Last time, Alanna made good friends with the people who were helping her defend what was supposed to be an unlikely attacking point, that, the longer we stayed with her and the troops, we found that the place had certain tactical disadvantages that hadn’t been remedied, and also, there was a traitor in their midst, who was the person that spent their time trying to dig barbs about how Squire Alan was a spy for the royals and trying to drive a wedge between the troops and the squire. Alan and the fort defenders acquitted themselves excellently when the traitor knocked out his sentry partner and then tried to sneak attack the prince.
Unfortunately, Big Thor died and while Alanna ordered the capture of the traitor, he hasn’t been snagged. And beyond that, Alanna was exhausted from having fought and been wounded, and being exhausted from an extra-long shift with the healers to disabuse her of the idea that war has anything glamorous to it. So while the Dark God was there to collect Thor, Alanna merely passed out.
In the Hand of the Goddess: Chapter 6: Content Notes: Torture threats
Chapter 6 starts with Alanna coming to, with her arm bandaged by Jonathan, who helped preserve Alanna’s gender secret, but also tells her that one of her muscles was wounded enough that she’ll be out of action for a while. Faithful lets her know that she’s been unconscious for three days, which makes Alanna exclaim it’s somehow not possible for someone to have slept that long. And Jonathan to wonder aloud, again, whether or not Faithful can talk to Alanna. Before that particular bit of metaphysics gets rehashed, Alanna debriefs Jonathan about Jem Tanner’s treachery and Jonathan, in turn, brings Alanna up to speed about the political situation they’re still in.
“Treachery!” he snapped. “Merciful Mother, we should have guessed!” He sat down, suddenly dejected. “And we can’t do anything about it. My father’s instructions remain the same. He’s even thinking of giving the right bank to Tusaine.”
“If they’re given the right bank, they won’t stop till they have the entire valley,” Alanna said frankly.
Jonathan nodded. “But no one can convince my father of that. He takes being called “The Peacemaker” very seriously.”
“He did establish peace after the Old King’s conquest,” Alanna said fairly.
“Yes, but this time he’s wrong!” Jonathan growled. He brooded for a few minutes before smiling and taking her hand. “Look at me. You’re not awake five minutes and I’m burdening you with my problems. Mithros, I’m glad you’re all right!”
It would be nice to have some idea of what King Roald is like when he’s not potentially under the influence of someone who can turn other people’s wills to his own, to know whether this is the kind of thing that he would be considering normally, or whether he would be thinking about his own kingdom and the intent of Tusaine and whether he would be saying “I’m going to make peace, all right, by kicking their sorry asses all the way back to their capital. If you get the opportunity to rout them, cross the river and do it.” Jonathan might know at this point, or he might not. Sir Myles, who is arriving shortly into the scene, probably would know. Faithful warns Jonathan and Alanna that someone is on their way, so they can not be improper in the presence of anyone else.
Myles entered the tent to find a very pale Jonathan picking up a book as his very red squire drank from a water bottle. His hazel eyes flicked from Jon to Alanna, and Alanna wondered once again how much Myles knew, or guessed, about her identity.
“It’s time you came to,” Myles remarked, his quiet voice even. “Do you realize you’ve been asleep for three days?”
It would be an interesting story, although not likely to be this specific story, where Sir Myles is suspicious of something, but what he’s suspicious of is that Squire Alan fancies men, and Prince Jonathan might be at least receptive to those entreaties. Or that Prince Jonathan might fancy men, and Squire Alan is receptive to those entreaties, or something like that. Because that’s the kind of thing that might happen between people who have gone through intense martial training and several situations that have been designed to kill them already. Sir Myles might caution about being too open with their affections, since Jonathan is still going to have to marry and produce heirs, and Alan is going to have to marry and produce heirs for Trebons as well, but might otherwise not discourage it, because, after all, the two of them can’t produce illegitimate heirs together, and once they both end up with their wives, they probably won’t do anything with each other again.
Alanna is absolutely out of action when it comes to fighting, but because she has to keep busy, she eventually ends up with the healers again, not as a magic healer, but as someone who can do the little tasks that don’t require magic. Jonathan stops by frequently to talk and to heal some himself. The healers eventually chase Alan off and he ends up with the smiths, helping out as an extra pair of hands mending weapons or manning a bellows, and even though Alan’s still not up for fighting, because Jonathan’s troops took the brunt of the Tusaine attack, when Alan signs on to be a sentry, they’re glad for the relief. Which then leads to a visit from Duke Roger. Who compliments Alan for his actions during the fight and finding the truth about Thor. And who has a proposition for Alan:
Suddenly Duke Roger said, “We are not friends, are we, Alan?”
