The pavilion at the center of the Concord Army encampment was massive, but when viewed up close it seemed oddly piecemeal. The great ring of marble columns held up a domed copper-green roof that seemed to be original to the structure, but the spaces between the columns appeared to originally have been open to the outside and only recently filled in partially by walls of dusty-colored fired brick four or five paces high and partially by wide sheets of white-bleached cloth that rippled in the breeze much as the sails of the Nostrus Turus had.
We were met at the entrance by a pale, thin Euphentine man wearing a white sleeveless robe and a yellow sash. He bowed to Sir Hagan as we approached. “The Concord officially welcomes those who come to join us from the Kingdom of Tilaird,” the man said, in heavily-accented Tillish. “I am called Lares. Do you speak Euphenti?”
“I do,” Sir Hagan replied in Euphenti, “and I can speak for my men.”
“Of course, sir,” Lares said in his native tongue. The man smiled a little. “In truth, that’s something of a relief. I was assigned to be your translator if needed, but I have not been to Tilaird in more than ten years, and I fear I’ve gotten out of practice speaking it.” He turned and gestured behind him, into the pavilion. “Come in, please. The other delegations have set up rooms here in the headquarters, so they should already be in the hall.”
We stepped through the brick arch of the entrance and into the pavillion. The interior of the structure was much like the exterior; the outer ring of columns was only the first of at least three layers, concentric circles of smooth marble pillars extending all the way to the roof fifteen or twenty paces above. Portions of the inside had been walled off with the same clay bricks that made up the outer walls to make rooms and hallways, but the hanging cloth surrounded only the outside of the pavilion, leaving the interior space clear. I could see the curve of the dome far above us, the interior surface stained black with smoke and green with age.
Lares lead us down a short hallway that ran toward the middle of the structure, then turned into a longer, curved hall that seemed to follow between two of the rings of columns. “I’ve heard from here and there about a battle in your capitol shortly before the Concord made contact with your King Creag, a great victory for your men. Are the rumors true?”
Sir Hagan smiled, and nodded. “They are. The enemy were powerful but they were few in number, and without their…” He paused for a moment. “Once they were no longer able to effect our minds, we had little trouble. We sustained some casualties, but the enemy were destroyed utterly.”
Lares turned his head to look at Sir Hagan. “Utterly? Killed to the man?”
“To the man,” Sir Hagan said. I adjusted the dagger at my belt, making sure the hilt wasn’t covered by the folds of my shirt.
Lares cocked his head and narrowed his eyes a little, looking past Sir Hagan at me. “Good,” he said, “so you’ve clearly worked out how to shield yourselves from their glamour.”
“I’m not familiar with the term ‘glamour’, but if you’re referring to…” Sir Hagan paused a moment, and then looked back and forth between Lares and me. He raised a hand. “Forgive me, friend Lares, I’ve suddenly realized that I’ve done something that may have appeared intended to deceive. When I said that I spoke Euphenti and could speak for my men, I did not intend to imply that none of my men spoke the language except me. Young Mason here is also familiar with it.”
Lares took a long look at both me and Sir Hagan, and then nodded. “It is I who must ask your forgiveness, sir. It is not in the spirit of the Concord for us to distrust each other, and yet this enemy makes us doubt even things we think certain.”
“I understand entirely,” Sir Hagan said, as Lares lead us into a side passage running deeper toward the center of the pavilion. I shot Sir Hagan an apologetic look, but he responded with a small shake of the head and a dismissive hand gesture. “Let us say no more about it,” he said to Lares. “As I was saying, I’m not sure what you mean by ‘glamour’.”
“The glamour is the passive magical ability the Fae all share.” Lares pointed to his head. “The effect of their presence, that clouds mens’ minds and makes them willing to obey the Fae’s instructions without thought or question.”
“Ah, yes,” Sir Hagan said, “of course. Yes, we discovered a method to protect ourselves, a method we’re more than happy to share with the Concord.”
“No need,” Lares said, “though the sentiment will be appreciated, I’m sure. We discovered the means to dissipate the effect of the glamour while the Fae were still spreading across Atlin. Distributing that protection to as many soldiers as possible was one of the prime reasons the Concord of Man was formed, in fact.”
“Very good, then,” Sir Hagan said. We reached the end of the short passage, which ended in a door of heavy wood, wrapped with thick brass bands. “And I’ll assume ‘the Fae’ is the name the Concord has chosen to describe our enemy?”
“Yes. Well, actually, it’s the name they use for themselves, I believe.” Lares unlatched the door and pushed it open, gesturing us though.
“I see,” said Sir Hagan, stepping through the door. “But wait, how does the Concord know what they…”
The other knights stepped in the door behind Sir Hagan, and Bat and I stepped in behind them. We stood at the edge of a large, circular room, the middle of the central ring of pillars, with the center of the dome directly above us. A low, circular marble plinth sat at the center of the chamber. The top of the plinth had a rough surface that suggested it had once held a statue, but nothing sat upon the marble now, and a band of wood had been built around the plinth to turn it into a massive round table.
The five seats nearest the door we’d entered through were empty, but the rest of the chairs around the table were filled, with men and women nearly as varied in appearance as those I’d seen on the docks in Austiopoli. As my eyes scanned the table, I found them drifting toward one face in particular, one woman sitting next to a man in a draping robe the same yellow color as Lares’ sash.
I didn’t recognize her, but I felt a moment of horrible familiarity as I stared at her long silver-blonde hair, her thin, high cheeks, her gracefully pointed ears. Then the moment ended and I could feel nothing but a warm, pleasant contentment, an easy and peaceful acceptance that whatever she asked of us would be the best thing we could do.
At least I knew what to call them now, I thought, somewhere deep within the recesses of my mind. At least I knew what to call her.