By morning, we had our troop deployment roughed in. I knew General Halbren well enough to know that I could leave the refinements up to him, so we moved on from there. ‘I’m sure that at least some units of the Wacite army managed to escape the bonfire at Vo Wacune,’ I said. ‘Tell Halbren to give making contact with those people the highest priority.’
‘T’ swell our own ranks, me Lady?’ Malon suggested.
‘No. If we do things right, we won’t need more men. What we do need is information about Asturian troop movements. My generals have to know exactly where the Asturians are massing to come across the River Camaar so that we can be ready to meet them. The Wacites hiding out in the woods down there will be our eyes. Have General Halbren impress the idea on those survivors that passing information on to us is far more important than randomly murdering any Asturians they come across.’
‘Spyin’ ain’t considered t’ be th’ most honorable o’ professions, me lady,’ Malon reminded me.
‘We’ll make it honorable, Malon. Tell Halbren to wave the word “patriot” in front of the surviving Wacites. We have to make them understand the notion that it’s a Wacite’s patriotic duty not to get killed with even the tiniest bit of useful information still locked up in his mind.’
‘That’s always assumin’ that there be any Wacites left down there,’ Malon said. ‘There’s bin a steady stream o’ people comin’ across the River Camaar, don’t y’ know.’
‘We’ll have to make arrangements for them, I think. After we take Muros, we’ll set up camps for them and provide food.’
‘Tis a kindly, charitable person y’ are, me Lady.’
‘Kindness has nothing to do with it, Malon. I want the Wacites who choose to remain down there to know that their wives and children are safe and well cared for up here. That should encourage them to spy for us just as hard as they possibly can. Now, then, let’s have a look at the defenses of our coasts.’
By evening, we’d sketched out the preparations for the inevitable war lurking just over the horizon, and then I turned to something that definitely needed attention. ‘Now then, Malon, you and I are going to have to be able to communicate, and we won’t have time to wait around for messengers on horseback to run back and forth between here and where I’m currently living.’
‘An’ where might that be, yer Grace?’
‘My father and I aren’t speaking right now. He was taking me back to his tower in the Vale of Aldur, but I took up residence in my mother’s old house at the northern end of the Vale instead. He’s the nosey type, so I’m sure he’ll try to keep an eye on me. I don’t want to give him any excuses to come here to start snooping around, so I’ll have to stay fairly close to mother’s cottage. You’re going to have to pass my orders on to General Halbren.’ I gave him a direct look. ‘You know who I am, don’t you, Malon?’
‘Of course, yer Grace. Yer th’ Duchess o’ Erat.’
‘Let’s go back beyond that. Who was I before I became the Duchess?’
‘I’m told y’ was Polgara th’ Sorceress.’
‘I still am, Malon. It’s not something you can get rid of. I can do things that other people can’t. You know that little room at the top of the northwest tower?’
‘Y’ mean th’ little place where th’ upstairs maids bin keepin’ their brooms an’ mops?’
‘Is that what they’re doing with it now? That wasn’t what your great uncle and I had in mind for it when we built the house. Anyway, I’ve cast a spell on that room. Killane and I used to use it when we needed to talk with each other when I was away. He’d go up there when he needed to tell me something, and I could hear him when he said something to me – no matter where I really was.’
‘What a marvel!’
‘It’s fairly commonplace in my family. Why don’t you go up there right now? Let’s find out if it still works.’
‘If that’s what y’ll after be wantin’, yer Grace.’ He rose to his feet and left, his expression dubious.
Notice that I’d hurried through the explanation and decorated it with a few out and out lies. There wasn’t anything special about that room, but I wanted Malon to believe that there was.
I think my father explained to Garion one time that what we call “talent” in our family is latent in all humans, and as long as someone has reason to believe that something’s going to happen, it probably will. If Malon was convinced that the broom closet at the top of the tower was a magic place, my plan would work.
I gave him several minutes to get up there, and then I sent my thought out to him. ‘Malon Killaneson, can you hear me?’
‘As clear as if y’ were standin’ right beside me, yer Grace,’ he exclaimed, his voice distorted.
‘Don’t talk, Malon. Put what you want to say in your thoughts instead. Form the words in your mind, not your mouth.’
‘What a wonder!’ His thought was much clearer than his voice had been.
‘Give me a moment to brush the cobwebs off the spell, Malon,’ I said. ‘I haven’t used the place in centuries.’ I’ve noticed that little touches of housekeeping tend to reinforce belief. ‘There,’ I said after a minute or so, ‘is that better?’
‘Much better, me Lady.’ Actually, there was no real difference.
We tried for some distance after that, and we continued the little game until well after midnight, and by then the whole thing was firmly locked in Malon’s mind. Then we returned to the library. ‘I’d probably better be getting back now,’ I told him. ‘Father’s almost certain to come nosing about soon. He’s got me pinned down, so you’re going to have to convey my orders to General Halbren. I’ll give you a written authorization to speak for me, and that should head off any arguments. You and I are going to have to stay in close contact, so I want you to go up to that tower room every day at sunset so that we can talk. You’ll have to let me know what’s going on and advise me about things that need my attention. I’ll tell you how to deal with anything that comes up.’
‘Isn’t it th’ clever one y’ are, me Lady? Y’ve come up w’ a way t’ be in two places at once.’
‘Well, not quite. It’s a cumbersome way to do business, but we haven’t got much choice. Once we’re firmly in control of Muros, we’ll have Halbren set up headquarters in some building there and I’ll cast a spell on one of the rooms so that you and I’ll be able to communicate there as well as here. That way you won’t have to spend all your time on horseback carrying messages. Warn Halbren that when he occupies Muros there’s to be no looting and no atrocities. The people in Muros aren’t our enemies.’