Alanna tightened her hands on her spear. This was coming to grips with a vengeance! “No, Your Grace, we’re not,” she replied evenly.
Without the light of his Gift it was hard to read the Duke’s face. “Might it be possible we are enemies?”
Alanna thought about this, and about his reasons for asking. “I don’t know,” she said finally. “Perhaps you should tell me.”
“I could be a very good friend, Alan.”
Her throat was dry. What kind of game was he playing? Was this a warning—or a threat? “I have no desire to make you my enemy, sir. I’d like to live to a ripe old age and die in my sleep.”
White teeth flashed in a grin against his shadowed face. “I can sympathize. Such an ending could be yours—if we were friends. Many things could be yours.”
Alanna shifted her hold on the spear; her fingers were getting numb. “I would have to be assured that my other friends have the same chance, Your Grace,” she said boldly. “Frankly, I doubt that’s your aim.”
For a long moment he said nothing. Then she saw his broad shoulders life in a shrug. “I see. Thus, as long as you feel this way, we will be…”
“Less than friends,” Alanna supplied diplomatically.
Roger bowed. “I appreciate your honesty, Alan of Trebond. Not many dare to be so open with me.”
She smiled crookedly. “Not many have insanity in their families, either.”
This drew a laugh from him. “I see. Well—good night to you, Squire Alan.”
Alanna stood, a little stiff from the dampness of the river. “Your Grace.” She watched Roger fade into the shadows. “He has style,” she remarked quietly.
He’s got something, all right. With the way that Duke Roger is, one woners whether he was trying to lean on Alan there and see if he could convince him to join forces. Or, to confirm his suspicions that Alan can resist his persuasive magic or other such efforts and therefore he has to resort to other means. It’s a diplomatic exchange, in that Alanna makes sure not to directly accuse Duke Roger of anything, and Duke Roger makes sure not to do anything that would be obvious proof, only to offer his belief that it would be a very good idea for the two of them to become friendly with each other, with what is pretty clearly a threat behind it, but not something that Alanna could take to anyone else and say it was a threat. Especially not someone who would have an easier time of convincing the others that he was the wronged party in the matter.
And speaking of backup plans coming to fruition, a fog rolls in that makes Faithful curl up and go to sleep and gets Alanna to feel extremely tired, but she’s able to shake off the desire to sleep, at least until she gets a rock to the back of the head. Alanna’s suspicions were fully roused when she couldn’t wake Faithful up and her nose was itching, which meant sorcery was afoot. So Alanna gets kidnapped by Jem Tanner and a couple of other people, but Jem Tanner’s haste means he tells them all to leave the cat alone, even though there was some sort of orders involving the cat that they were supposed to execute. That will come back to bite them in the ass, almost assuredly, as the beginning of the next scene is a sentry reporting Alan’s kidnapping to Jonathan by bringing the still-asleep Faithful to him. Jonathan tries to wake the cat with sorcery, which promptly makes him fall asleep. Sir Myles decides not to try and use any kind of magic and instead douses both of them with a bucket of cold water. Jonathan pops back awake, but Faithful does not. Eventually, Faithful comes around, realizes what’s happened, lets out a yowl of fury and dashes off into the night. Which means it’s time for some interesting decisions to be made.
He gripped Myles’s arm. “Myles, we have to do something! If they find out—”
“Hush, Jonathan!” Myles interrupted. “We’ll do all we can.”
The sentry who brought Faithful cried out, “And that’s nothing! We’re bound here by the stupidest lot of orders ever writ—” His captain and two noblemen were staring at him. He gulped and continued, “Saving your presence, Highness, my lord, but it’s true. Micah and Keel are chums of mind, and Squire Alan saved this eye, not two weeks ago, and we can’t help them!”
Jonathan put a hand on the man’s shoulder, smiling tightly. “We’ll see, my friend.” He nodded to Myles. “I’m off to the fort. Maybe Roger will have some idea of what’s going on.”
Myles tugged his beard. “That’s possible,” he said thoughtfully. “That’s very possible.”
Myles is a sly character after all. He’s had that sense about him for most of this book and the last one, that his drinking is as much a guard against people poking too much as it is a way of not having to think too hard about all the things he’s seen or done already. He confirms this for Jonathan when Jonathan comes back for more advice after a complete lack of ransom demand or any other kind of activity regarding finding the missing trio.
When Jonathan returned to camp he found Myles staring into a full mug of brandy. To his surprise, the shaggy knight wasn’t drinking.
“This is too serious for drink,” Myles said, guessing the prince’s thoughts. He nodded toward Faithful; the cat was lying with his head on his paws, his eyes wide and unblinking. “He’s worried. That makes me worried. I can’t be convinced that Alan’s capture was not the sole object of this raid.”
Jonathan sat down, twisting his hands together. “Myles, I can’t leave him over there,” he whispered. “He—”
Myles shook his head. “Don’t.”
“You’re about to tell me why Alan of all people should not be left among enemies for very long. I would rather hear it from Alan, when he’s ready to tell me.”
“You already know,” Jonathan accused.
The older man smiled. “Let’s say I’ve formed an educated guess. I can wait to have it confirmed.”
Jonathan scowled, rising to pace again. “If Alan stays on that side of the river, you won’t have to wait much longer.”
Myles saw Jon was eyeing the river. “Your father was very specific, Prince Jonathan,” he pointed out softly. “It would mean the head of any man who tried to rescue them. I hope you’ll warn the others, because I’m afraid a rescue is exactly what they have in mind.”
Jonathan stared at Myles. Suddenly he had an idea, a wild idea, but an idea nonetheless. “Perhaps the punishment would depend on who led the rescue!”
Myles met his stare with calm eyes. “I would be obligated by my oath to your father to stop a rescue attempt.”
Jonathan smiled, knowing what the knight was really saying. “Of course, Myles. Oh, what will you be doing after the evening meal?”
Myles tugged his beard. “I think I’ll ride down to the fort to confer with our commander. I shall probably be there very late.”
Jonathan nodded absently. “You should take a couple of men,” he murmured, thinking hard. “We don’t want you kidnapped, with our security so poor.” He strode off, his walk purposeful.
Watching him go, Myles began to chuckle. “That young man gets more like the Old King every day.”
The cat stretched, suddenly looking better. Yes, he agreed.
So Faithful can talk to Myles, then. But also, that’s a fantastic plan that’s being hatched, and how convenient that Sir Myles and some guards will be away from the camp when a harebraned idea kicks off involving Prince Jonathan and, as the narrative shows us, a little more than thirty more men. Jonathan only told one soldier about the plan, but that one soldier very clearly had the ear of everyone else in the camp. The narrative then cuts away to Duke Roger hearing about what’s just happened and the flagrant disregard of the king’s order. He immediately knows why Jonathan’s gone rogue and berates Sir Myles for not having taken more steps to stop them. Sir Myles points out that Jonathan is at least smart enough to not tell anyone who would stop him from the plan, and furthermore that he’s pretty sure the king won’t behead his own son, nor will he separate the heads of those who followed the prince. Roger fumes and snarls, and eventually forbids anyone else from helping this along, while also saying to post archers to cover the retreat, and then retreats to inform the king of what’s just happened. Myles gets to snicker a little bit, I’m sure, about how easily this plan went off, but the narrative then heads over to Alanna, finally, waking up from being knocked out.
In short order, after the Tusaine guards promise handsome rewards for cooperators and are rebuffed by everyone, Alanna picks the locks on the chains of the other soldiers captured with her and discovers that her chains, specifically, have been created to prevent her from picking them and from using any magic to free herself as well. Because those chains have been specifically so set on her, Alanna’s pretty sure at this point that she’s the only real target. Thus, she gives orders that if the other two can get free, they are to go back to the camp and leave her behind.
There is some commentary, though, about how this war has been waged that’s worth paying attention to. First, from the Tortallan soldiers:
“Sorcery—fah!” Keel growled, spitting on the ground. “No decent warrior uses sorcery!”
“No decent warrior uses traitors, either,” Micah told his comrade. “And Duke Hilam’s done both. He’ll stop at nothing.”
And from the captain of the jailer guards:
The captain shook his head. “Not that one. His Grace wants to talk with him personal.” He scowled. “A filthy way to fight a war,” he muttered.
And then, after time has passed and Alanna’s done the picking of the chains:
“Captain,” a male voice hissed, “if you continue your objections, I will see to it that you’re given a more unpleasant command—under the noses of the foot archers, for example.”
“I don’t like fighting a war this way.” It was the voice of the captain who had first visited them. “It isn’t honorable.”
“I believe in results, not honor.”
The speaker who believes in results is Duke Hilam, and we’re about to meet him as he blows in the doors with his sorcery (this one colored red, as opposed to Duke Roger’s orange and Alanna’s violet), stunning the men lying in wait for him. Before we get to him too much, let’s go back over how the non-noble men have been talking about the way the war is being waged. The two Tortallans talking about how sorcery is not in the toolbox of a decent warrior are in the presence of someone who uses sorcery regularly, under the command of a sorceror-general. And it’s interesting how little Duke Roger has been using his sorcery with regard to warfare, and the same for Duke Hilam. The magic on display has so far been limited in scope and in targeting, rather than sorcerers raising great chunks of rock to sling at each other or imbuing arrows and spears with power to affect their accuracy or lethality. While it’s entirely possible that combat sorcery is the equivalent of dropping nuclear weaponry on your opponent, with the associated theory of mutually assured destruction keeping them to tactical use, if any, at least to hear the way these two talk about it, and the Tusaine captain’s objections, it seems more like it’s one of the rules of chivalry and honorable war to not drop sorcerers on the battlefield. Which also makes me wonder what kind of war they think they’re waging here? I know that at least some of the wars supposedly fought in the world are the ones where the nobles fight, the peasants die, and anybody noble who gets captured is civilly ransomed back to their side, but otherwise treated with humanity and as the guests of their captors. It’s like the Tusaine were also thinking of this as a border skirmish, or an exercise to exercise the troops and maybe get some land in the process, or something like that, where nobody is taking this as a serious contest, and the presence of traitors and sorcerers keeps disrupting their belief that this is a contest to be decided honorably on strength of arms and chivalry. We know the Tortallans have gods that they could be fighting for the honor of, but I wonder whether the Tusaines do, as well, and whether that’s what everyone has really been thinking about this, and it’s only Duke Roger, who wants Jonathan and Alanna dead, and possibly Duke Hiram and his lot that want to fight this as srs bzns.
In any case, Duke Hilam quickly shows his colors as someone who might be enjoying the war and violence a little too much to be someone who should be in command of any troops at all. (Which is going to make him and Duke Roger very interesting adversaries, assuming they are adversaries at all, which they might not be.)
“I thought something like this might occur. Who picked the locks?” His beautiful eyes flicked at Alanna. “You?”
Alanna stood braced, her arms folded across her chest. “Who wants to know?”
The nobleman smiled cruelly. “I’ve heard about your bad manners, Alan of Trebond.”
“Funny. I always heard the men of Tusaine possessed some trace of honor.” She glanced at the captain, who was turning beet red. “Isn’t it odd how rumor lies?”
Someone else stepped through the open door. “Don’t let him get the upper hand, brother,” Jem Tanner warned. “He’s tricky.”
[…Alanna tries to kill the traitor with her bare hands, and the guards sling her down to the ground and tell her not to do it again…]
“Kill the viper, Hilam!” he urged. Micah and Keel were coming to. “Before he finds a way to trick you!”
Alanna looked at the well-dressed man. So he was Duke Hilam, the one responsible for this long, hateful summer. It was hard to believe so much trouble could come from such a small man.
Duke Hilam covered a yawn. “I’ll kill him when I’m ready, brother,” he announced. “Not a moment sooner.”
Alanna stared. “You’re brothers?”
“There isn’t much of a family resemblance.” Hilam grinned cruelly. “That’s what made Jemis an ideal spy.”
Then Alanna remembered that the three royal brothers of Tusain were King Ain, Duke Hilam, and Count Jemis. Jemis—or Jem—was rarely seen in public, because he rode around the land, sending reports to Prime Minister Hilam. A spy indeed!
Boiling mad, Alanna stuggled to her knees. “Forgive me for not recognizing you sooner, Duke Hilam,” she spat. “Your sweet nature should have—”
Hilam kicked her down. “I’m not amused by you, prisoner. Don’t try my patience.”
Alanna curled up around the side he had kicked, sweating with pain. No one was watching her two companions; all attention was on her and the Duke. She looked up at him, boiling mad. “You are brave, kicking a chined prisoner. They must sing heroic ballads about you on winter nights!”
Hilam grabbed her chains, yanking her to her feet. “I’ve heard about your tongue, Squire.” He was smiling calmly, that frightened her. No one as angry as Hilam smiled, unless he was insane. “Perhaps I’ll cut it out.” He threw her against the rear wall and advanced on her.
Alanna struggled to her feet, never taking her eyes off him. “Behavior I’d expect from the goatherd’s bastard, not a nobleman,” she taunted as Micah and Keel inched toward the open door. “Perhaps your mother tricked your father?”
Hilam hit her again, knocking her to her knees. Micah and Keel bolted out the door, running for all they were worth. When Hilam turned to follow, Alanna grabbed him, wrapping her arms around his torso. The Tusaine was stopped from throwing a spell after the escaping men by the magic that kept Alanna helpless.
Alanna has learned how to channel her anger over time, clearly, but this is tactically provoking your opponent, and so I’m having a little bit of disjoint here. Yes, I know that for some people, being pissed off focuses them instead of making them wild, so it’s not out of the ordinary, but “boiling mad” compared to Duke Hilam’s smiling while mad seems like it’s supposed to be a study in contrasts. Yet, Alanna expert provokes Hilam and everyone else into focusing on her so the others can get away, and, when Hilam moves to stop the others from escaping, Alanna uses her own magic chains to stop Duke Hilam’s sorcery. That doesn’t sound like “boiling mad” to me, that sounds like someone who is trying to get her compatriots away and correctly assessing that she can make the sociopath focus too much on her by provoking him into abandoning his tactical responsibilities.
I’m having a little trouble envisioning how Alanna succeeds at ensnaring Hilam, unless Hilam is short enough that Alanna can throw her chains around his waist over his head. But if she were going to do that, over his head, I would have expected her to stop at his throat and start trying to choke the life out of him, since he was the one who was stupid enough to get within her range. In any of these cases, if Hilam is close enough to Alanna to get ensnared by the same magic, he’s close enough for Alanna to deliver a world of hurt, or make him her own hostage and start trying to bargain. And lost in this scuffle is Jemis, who will speak in just a few lines, but who did not make an attempt to stop the retreating soldiers, and who was also not anywhere close enough that someone could make an attack of opportunity against him as they ran. Yes, they’re trying to get away, but unless there are guards around that would make it improbable (and they, too, have vanished from the blocking), I would expect one or both of the soldiers to try and stab the traitor as they ran out if the opportunity presented itself. Or, if they couldn’t get any weapons, to at least punch his lights out in such a way that he’d remember in the morning.
Anyway, back to Hilam and Jemis.
“Don’t follow!” Hilam ordered, yanking out of Alanna’s hold and slapping her. “This is the one we have to worry about!”
“Let me have him,” Jemis urged. “He’s been an annoyance to me for a long time. I could have killed Prince Jonathan that night if he hadn’t been there.”
Alanna could hear shouting in the distance. She crossed her fingers and prayed her friends would escape.
“He’s been an annoyance to many for a long time,” Hilam snapped, his clean-shaven face grim. “Before I let you play with him, he’s going to tell me something about Tortall. He’s going to tell me all Prince Jonathan’s plans and all King Roald’s plans. Then he will tell me things that don’t interest me at all, but he’ll tell them because he’ll say anything to stop the pain.”
“Pigs might fly,” Alannsa snapped. She spat in the man’s face.
Hilam wiped the spit away, his lovely eyes thoughtful. “You’ll take a while to break.” He smiled suddenly, and her stomach sank. “That will be quite enjoyable. Only think, you’ll have the doubtful fame of being the one responsible for my taking this entire valley. How does that sit with your much-loved honor, Squire Alan?”
“Perhaps your mother betrayed your father with a warthog,” Alanna said thoughtgully. She would just get sick if she listened to what he was saying. “You both certainly have a warthog’s manners. Jem there even has a warthog’s looks.”
Jem lunged for her, only to be stopped by one of the guardsmen.
“Jemis is very rash,” Hilam told Alanna. “I’m not. It’s going to take far more than these little barbs to pierce my armor&mash;”
“Perhaps my sword will pierce it, then?” Jonathan asked coolly from the doorway. “Thank you, Faithful. You seem to have led us to the right place.”
