* * *
Firelight played over the pieces on the maps, casting shadows across the battlefield. The logs were from the Deepwood, and gave off a reddish glow as they burned; both the light and shadow that fire cast left everything looking bloody.
“Forward,” my brother said definitively. “A direct assault. We’ll ride over them all.”
“It would invite nothing but direct retaliation, sir,” another officer began. “If you could but see–”
“See?” Elias interrupted, lifting his chin. He tipped his head, thoughtful, and turned to look at the speaker, his hollowed gaze staring down the commander who had spoken.
The commander looked to me, startled, but I offered no reprieve; he was grey in the temples — he should have known better.
“If I could see, leftenant?” Elias asked, and his words were ice and fire as one. “With whose eyes would you have me see, sir? Those of my sister, the commander who is now your general, at whose behest I am here to discuss strategy? Yours? Should I pluck them from your empty head and use them better than you are?”
“I-I-I only m-meant–” the officer struggled.
“SILENCE!” Elias shouted, towering over the man. “I did not carve out my eyes, boy, so that you could make witless remarks!” The officer slunk down, shrinking away from my brother, who bared his teeth and looked fair furious. “I gave my eyes to the Unending Night. And now my vision is far, far better than yours. Is that clear?” he growled.
“Yes, Eminence, sir.” The officer looked as though he might swallow his own tongue.
“Good,” Elias spat. “Now get out.”
The officer was gone without another word. As soon as we were alone in the tent, Elias made a show of looking around to make sure we were alone, and then began to laugh. I couldn’t help myself and laughed with him until I felt tears stinging my eyes.
“Oh, by the stars, I could smell his fear!” Elias crowed. “He sounded like he might piss himself! I swear upon Her nine faces I do not miss my eyes at all when I can rout a slip-tongued idiot like that one.”
“If you’re finished,” I said, calming my laughter enough to redirect our attention back to the field. “We really ought to come up with a better plan than ‘ride over them all’. They’re your countrymen, Elias.”
“No, Elodie, they’re not,” he said, and he looked up, and off into a distance only his ruined eyes could comprehend. “They’re hers, now.”
* * *