The world wasn’t making sense to Favion Mageson. Not only had the city of Gorida been overrun by pincerlings, but he was meeting personally with General Kit to discuss the battle plan. Why was the general consulting with him? He was only a captain and had no official combat experience. Something else had to be going on.
“This isn’t normal, sir,” Favion said.
“What isn’t?” the general said in an oddly guilty tone.
“It’s one thing when pincerlings overwhelm a small village, but for them to take an entire city is unthinkable. I’ve never heard of this happening anywhere.”
“No, it’s never happened before,” Kit said.
General Kit seemed lost in thought, so Favion kept talking.
“Pincerlings are mindless, rampaging monsters. It’s not just that they don’t understand tactics. They lack the basic awareness to work together in any way whatsoever. They don’t have any kind of leadership. There is no queen pincerling or anything like that. So, how is it that they’ve taken a city? How did they muster enough coordination to breach the walls and take out the watch stations simultaneously?”
“I’m not concerned with how they think, Captain,” the general said. “My only concern is that we wipe them out of the city.”
“That’s just it, sir. They don’t think. And, if they’ve suddenly learned how to think, we’re in trouble. Honestly, I doubt it. I think it’s more likely a case of incompetence. Maybe the guards were sleeping at their posts? Maybe their captain was inept?”
“Their captain is NOT inept!” Kit said with surprising ferocity.
“I meant no disrespect, sir. I didn’t know the guy. It’s just, why wasn’t the alarm raised? I know a lot of soldiers don’t take pincerlings seriously and it gets them into trouble.”
“I assure you, she takes pincerlings every bit as seriously as you,” the general said thoughtfully. “In fact, she’s a bit like you. Her mother was a wizard who turned in front of her eyes. She’s been paranoid about pincerlings ever since.”
Something about that statement almost added up. Favion thought he was about to learn the real reason the general had called him in.
“Sir,” Favion said hesitantly. “Who was this captain?”
“You mean, ‘Who is this captain?’, because she’s still alive. Her name is Mira Kit. She’s my daughter.”
“I’m sorry, sir. I didn’t even know you had a daughter.”
“We try not to advertise the relationship. We don’t want to be accused of nepotism, but there’s no real need. Unlike you, she earned her rank.”
Why was he bringing that up? It was true Favion hadn’t gotten his captaincy in the traditional manner, but it was General Kit who had appointed him to it.
“I don’t think I was a bad choice for captain, sir,” Favion said defensively.
“No, I didn’t mean that. You’re a good leader and you had more practical experience fighting pincerlings before you even joined the army than most captains do now. You were an excellent choice for captain, but I had to pull strings to get you there. You owe me.”
General Kit stopped talking and looked Favion directly in the eyes. It was a “listen very carefully to what I’m about to say” look.
“I’ve got a mission for you. I’ve considered it very carefully and decided that you’re the only one I can trust with it. I’ve got ten companies of regular soldiers headed to Gorida, but before they can enter, you and your company of wizards are going on search and rescue. You will find my daughter and get her out of that city.”
That didn’t sound like a good idea to Favion.
“Sir, shouldn’t we investigate the apparent change pincerling tactics before we risk fifty lives on this? I hate to say it, but your daughter is probably dead or transformed into a pincerling?”
“She is NOT dead!” Kit shouted. “And, her life is more valuable than all of your wizards put together.”
“What was that you said about nepotism, sir?”