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Home > Captain's Fury (Codex Alera #4)(2)

Captain's Fury (Codex Alera #4)(2)
Author: Jim Butcher

"What news from the Crown?" Miles asked her.

"There is to be a council assembled for the War Committee to determine the course of this season's campaign," Amara said. "The First Lord requests and requires your attendance, Captain, and yours, Lord Aquitaine."

Miles made a rude noise. "First a committee. And now a council."

"It's a committee for the Committee," Aquitaine murmured, his tone suggesting that the subject was one of the few in which he was in wholehearted agreement with Captain Miles. "Ridiculous."

"When?" Miles asked. "Where?"

"Three weeks from yesterday, my lords-at the Elinarch."

"Elinarch, eh?" Miles said. He grunted. "Be nice to get to meet this young virtuoso running the First Aleran. Heard a lot of talk about him."

Aquitaine made a noncommittal sound. "If Kalarus decides to push our positions in person while we-" By which, Amara thought, he means himself."-are away, our forces could be hard-pressed."

Miles shrugged. "Intelligence reports suggest that the rumors of his invalidism are true. I understand he sustained rather severe injuries in a fall, courtesy of Count Calderon. They seem to have incapacitated him."

"That may be precisely what he wishes us to think," Aquitaine pointed out, "to say nothing of his heir. Young Brencis lacks in experience, but his crafting talent is considerable."

"The First Lord has given us a command, Your Grace," Miles said.

Aquitaine rolled his eyes and sighed as he rose to his feet. "Yes, of course. The old man plays the music, and the rest of us dance. Captain, under the circumstances, I believe we can continue this discussion later."

"Suits me," Miles said.

Aquitaine nodded to them both and strode out.

Miles watched Aquitaine depart, took up a soldier's tin mug that sat on the sand table, and threw back a long draught of what smelled like ale. "Arrogant jackass," he muttered. He glanced up at Amara. "He's doing it again."

"Doing what?" Amara asked.

Miles gestured at the sand table. "Inflicting casualties on Gaius's loyal troops."

Amara blinked. "How?"

"Nothing I could prove in a court. Aquitaine's Legions fight beside us, but they're always just a little bit too slow, or too fast. When the fighting starts, the Crown Legion ends up taking the worst of it." He slammed the mug back down onto the sand table. Granules of sand flew up from the impact. "My men are dying, and there's not a crowbegotten thing I can do about it."

"He's very good at this sort of thing," Amara said.

"And I'm not," Miles replied. "He wants to use us up on Kalare, leave us too weak to oppose his Legions once all the fighting is over."

"Hence your argument over strategy?" Amara guessed.

Miles grunted and nodded. "Bad enough fighting a war against the enemy in front of you, without having one marching next to you, too." He rubbed a hand over his bristling hair. "And the Committee has too much influence on our strategies. Committees don't win wars, Countess."

"I know," Amara said quietly. "But you know the First Lord's position. He needs the Senate's support."

"He needs their funding," Miles said in a sour tone. "As if he shouldn't have the right to expect their loyalty in a crisis simply because of who he is." He turned and slapped the empty mug off of the sand table. "Two years. Two years of slogging through these crowbegotten fens, fighting Kalare's madmen. We should have driven straight through to Kalare the same season he attacked. Now the best we can hope for is a hard fight through the bloody swamps and a siege of the city that might last years. I've had three men die of sickness for every one slain outright by the bloody enemy. I've seen bad campaigns before, Countess, but this is enough to turn my stomach."

Amara sipped at her tea and nodded. "Then should I assume you wish the Crown to know that you want to be relieved of your command?"

Miles gave her a flat stare of shock. Then he said, "Of course not."

"Very well."

"Who would you trust with it, if not me?" Miles demanded.

"I only thought-"

"What? That I couldn't handle it?" Miles snorted. "No. I'll think of something." He turned back to stare at the sand table. "But there's a major problem we've got to address."

Amara listened, stepping to the table beside him.

"Kalare and his forces aren't hard to contain. If he moves too far from his stronghold, we'll crush them or else move in and take the city behind them. We have the numbers for it." He nodded toward the table's "north" end. "But the Canim are another story. Since they were thrown back from the Elinarch, they haven't pitched in on Kalare's side, but they haven't been fighting against him, either, and their presence secures his northern flank."

"While his presence secures the Canim's southern flank in turn."

"Exactly," Miles said. "That's bad enough. But if they redeploy to actually support Kalare, it's going to change the balance of power here dramatically."

"That's one of the reasons I'm here," Amara told him. "Gaius sent me to find out what you need to finish off Kalare."

"One of two things. Either we commit more-dependable-forces here in the southern theater and drive to a decisive victory, or we neutralize the Canim in the northern theater so that we can hit Kalare from two sides at once."

Amara grimaced and nodded. "I suspect that will more or less be the subject of the council at the Elinarch."

Miles nodded grimly, and scowled at the miniature forces deployed on the sand table. "Bloody rebels. Bloody, crowbegotten Canim. If that new captain, Rufus Scipio, was all the rumors say he is, you'd think he'd have driven the dogs back into the bloody sea by now. He probably just got lucky."

"Possibly," Amara said, keeping her face carefully neutral. She'd been anticipating Miles's reaction to the identity of the new captain for some time, and didn't want to tip him off now. "I suppose time will tell."

"Lucky," Miles growled.

"You are a lucky man, Aleran," Kitai said, her tone brisk and decidedly cool. "A lesser woman than I would have broken your neck by now and had done with you. Why not leave well enough alone?"

Tavi looked up from where he sat on the ground, panting with effort. "It isn't well enough yet," Tavi replied. "I'm still not where I want to be. And I haven't been able to work any manifestation at all."

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