[This post is from Matt’s point of view.]
The question seemed to unlock his tongue and clear the blockage that had choked off his words. It didn’t erase all the nerves, though, and he kept pacing even as he started to speak. “It’s undoubtedly Orcus out there—we’ve confirmed that much—and he’s martialing an army. He plans to come after us in three days if we don’t accede to his demands, which we’re not going to do.” Matt managed to smile. “And he’s sure as hell not going to be very pleased with what we’re about to do either way.” He paused for a moment, starting into the fire as he chose his next words, thoughts racing.
Don’t panic, but don’t say what you’re about to say in a way that’s going to make anyone else panic, either. Just breathe. Breathe.
“I’ve talked to Anselm and he’s agreed to dispatch some additional Hunt scouts to get a better idea of what Orcus’s camp looks like, its exact location, and the makeup of his forces. With any luck, they’ll be back by later tonight. Tomorrow morning, we plan our assault.”
“Assault,” Cameron said, his eyes narrowing. “What are you talking about?”
“He gave us three days,” Thordin said, answering before Matt could. “Then he comes whether we’re ready or not. If I’m hearing correctly, I think Matt’s about to suggest a preemptive strike.” His gaze cut toward the younger man, his brow arching slightly. “If I’m not mistaken.”
“You’re not,” Matt said, feeling the tightness return to his chest for a few seconds. “Honestly, I don’t think we’ve got a choice on this one. I think we have to hit them before they hit us or we run the risk of not being able to hold them off.”
“What if we fail?” The question came softly, from a source he hadn’t quite expected. He glanced at Carolyn, who watched him carefully. “What if we attack them and we fail to deter them from coming after us? What then? What do we do?”
“I’d like to say that’s not an option,” Matt said.
“It’s probably not, but it’s a possibility. None of us are omniscient. We could lose. I’m sure that you’ll factor in every variable you can, but even if we do, we still might be walking into a fight that we can’t or simply won’t win.”
“Then we’ll have to put it to a vote with everyone,” Matt said. “What the fallback option is. I know that we’ll do as much as we can with our defenses here, but I don’t—” he stopped, taking a breath as the bottom dropped out of his stomach. “—I don’t want our only option to always be defending ourselves. At some point, our luck is going to run out. The fact that we keep winning hasn’t stopped new threats from coming at us and old threats from coming back. We have to do something. This is the only idea I’ve got.”