Breanna hurried behind Mim as she marched from the Tor toward the others. There was a sudden determination in her stride that gave Breanna hope. Had she come up with a plan? Was there something else they could do?
“Right,” Mim said as she reached the curious companions, “You can all go.”
As they began to argue with Mim, she replied by flapping her arms, “be off yer!”
“You’re sending them away?” