Onyx cradled his black-gloved hands together. “This report is disturbing, Pearl.”
“Did you imagine that news for the Lands of Light on the threshold of the Great War would not be?” replied his fellow Pendant member.
“I at least hoped that the leader of the forces of Light would be someone sane,” noted Onyx. “I need not remind you that the War is vital to our plans, Pearl. If Amfortas exhausts his own forces too early the Cthoniques will have regrouped by the time our own designs have begun. Indeed, they may very well be stronger than they were before.”
Emerald sighed. “Must we have this ruinous war, gentlemen? It seems a rather poor thing to become the rulers of blasted, ruined land…”
Sapphire chucked. “You were given numerous chances to give them something else, my dear. And you failed.” He turned and regarded Opal. “You and your little associate…”
“Hey!” said Opal. “You were all very enthusiastic when I came to you will all my know-how on destroying the Cthoniques! But these days, I hear nothing but complaints! Very unfair complaints! Not one of you wants the Cthoniques as dead as I do, but you all act like it’s my fault that they aren’t!”
Sapphire sighed. “It appears, darling Opal, you have a rather… tangled grasp of causality. Something that explains… so many of your plots…” Jasper chuckled quietly from his corner at that.
Opal stood up and pointed an accusing finger at her associate. “And you Sapphire, are…” She thought it over for a moment. “Mean to me! You’re very, very mean to me!”
“That is enough, both of you,” said Onyx. “We did not call this meeting to turn this into yet another childish squabbling match.” Sapphire and Opal turned away from each other, and it was easy to think that if Opal had had a visible face, it would be pouting. Onyx regarded Emerald once again. “We understand your objections, Emerald, but sadly, this is necessary. The Necklace does not have the forces to establish control if the Cthoniques and those who’d ally with them are not weakened first.”
“Which does not require the much-vaunted Great War to start and reduce the lands to soot and ashes,” noted Emerald pointedly.
“Perhaps,” noted Onyx with a grudging nod. “But that is another part of the equation, Emerald--the War is coming anyway.” Emerald appeared about to say something, but Onyx raised one black-gloved hand. “Trust me, I know of what I speak. The Lands of Light have been obsessing over this great struggle of theirs for some time, and Shaddad’s recent excursion has left them on edge--especially Leonais. It was Pelleas’ falling out with the War party there that allowed Amfortas to accumulate power, in the beginning…”
“In the beginning?” noted Sapphire, clearly puzzled.
“He’s since established his own power base,” said Pearl. “A process that involved much of the War party dying mysteriously over the years.”
Jasper chuckled. “One can’t fault the man for enthusiasm.” His fingers idly tapped the tabletop. “What of the Easter King? Could we perhaps gain his services?”
“Skarvsky’s is too much a creature of opportunity,” said Pearl. “In his own way, he’s as much a risk as Amfortas, though a different sort. Amfortas at least will fight in the War as long as he can--Ilarion’s likely to snatch a few gains, then start negotiating peace. He might mouth the words about this being the Great War, but in the end, it’d simply another war for him.”
“In other words, Amfortas may be too crazy, but Ilarion Skarvsky is too sane,” said Jasper.
“Aptly put,” noted Onyx. “Still… we maybe able to find some use for the Easter King…”
“Can we please get to the ‘killing the Cthoniques’ part of the meeting? Please?” whined Opal. “I have some great ideas! Great, wonderful ideas!”
“Do any of them involve bears?” asked Sapphire
Opal crossed her arms. “That was just once. Also it involved ‘A bear’. Not ‘bears’. ” She idly scratched her chin. “Say… if I had used bears that time, it would have…”
“No, it wouldn’t have,” said Sapphire bluntly.