Maba stared into the eyes of Dread Anna. He stood nearly on tip-paws, trying to bring himself to her height, his lip quivering as he stared into the eyes of the greatest hero and worst villain both in the history of the Peshga tribe, no in all the history of the Parua.
Maba knew he had a choice to make– he could walk away now, could stay safe from the ire of Dread Dead Anna, but he knew that if he did, the Peshga Tribe was doomed. Silently he prayed to Padaga for courage, then spoke, channeling the bold forebears who had come before him, from the first mouse who pulled the thorn from Padaga’s foot don to the strongest and bravest of the gigants.
Then he opened his mouth and spoke. “You won’t leave me here in the Sill. You won’t hop off on your own business or go on ahead to the story circle. You would never abandon the Peshga tribe in a time of true need, and–”
Annika snatched the younger Parua by the nape of his neck, hefting him off the ground by an inch, the muscles in the thin hand straining as she pulled him close, “What makes you think I’d consider this a time of true need? Mercenaries? Rezgari mercenaries I suppose?”
“You mean to tell me Old One Eye, that salty Pitr whose built his career robbing caravans and guarding them in turns means suddenly to make a brazen assault instead? Him who prefers to be bought out of any assault he has been bought into? It was the Rezgari double cross, after all.”
“Old One Eye is out. The Rezgari have a new leader.” Maba peeled her fingers apart, restoring himself to his feet, steeling his courage against his fears, “You haven’t heard?”
“No. Who is this new leader then?”
Maba looked once more into the eyes of the famed Peshga heroine, “She came upon the Rezgari on the edges of the wastes two years back, or so the story is told. She put Old One Eye’s head on a pike, poked out the eye that remained. The Rezgari answer to her now, and to her lieutenant, formerly of the Pingara, a human man known as the Bane of Backalore.”
Annie’s eyes narrowed at the name. “Someone has brought the Bane to heel?” Maba nodded. “This woman, who killed One Eye, cowed the Bane, and rules the Rezgari then, who is she?”
“No one knows her true name. But she is called the Gray Queen.”
Even Mitzia shuddered as the scout uttered the words.