Ayre of the Last God
(Book III of the Oerth Cycle)
(C) 2000 BY


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At the knock on her chamber door, L'Sala looked up from the papers on her table. "Mrowr! Come in!" she called, her eyes flashing in the sunlight that streamed in through the windows. The door opened, revealing her seneschal, Lord D'Viall, who stepped into the room and bowed. "Mrr... What news, Lord D'Viall?"

"Miao... There have been no more executions, my lady - only the one. I've still no idea what they're doing, I'm sorry. Their troops do not seem restless to me, however. Perhaps a disciplinary problem with just one individual?"

L'Sala nodded. "Mrr... That is possible..." she replied, thinking. Finally, L'Sala looked up again. "Mrr... Have we received any messages by pigeon?"

"Miao... No, my lady. We've seen none approach the castle, though even if they did, with the amount of troops they have, it's likely they'd be shot down anyway."

L'Sala nodded again. "Mrr... And how is our morale, so far?"

D'Viall shrugged. "Miao... As well as can be expected, my lady."

"Mrr... And our water supply?"

"Miao... We still only have about six week's worth of water remaining, my lady. As we expected, the corpses in the moat have tainted the river-water, thus the pipe-well leading from the moat will be unusable until that is cleared and several weeks have passed."

L'Sala nodded again. "Mrr... It is my mentation there is a small chance of rain today. Have some empty barrels placed by all the drainspouts from the roof, and at any other point rainwater may run off. We may gather some extra water that way. Make sure it's done within the hour, Lord D'Viall."

"Miao... Yes, my lady. Will that be all?" D'Viall asked, and when L'Sala nodded in reply, he bowed and left.

L'Sala returned to studying the papers before her quietly, her tail flicking slightly from side to side. Finally, L'Sala sighed in frustration. "Fsst! I am helpless. I need new information..." she muttered to herself. L'Sala had no new knowledge of what was happening outside the castle, other than that the enemy had executed a prisoner, and that their troops did not seem upset by it - or if they were upset, it was only mildly so, as no irregularities in their behavior or routine could be observed by D'Viall, who was skilled enough in the Art of War to notice any deviation from the normal routines of camp and siege.

L'Sala's gaze fell upon the empty cage on the table in the corner of her room, and for perhaps the thousandth time, she wondered if the pigeon had made it home to Castle Xaa. There was a good chance it had - yet, she could not be truly certain. Even if it did make it, there was still the question of whether or not the mus would help. It was L'Sala's mentation that they almost certainly would, yet, there was no way to know if she was right until either they showed up, or the castle finally fell to the T'Mrr.

Again, L'Sala found herself considering The Slayer, Xaa'ap'Gasha. He hated all felines, of that she had no doubt. Yet, he had been willing to negotiate with R'Narr at the Battle of Three Armies. He was, it seemed, able to use his head despite his hatred. Would he see that there was little other choice? If Castle V'Nass fell, L'Sala knew what would happen. Almost certainly, T'Zama T'Mrr would have her executed - probably publicly, and probably quite slowly and painfully. L'Sala did not fear her death, of course. She had focused her Mentalt's will and put that fear out of her mind weeks ago. She refused to be afraid of something that yet remained only a possibility. Still, if she did die, she knew R'Narr would be insane with grief. He would almost certainly blame the mus for not intervening, gather his armies, and set out to exact his revenge - and the war between the empire of the cats and the kingdoms of the mus would resume. No, Xaa'ap'Gasha had to see the only alternative was to intervene, and break the siege...

Unless, of course, the mus had decided they had enough of a technological edge to win.

L'Sala knew it was quite possible the mus were continuing to work on their guns and their airships and probably dozens of other inventions she knew not of. L'Sala was certain that in the long run, they had enough of an edge to win the war - but it was entirely possible for them to develop an even greater advantage, and not merely win, but exterminate the cats entirely.

This, then, was why the war had to end. And as such, this was why this siege could not be lost. R'Narr V'Nass could not be allowed to become filled with rage and grief and take his armies across the border to exact his revenge. No, the mus had to come through, they had to break the siege. The entire future of her race might depend on it.

A sudden poke in her abdomen stopped L'Sala's fretting, and she grunted for a moment. She looked down to her swollen belly, smiling wryly. "Mrr... Alright, you two. Settle down. Mother will be going to bed soon enough." she murmured, and slowly rose to her feet.

She carried two kits, of that she was fairly certain, and at times they fretted in her belly, as though they were very impatient to be born. By L'Sala's calculations, they would be born in another four weeks - about the time the castle's water ran out, unless rains came or some other miracle happened. L'Sala waddled, now, and this late stage of her pregnancy was not comfortable at all. Only frequent cat-naps gave her the energy to remain fully mentally alert - though, at the moment, there was little for her to focus her alertness on.

As L'Sala slipped out of her dress and curled herself atop the bed, she found her thoughts drifting to R'Narr. Was he alright? Was his campaign going well? She did not know - more information she could not have, cut off from the outside world as they currently were. L'Sala sighed, then thrust her doubts and worries aside with her Mentalt's will. R'Narr's campaign was completely out of her paws, and worrying about it was useless. As she slipped the blanket over herself she concentrated on her mantra, clearing and calming her mind. Now was not the time for doubt and fear. Now was simply the time for calm and waiting. L'Sala knew had done everything she could weeks ago, and no amount of fretting or worrying would change the fact that at the moment, all that remained for her to do was wait and see.

Even so, it was still a long time before L'Sala finally managed to drift off to sleep.

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