hall.

Sinking down into the seat opposite him I reach over and take his mug of ale, downing it in one gulp.

Jaron grunts. "If you are looking for Luca he is not here. Noah is examining his arm in the infirmary."

"I'm not looking for Luca." I say, glancing over my shoulder towards a porter and signalling for two more drinks. "I'm looking for you."

He raises one bushy brow. "I take it that you spoke with the Queen."

"Meg isn't going to be of any further help to us." I tell him. "I want to talk to you about joining forces."

Someone deposits two frothy mugs in front of us and then slips discreetly away, leaving myself and the Waster warlord alone in the cavernous hall.

Jaron sips thoughtfully from his drink, studying me over the lip of his glass.

"Megra has asked that I order the Wasters to cease antagonizing the Madam, also." He sits back and strokes his unruly beard.

"You won't do that, though." I state.

"What makes you think so?"

"You don't take orders from anyone." I lean forward, resting my forearms on the table between us. "And neither do I."

Jaron is silent, his expression unreadable as he drums his heavy fingers. I wait, forcing myself to remain still while keeping my eyes fixed with his.

"You need me." I tell him. "The Wasters aren't enough to take down Babel on their own."

"You think that the City warriors will follow you?"

"Not me." I say. "The Runner."

His cheek twitches.

"I can promise you soldiers." I continue. "Soldiers who will fight because their heart tells them to, not because a queen has ordered it. I have a reputation on both sides of the Wall, now. With my sword at your disposal, you will have supporters from all across the desert."

"You do have a gift for inspiration." Jaron's grunts. "But you are suggesting that we go directly against Megra's wishes."

"It isn't personal, it's just politics." I say coldly, remembering Meg's rationality only a few minutes previous.

"It will not be seen that way. I am the queen's lover and you are her closest companion." He releases a heavy sigh. "She will be hurt."

"People always get hurt when it comes to war." I remind him.

The Waster takes another slow sip of his drink. I consider his silence a sign that he's thinking over my words and press on.

"I know that you want the Madam to pay for her crimes as much as I do." I say. "Those were your people that she stole and enslaved. Your brother."

Jaron's grip on his mug tightens abruptly, cracking the decorative enamel.

"Meg will still be here after we've killed the Madam." I press. "You will have the rest of your lives to make it up to her. In time, she'll understand that we did this to protect her. To save her."

Slowly, purposefully, Jaron lowers his drink and places it gently on the table. His large hands rest on either side as he stares at me, dark and watchful, careful and calculating.

"The warlord and the Runner." My voice is low. "Think of it. We'll be unbeatable. And you," I stretch my eyes wide. "You will be remembered as the greatest chief who ever lived. This war will be your legacy."

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