A Toast to Discretion
“Strategy. He always talks of strategy, then he goes off and does whatever he wants.” Rexus sighed, pouring another drink. Lena sat across from him, smirking. “It’s worked though, that’s the damnable part. He has the flair for the dramatic, the legal aptitude, the ability to tapdance through the beartraps of politics in a way that I cannot find interest in. But he isolates himself, he obfuscates his reasons – not out of any malicious idea, I think, but simply because it is a Tanessen family tradition.” Lena nodded along, speaking quietly. “He’s under a great amount of stress. I worry about his mindset, about his focus. He rarely sleeps, he constantly works…and there are other signs.” Lena leaned in to speak with Rexus, her tone full of trepidation. “When Maxwell was brought up from below, he bore a variety of wounds. Many of them were similar in shape and structure to trident points, but not all of them. This cannot go further than us, Rexus…” The man nodded, studying her intently as she finished. “There was a large stabbing wound that matches a piercing weapon, much like his rapier. I don’t have evidence, and Maxwell doesn’t recall, and I know battles can get fierce…” Rexus sat back, hands clasped as he ruminated.
He spoke slowly, picking each word carefully. “Battle can become fierce, but Corthos has always known how to use a rapier. We used to fence each other often – he has a grace with the weapon that I never quite caught. But sometimes, things happen in battle. It seems better to not confront him with anything until we have evidence. But I can see that he is deeply entrenched in his work, and that it has taken a toll. Corthos has always been a man who works as though he were possessed. He will drive himself into the ground to prove a point that he believes in, regardless of the ammunition it gives his enemies. That is all – for better or worse – what I would expect from him. But I cannot see him reaching an exhaustion where he would turn his weapon against his brothers. I will not entertain that thought. He has fought and killed and bled for this…I’m sorry, Lena, but I feel you must be mistaken on that. While he can be stubborn and pigheaded and prone to following his whims, he is not a traitor. And I will not allow that idea to be put out among the troops.” Lena started to protest, but Rexus cut her off sternly. “Nobody here knows him more than I. There is another explanation. I do not want to hear of this claim again.” Lena opened her mouth, only to stop as Rexus glared at her. “Am I clear?”
“I’m not trying to say that he’s a…” Lena took a deep breath. “Yes, Rexus. Understood. Another topic then.” She poured a stiff drink for herself, taking a deep swallow of it. “How are you handling it all?” Rexus seemed almost taken aback by the question, stammering before answering. “I…uh.” He laughed for a moment, the noise seeming off-putting. “I’m done fine. Corthos can lead the front lines, and I will try to help where I can from back here. I’m living out a change that my family would have been proud to see, I think. I just need to try and keep all of us working together, and not let the differing temperaments impact us. I would never have expected such a diverse and motley group. It’s…..honestly, it’s kind of draining. But without these different talents and viewpoints, I feel like we would never have made it this far. I was raised to respect history, but now we have a chance to write history.” He took a drink. “Thank you, Lena. I know I stay to myself, but sometimes it is nice to have someone ask.”
Lena drained her glass. “Yes, well. I wouldn’t want to see it crumble when we are so close to turning this fight. And I think it’s important that we all listen to each other for that.” She pushed her chair back, speaking firmly as she stood. “Even if that means confronting some ideas that we may not want to confront. Because ignoring problems doesn’t make them go away any more than admitting them absolves them.” She sighed, speaking again, a bit softer. “Good night, Rexus. I suppose I’m just a bit on edge.” He nodded, looking into his drink. “Goodnight, Lena. You should rest.” She just made a half-hearted nod, leaving the room. As the door shut, Rexus refilled his glass.