When Zarius reached the large but unattractive room built to house the leaders of the Heilodius Centaur army, the generals were already gathered, talking in small groups or milling around with impatience. When Zarius entered, all became silent. All eyes focused on the Commander.
Without making eye contact with any of them, Zarius marched up to the front of the room, his hooves pounding out a four-beat rhythm on the uneven wooden planks on the floor. Slowly, deliberately, he turned to face his followers.
“I have called you here because I sense a change in the air.” He paused and looked over the generals. He took a deep breath, expanding his chest. “The Duende girl, Carling, is becoming too powerful. If we do not step in, she will gather the third stone for that silly breastplate she wears. With each stone, the races of Crystonia become more aware of the Silver Breastplate and more convinced that she is the rightful heir to the throne. We cannot allow this to continue. As meaningless as the Silver Breastplate is, there are far too many who are gullible enough to believe in its authenticity.”
At this, a few of the Centaurs looked at one another. They were present when a beam of light from the Silver Breastplate worn by the Duende girl struck one of their own and killed him. These few were not convinced that it was a meaningless artifact, regardless of what Zarius was saying. Yet, even they remained committed to the Heilodius cause…to secure the throne and rule Crystonia.
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