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Many thanks to Caddy, of the PPC, for the totally original prompt: Pride, Rock, Scar. Fortunately, I haven't seen that movie in years.

"And I don't care what you have to say," the guard snapped, his position as solid as stone in the narrow arch. "The time is past-- your time is past. Begone, before I take action, fool."

Remus drew a breath, tried to force the fire from his heart, and turned, allowing the wind to whip his cloak aside - he needed something cold right now. He needed a bloody glacier, but those were hard to find in deserts; the night wind would have to do.

He knew what they'd be saying behind those thick stone walls. He'd lost the battle, he'd lost the war, quite possibly - now came the cleaning effort, with any luck.

"You're a fool," he muttered, passing the outer spear-wall. "You're all-- fools!" The wind carried his shout into the empty sands, and he kicked vainly at a piece of the wall as he passed. It had been three days since the failed council...

"...You don't seem to understand, Julian. We don't have any options - what he's advising is sheer madness - folly would be too weak a word!"

Caiaphas simply raised an eyebrow. "Folly, my lord? Folly, to hoard our honor, the honor that our people have upheld with their blood for so many generations? See, how the coward plies for more time, for more time to hide behind walls! He will not rest until the world entire laughs at our cravenness!"

Julian leaned back in his chair, looked between the two of them, and towards the end of the small table, where the third member of that ill-fated council sat. "And what say you, Ronin?"

The battle-worn general shook his head. "I say this war has gone on too long," he said, turning a small knife over and over in his hands. "I say that whatever move we choose must end it, once and for all."

Remus ground his teeth, clenched his fist beneath the table. Did they not understand what was at stake? How could Julian be so blind? "My lord - Ronin," he said, addressing both of them, "The war has been falling to the wolves at both of our heels; we need not act in aggression, to end it - and not there, of all places!"

"Not there? Not there!" Caiaphas turned, his eyes glinting in the sheer and minimal candlelight, to their rightful king. "He wishes us to yield the rock! Leave our most sacred ground to the wolves and the barbarians, my lord! Surely you will not let this monstrous fool stand the point!"

It had been a mistake to mention the rock, he'd realized later. It was high ground, tactically unassailable in most ways, a beautiful piece of land, contested violently for decades, with both sides of this eternal conflict claiming birthrights, there. Personally, he favored their own country - of course - but to attack the place was madness, especially when this drought was calling for an end to the battles anyway. They didn't even need to attack, they had winter stores untapped! If they could only have waited... The drought would've destroyed their enemies, forcing a withdrawal, and the war would be more or less ended.

Now they were wasting their stores, throwing men at a position doomed to fail, for foolish, utterly foolish pride. Remus spit, once, onto the dry ground, and turned into the stables. It was a long journey through to their enemies' capital, but on horseback he'd make it before the winter was out. Diplomacy had failed; damage control must fill the gap.


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May 2013



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