"You're not going to find anything like rocks—or even logs—in marshy country, Sorgan," Narasan replied.
"Ah, well," Sorgan said, "the temple's there anyway. It shouldn't be too hard to knock it down so that we can build a fort."
"Our sister will come apart at the seams if you do that, Sorgan," Zelana told him.
"And you'll be able to hear her priests screaming from ten miles away," Dahlaine added.
"Not after my scouts come back and report that the bug-people are eating the farmers alive, I won't," Sorgan disagreed.
"When the fat ones hear that, they might even offer to help. Just how big would you say that temple is, Narasan?"
"About a mile or so square," Narasan replied.
"You're not serious!"
"The priesthood's been building Aracia's temple for centuries, Sorgan," Dahlaine said.
"You should be able to build quite a wall with that much stone, Sorgan," the warrior queen Trenicia said.
"The screaming's likely to go on for a long time, though," Veltan added.
"Not if the stories my scouts bring back from the countryside are awful enough, it won't," Sorgan disagreed. "If the priests hear about a bug that's twelve feet tall and rips out a man's liver when it gets hungry, they'll run for cover and tell us to do whatever's necessary to hold back the monsters—and they'll be hiding so far back in the temple that they won't see daylight for at least a month."
"I like it!" Narasan said enthusiastically.
"That's the way we'll do 'er then, old friend," Sorgan replied with a broad grin.
Zelana smiled. The unlikely seeming friendship between Sorgan and Narasan seemed to be growing stronger and stronger, and now it appeared that they'd do almost anything to help each other.
While their men were preparing for the long march to the east coast of Dahlaine's part of the Land of Dhrall, Sorgan, Narasan, and several others spent most of their time carefully studying the map.
"I'm going to need those ships as soon as you unload your men down in Aracia's temple-town, Sorgan," Narasan reminded his friend. "I'll still have more than half of my army sitting on that beach on the east coast."
"No problem," Sorgan replied. "The ships would only clutter up the harbor of temple-town anyway. Then too, if Aracia's priests look at your ships too long, they might decide that they want a navy so that they can go out to sea to preach to the fish." He frowned slightly. "Do the people down there actually call their city 'temple-town? Most places have fancier names."
"The priests—and Aracia herself—never refer to the place as a town, Sorgan," Narasan explained. "The people who live out beyond the walls might have a different name, I suppose, but the people you'll be dealing with just speak of 'the temple.' It's entirely possible, I guess, that most of the priests aren't even aware of the buildings and houses outside the temple walls. For them, the temple is the whole world."
"That's stupid," Sorgan said.
"I think that's the word most people use when they're talking about any priesthood, Sorgan," Narasan said with a faint smile.
Longbow had been studying the map, and he gestured to Sorgan.
The Maag captain joined him. "Do you see anything that might go wrong?" he asked.
"Not so far, friend Sorgan. It just came to me, though, that most of your fleet is still sitting in the bay over there."
"They'd better be," Sorgan replied. "I sent Skell over there to keep a tight grip on them."
"I'm sure that more archers will be very useful once we're in Long-Pass, and it's only a few days south of where your ships are anchored to the village of Old-Bear, where hundreds of archers are sitting around telling stories to each other. If Skell picked them up and carried them on up to that fishing village on the coast, they'd only be a few days behind us, and they'll probably reach the upper mouth of Long-Pass before the bug-people come storming out of the Wasteland."
"That's not a bad idea at all, Longbow," Sorgan approved. "It'll keep the sailors busy, and it'll give Narasan some help when he's likely to need it."
"I definitely approve," Narasan said, "and I'll take all the help I can get."
Longbow continued to stare at Dahlaine's replication of Eastern Dhrall. "There's this range of low, rounded hills running down along the east side of the Land of Dhrall. I think that when we reach that range, I'll lead the archers of Tonthakan on down that way, and Old-Bear's archers won't be too far behind us. We'll most likely be at the upper end of Long-Pass even before Narasan's fort-builders get there. We can make sure that there won't be any surprises for the Trogites when they go up there to build forts."
"I'll get word to Skell," Sorgan said. Then he looked over at his friend. "How many forts were you planning to build?" he asked Narasan.
"As many as the Vlagh gives me time to build," Narasan replied. "I'd go for one fort every mile or so down that pass if I've got enough time. The bug-people don't like forts, so I'll make things as unpleasant for them as I possibly can."
"How are you going to keep the bugs from smoking you out again like they did down in Crystal Gorge?" Rabbit asked.
"Veltan and I can take care of that if it's necessary," Dahlaine said, "but I don't think the bugs will try that again. The prevailing wind down there comes in out of the east, and if they tried greasy smoke again, that wind would blow it right back in their faces."
"The Vlagh almost has to be desperate this time, big brother," Veltan said. "The other three regions have been blocked off, so this is the only way left. If she doesn't win this time, she'll spend the rest of eternity trapped out there in the Wasteland. She'll do almost anything to get her servants past you."
"We'll have to make sure that she doesn't succeed then, little brother," Dahlaine said quite firmly.
It was somewhat later, and all of the outlanders had gone to their beds. Zelana and her brothers lingered in the map room, however. All three of them were quite certain that they'd soon be getting more instructions. Longbow had also remained behind, but he didn't say why.
It was perhaps midnight when the door opened and Balacenia and her glowing, mist-covered companion joined them on the balcony. "One of you will have to go to sister Aracia's temple with Sorgan," the Misty Lady told them.
"I'll take care of that," Veltan volunteered. "Aracia thinks of me as an immature creature without much of a brain, so she won't pay any attention to me."