And the rescue arrives, before anyone has to contemplate what kind of torture Alanna would have to suffer once Duke Hilam discovered it was Squire Alanna rather than Squire Alan. Now outnumbered, Jemis and Hilam are taken into custody and Alanna is freed. Before we get to the end of the chapter and see how things turn out, Hilam is at least suggesting here that he and Duke Roger, or some of Duke Roger’s agents, have been in collaboration with each other. And the focus on capturing Alanna suggests that Hilam and Jemis are working with Duke Roger, if only, y’know, someone could get them to admit it. Preferably at this exact point, where it’s unlikely that Roger will be able to silence them before they can talk. And with the magic-suppressing chains that Alanna currently has in her possession, if they fetter Duke Hilam with it, then he won’t be able to use his sorcery to alert Roger to the situation.
Now, I don’t expect Alanna or Jonathan to have picked up on this at this moment. They’re still in a tactically unsafe situation, and therefore they’re going to have to retreat to somewhere within Duke Roger’s influence before they can interrogate their prisoner properly. Especially with the other bank on high alert and waiting for their return. But as soon as everyone’s safe, I feel like Alanna and Jonathan would want to lead the interrogation of Duke Hilam and Count Jemis. Preferably at some point in time where Duke Roger is distracted with something else and can’t interfere. That could produce some kind of proof, on the assumption that there’s a way of magically recording a confession and verifying that such a confession has not been tampered with along the way. First, you get yourself out, then you start thinking about intelligence possibilities. And if Duke Hilam was unwilling to provide any actionable intelligence, Count Jemis did engineer sneak attacks and cause the deaths of many beloved and loyal Tortallan soldiers. Which is not to say that Alanna or Jonathan would endorse any kind of torture or psychological warfare, especially not against another noble, but you know sometimes the sentries take matters into their own hands against the prisoners, especially the ones who are very mad about the betrayal and the deaths of their fellows.
Anyway, once Alanna fills Jonathan in on the situation they’re currently in, and who they have in their custody, everything goes smoothly from there.
“Jonathan, the soldiers are all right. But these two”—she pointed to Hilam and Jemis—”are King Ain’s brothers.”
“Jem Tanner, a king’s brother?” Micah gasped.
A slow grin spread across Jon’s face. “I think I know how we are going to leave this camp safely. We’re taking two guests with us, two very important guests. And I’m sure we can think of a fair ransom. Don’t you, Duke Hilam? I know King Ain will not think peace is not too small a price to pay, nor for his brothers’ lives.”
King Roald was not pleased, but—as Myles and Jonathan had known—he could scarcely behead his own son. Instead Roald negotiated the Drell Peace, in which Tusaine vowed to relinquish all claims to the valley forever. King Ain was willing to agree to much more: He wanted his brothers back to rule his lands for him. By the end of August the peace was signed, and Alanna and her friends were able to go home.
I’d like to believe that meant that Tusaine gave up more than just claims to the Drell Valley in perpetuity. (Which will only last as long as someone decides to abide by the terms of it, so there’s probably going to be a good number of soldiers posted to the fort and any of the new forts that will be built in the new territory for generations to come.) It’s too bad that the king’s brothers were ransomed back to Tusaine for the claims of peace and the like, because that will leave them available to be villainous again in some later time. Even if King Roald made them pay dearly for what happened. Unless it was ruinous for Tusaine. Or unless Hiram and Jemis were very firmly convinced they wanted to turn their eyes elsewhere and make sure that King Ain did the same.
But this is an adventure story with hero girls who can do at least as much as the boys can do, if not better, and therefore the matters of politics are left as an eercise to the reader. They’re probably not the kind of thing that Squire Alan would concern himself with, even if they might concern Prince Jonathan, and Squire Alan might be on the bloodthirsty side to be able to do any intelligence-gathering. So another opportunity to build the case against Duke Roger goes by the wayside, because despite what Duke Hilam was willing to do to Alanna, the knights and nobles of Tortall are presumably more chivalrous than that, and therefore will not resort to torturing out the information they want to know from people who definitely do know what’s going on and who encouraged them to go out on a campaign like this. Even the one who committed atrocities against them and spied and could therefore be executed as “Jem Tanner,” traitor.
Having had their fill of combat for the year (and thankfully, the campaign having wrapped in time for the conscripts to get back to tend to their fields and get their tithes in on time,) the army heads home and chapter 7 ends, with “medals for everyone” as the possible result, rather than “off with their heads.”