Weavers of War
Forelands for nearly nine centuries.
    The sky had already begun to brighten when he ended the last of these conversations. He hadn’t slept at all. He should have been too weary to stand. Instead, he felt invigorated. The sky over the Imperial Palace glowed indigo and the moons hung low to the west. What a glorious day to begin his reign.
    He had a servant bring him his morning meal, and this time he ate, like a newly robed cleric breaking his fast. When he had finished, he sat by the window and dozed until the first of the ministers arrived for the day’s discussion. He watched them file into the chamber, singly and in pairs, their hair as white as bone, their eyes a dozen different shades of gold and yellow. He had heard it said among the Eandi that all Qirsi looked the same. Dusaan couldn’t have disagreed more. There was as much variety in the Qirsi face as in the Eandi, and far more beauty. Their skin was as pure as new snow, their features as fine as Sanbiri metalwork. He would challenge any man in the Forelands to show him an Eandi woman as beautiful as Jastanne, or Cresenne for that matter.
    His mood darkened at the thought of Cresenne. Had she not betrayed him for Grinsa, she would have been one of those whose dreams he entered this past night. She could have had a hand in this momentous day, she could have been his queen and shared with him the glorious future he had conceived and would soon create. Instead, she would die an enemy of the new Qirsi court. A pity. But she had brought this fate upon herself.
    “We’re all here, High Chancellor.”
    He looked up to find Nitara standing before him, lovely in her own way, her face flushed with desire for him, and, just perhaps, her anticipation of what was about to happen in this chamber.
    Dusaan gazed past her to find that all of them were watching him: Gorlan looking younger than the Weaver had ever seen him, a smile on his lips; Stavel looking old and scared, as well he should. The others appeared oblivious, some even bored. That wouldn’t last long.
    He smiled at Nitara and gestured for her to sit. “Thank you, Minister.”
    How many times had he envisioned the scene unfolding before him? For how long had he been composing what he was about to say? It seemed to Dusaan that his entire life had been leading to this very moment.
    “Have you any further word from Pinthrel, High Chancellor?”
    The Weaver glared at Stavel, causing the old man to shrink back into his chair.
    “All of you have heard rumors of the Qirsi movement, the so-called conspiracy that threatens the Eandi courts, that strikes fear into the hearts of nobles throughout the Forelands, that unmans Braedon’s emperor. For many turns now, we’ve denounced this movement, just as the emperor would expect. We’ve done so to keep ourselves from being branded as traitors, we’ve done so because as servants of an Eandi lord we could do no less.”
    “High Chancellor,” Stavel said meekly, “what does this have to do with the pestilence and Pinth—?”
    Dusaan pounded his fist on the writing table. “Will you be silent?” He closed his eyes briefly, trying to compose himself, trying to remember exactly where he’d been in his oration. “As I say, we’ve denounced this so-called conspiracy because that’s what was expected of us. But how many of us have wished for the freedom promised by this movement? How many of us have dreamed of a day when Qirsi ruled in the great cities of the Forelands? I know that I have.”
    “What are you saying?”
    It wasn’t Stavel this time, but rather one of the young ministers. He looked nearly as frightened as Stavel. Indeed, with the exception of Nitara and Gorlan, all of them appeared scared, like children caught in a sudden storm.
    “I’m saying just what you think I am. I believe the time has come to put an end to Eandi rule in the Forelands. Our people have served inferior men for too long. We possess great powers. Qirsar has given us the gift of his

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