It seemed like a perfectly sensible plan until he tried to explain it to his advisers. He'd started with Brother Wend, hoping that the scholar could help make the case to the others; but whatever the Order knew about the Great Weapons, Brother Wend was firmly of the opinion that if one of them was here, it should stay buried. Steward Arkiber, who had remained to help govern their supplies, had worried over the effect of Roberr's absence on the men under his command. Sir Berrn had pointed out that as the lord of Langoish Keep, in the face of the enemy he could not abandon the keep for any reason. Sha Lindlen had pointed out that the simple fact that the westerners were willing to wait might indicate that they thought they could retrieve the Great Gauntlet even if he wore it. Others chimed in as well, and they went on and on until Roberr began to wonder if maybe he was the crazy one.
Afterwards, Roberr had returned to the practice field. He'd intended to practice basic exercises with his father's sword, letting his own training and its guidance find a common ground. Instead, he found himself destroying the straw men used for cutting practice, with either the blade in his one hand or a particular gesture that he'd taught to his other hand.
"It didn't go well," said a soft voice, and Roberr turned his head to find Miledha sitting off to one side of the practice area. She was looking at his last target, which sagged and burned on its frame.
"No," he said, and sheathed the blade. It protested, but not with any particular vehemence; it was a soft whine, and no real resistance to the movement. He patted it softly, reassuring the weapon that he valued its abilities and its service.
She stood in a single, fluid movement, and made a sweeping gesture accompanied by a low word that was almost a hiss. The remaining four targets burst into flame, and Roberr felt a wave of heat roll past him. His father's sword moaned at his side, recognizing the strength of the sorcery; it sounded almost jealous.
She closed her eyes and the fires went out.
She did, he thought. She killed their adepts and took back the sword. He had no doubt of it, now. If she was serving the Shadir, she could have killed him and been gone from the keep before anyone noticed.
"They're scared," he said. In the face of her anger, he could offer them a charity that he couldn't have given when he was angry with them himself. "Scared of what might happen if I leave the keep, scared of what I might bring back... scared of what might happen if we try to hold out here."
"They're fools," she said, but the venom had gone out of her. "I can still take us outside, if you will."
Roberr took a long moment to consider. "Tomorrow," he said. "If we haven't heard from Boeringen or the Order, we'll go quietly tomorrow."
The grass at Miledha's feet caught fire. She glanced down, and the flames snuffed out. "Tomorrow," she agreed.
Roberr glanced down as well; something was sparkling. Where there had been flames, now there was a dusting of frost over the battered grasses of the practice field. He nodded, recognizing her anger and her power, and turned away. She was sleeping in the barracks, he knew; while his own place was, and had to be, on the uppermost level of the inner keep. His anger and his grief were locked away, buried beneath the solid stone weight of his duties... but seeing them reflected in Miledha, they suddenly became acute again.
Whatever his privy council advised, he wanted that gauntlet. It might be possible to hold the westerners here, to deny them a victory in much the way that he had described after hearing out their messenger. He didn't want that. He wanted them defeated. He wanted their leaders slain and their ranks shattered, so that they would spend generations humiliated and frightened. He wanted them to regret their dreams of invasion and conquest; he wanted them to suffer for the death of his father.
That had been Arimil's conceit, he remembered. The Last God had given his weapons to his sons, thinking that he had guaranteed peace by making the prospect of war too horrible to contemplate. His children could tend their own kingdoms, as they were born to do, secure in the knowledge that each held an equal share of ultimate power and none would dare to use it.
That peace had lasted three generations -- three long generations, for Arimil's children and grandchildren were partly divine -- before Arimil's death and the short memories of the mortal world had touched off the First War of the Princes.