"Does it seem reasonable to you that a Regency continues—into an Emperor's thirtieth year "
"No, m'lord," Shoka said.
"Not to us, either. Not to many of us. We were ready to make that objection—when lord Gitu overran Yijang and Hua.... Assassinations, elsewhere. Hired killers. Bands of mercenaries traveling under imperial orders. The Emperor'sseal, and the Regent's orders. How do we stop such a thing How do we prevent it—when every lord able to lead is apprehended, assassinated, when they strip us of men, even boys out of the fields—go to Saukendar, some said. Go to Saukendar. They urged me to send to you. This time he has to listen, they said. But if I had sent—and Ghita had known—you understand—" Reidi gave an uncomfortable twitch of the shoulders. His horse shifted again. "I had no true hope that you'd come. You'd indicated to the villagers—that you had no wish to hear from anyone. That you would refuse any such petitions—"
"You were watching me."
"It's my village, m'lord—as the Regent pointed out to me again and again, and threatened my life should you leave that mountain. Of course the word came to me. I tried to get a messenger down the road to you when I knew you'd left Mon.... We believed you'd come back to deal with Ghita and his partisans."
Shoka felt cold, cold all the way to the bones.
"There are men ready to follow you, lord Saukendar. There are men who've committed their lives to this— We didn't know the hour. We only believed. Now you've come back ..."
"It's gripping drama, tightly focussed and inexorable as Taizu herself. Read The Paladin and you'll never settle for another ordinary sword-wielding female."
—Faren Miller LOCUS
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