I’ve had some readers express surprise how, to use my word, fatalistic, the demis and machines seem to be. Perhaps “accepting” is a les pejorative word? I hold it is a factor of how much faster they think than humans do. They can make up then change their minds while we’re still forming our thoughts. So, Aurie goes from “go home!” to “come along” in a blink. It can look like poor writing but is in fact me trying to convey non-human thinking.
The general will have a mound of paperwork to prepare her army before the morning and her meeting with her legates. Then there’s the ride: 600 miles in five days (it should be longer but I’ve seen that part). Even for a good rider, that is very aggressive; pony express aggressive. May have to take a day to look into the logistics of this.
They walked slowly east. It was by Jansen’s estimation about three in the afternoon.
“I’ve seen your face lots of different ways,” Colour began. “Happy. Mirthful. Aroused. Why, even afraid, once!”
She leaned over. “I don’t know what I’m seeing now.”
“Because I’m not sure what I’m thinking right now. No, strike that,” she said with a shake of her head. “I know my duty. I’m just a little flustered.”
“The Japanese empress?”
“Not exactly. Heck, I only met her in tribe Tohsaka’s construct a couple of times.” General Hartmann continued to return any salutes or calls out to her as they made their way through the fort. “The next is confidence, Friend. We are both going home tomorrow.”
“What’s that mean?” she asked.
“It means what I said,” Aurelia said, brows knit in confusion. “I must see the empress in a few days. I’d like you to go back to your Governing Council and tell them your impressions of your time with me and my army. Even what we did in Nova Scotia. Don’t mention Jimmy’s name, though.”
She walked on and waited for the human to catch up. A few seconds later, she did.
“Can you tell me why… all this so sudden?” Colour asked again.
“’Sudden,’” Hartmann laughed hollowly, recalling her great-grandfather. “Funny. No, I cannot. This is your duty.”
“Du…?” Jansen’s hand went to Hartmann’s left shoulder and halted her and turned her about, getting a few stares from the men nearby. “My duty is with you!”
Aurelia looked at Colour’s hand.
“That does hurt, you know.”
“Goddam you!” the older woman jerked her hand down, near tears at being dismissed. Now the princess put her hands to her guest’s face.
“What is duty?” she asked.
“To do… I don’t know, to serve, follow orders…” Colour sputtered.
“Death is as light as a feather; duty is as heavy as a mountain.” At that, she again brushed her lips to the older woman’s cheek. More legionaries had paused their work to watch what in the world was going on.
“Nice story, little girl,” Jansen glared down eye to eye with this most powerful of people. “But you did not contradict me. My duty is with you.”
“Damn you,” Princess Aurelia breathed. She stepped back and gave her Northern Federation friend a proper imperial salute. Some of the men laughed. “We must cover six hundred miles in five days on horseback. If you fall behind we will not wait.”
Jansen blanched a little at that aggressive pace. She returned the salute.
“Try to keep up, General Hartmann,” she said in a louder voice, “or else all you’ll see for those miles is my horse’s ass!”
“Oh, please, Colour!” Aurelia said in the same tone, resuming their walk, “you are old but your ass isn’t that big!”
“Now, just like me being shot, the army will know something important is happening and that I’m leaving in the morning,” she said much softer. “I appreciate your help.”
“You…!” Colour shook her head. “You used me? Again?”
“Yes and no. Your refusal surprised me. But, it was obviously meant to happen. So, here we are.” She looked up at the twelve-foot wooden wall. “Let’s go up and walk around some more. I’d like to hear from my men about the past few days.”
They climbed the ladder but again Colour paused Aurelia.
“Meant to happen, you said,” she looked from her friend’s golden eyes to the faint hint of purple to the east. “Seeing the future again?”
“No. Just happy to see you. C’mon.”
Some more walking of the parapet and words with her men, Colour was quiet and just watched and listened. Just like what I saw on our march up here, they adore her, she thought. Certainly, some look at her with some lust in their eyes, but the respect and devotion are obvious. Because of her family? What she is?
Or just because of who she is? I just turned down a chance to go home. To travel to someplace I know nothing about. Because of who she is. The general had moved on and Jansen hurried to catch up.