Altan shifted uneasily under the eyes of his fellow councilmen, but this was no time to back down. He set his jaw and planted his palms onto the cool, glossy surface of the long marble table. Before him sat nine men and women dressed in silk robes. Each watching him with studying eyes.
"We take Daskus." Now that he had said it, it was impossible to turn back. He kept himself from wincing at the scowls that some of the councilmen aimed at him. "More importantly, we take the Daskun Strait."
"You want to invade Daskus?" one man said in a heavy voice soaked in disapproval.
"Yes." Altan kept his back stiff. "The Daskun Strait is one of the busiest trade routes. We control the Strait and we can tax the ships that pass through."
"You want to wage war on an ally for a small trickle of coin?" a woman said from the far end of the table. She tilted her head to the side, regarding him as if he were a small child suggesting that they pull the moon down to the ground with a thread. Her thin lips hinted at an amused smile.
"More than a trickle," the woman sitting directly before Altan said. "A river. I've already worked it out." She gave the thin-lipped woman a wry smile with her own plump lips. She turned the smile to Altan as she spoke. "The profits of invading Daskus outweigh the costs. Their army is smaller than ours, so it will be a quick win. And the merchants who pass through the strait are wealthy."
Altan returned her smile and nodded. "Exactly."
"I cannot believe that you are in on this as well, Tamara." The white haired councilmen who spoke stared at her incredulously and she gave a small shrug. The man turned back on Altan. "And do you think the Sovereign will approve such a proposal?"
"Adonia lies on her death bed," Altan said flatly. "Unless she somehow recovers soon, we make the decisions in her place."
"Your impiety shames you!" the thin-lipped woman hissed. The other council men began muttering anxiously.
"Quiet!" A younger man slapped his hand onto the marble table and silenced the others. "The Sovereign as been absent long enough. We do what is best for Nivahl now."
Altan nodded to the man. "Thank you, Aron." He stared grimly at the others for a moment. Damn stubborn fools, just listen to me. "Were the Sovereign here now, she would know that this is what is best for this country."
"Is that so?"
Altan felt his skin grow cold as his gaze shifted to the door way. She stood there, dressed in a flowing red robe and peering at him with feigned kindness. "I think you take liberties, Altan." Adonia strode into the room with the deadly grace of a she-wolf.
"Heavanlight, your health is a blessing from the Gods!" He said, bowing deeply.
Her eyes narrowed slightly. "Your tongue turns to honey too quickly. Few call my Heavanlight who do not seek my mercy."
Altan back away as she approached, realizing he was standing in her place at the head of the table. "I don't seek mercy, Your majesty."
"So, you are the one who makes plans behind me back." She said as she came to rest where Altan had stood. Altan looked to Tamara and Aron, but their eyes remained downcast. Several of the others tried to hide triumphant grins.
"We did not know when you would return," he muttered weakly.
"And these plans were to invade Daskus, who has been an ally to Nivahl for nearly one hundred years. You fail to remember that it has been a valued alliance" She glanced at one of the men sitting to her right. "In fact, while I am thinking of it, we should be strengthening our ties with Daskus. Have a letter sent to Lord Aiseljah. I would like to meet with him again." She sighed heavily and turned back to Altan. "I do not wish to see you here any longer. Nor the capital for that matter. I will allow you ten days to leave Kei'vesh."
Altan felt his face pale. If only your husband had slit your throat. He gave her a deep bow. "As you wish." He strode toward the doorway with his eyes on the ground. He wanted to curse every pair of eyes that he could feel on his back, each reveling in his humiliation.
"Gods curse her!" He muttered. He was so focused on his contempt for Adonia and the council that he nearly ran into Adonia's bodyguard who had been standing guard just outside the doorway.
"Watch yourself. And your tongue for that matter." She seemed to glower down at him despite the fact that he was a good hand taller than she was. She wore two short blades at her hips as well as steel backed gloves, but to his relief she did not show signs of using them. "Call yourself blessed that I do not strike you down for such words."
"Deepest of apologies." He did not try to hide the irritation in his voice. She kept her blue-eyed glare locked onto him until he was out of sight.
He moved through the palace mechanically, barely noticing through which halls and corridors he passed. They won't have me beaten so soon or so easily. I will be sure that she learns her mistake and learns it so that she won't forget.
When he came to his home, he found his wife napping in their bed. Altan stood at the bedside for a moment, regarding her. Simply being near he was enough to make the anger ebb away. Her curly hair formed a honey-colored cloud around her face and soft shoulders. He leaned over her and pressed his lips to her neck. She murmured something sleepily, but he had already turned away from her..
He could have woken her and told her to begin packing her things, but he decided to let her sleep. He could not bring himself to ask her to come with him. It would be easier without her, anyway. He gathered his things quietly and pressed another kiss to her forehead before donning a thick wool cloak. "I'm sorry," he whispered regretfully as he left.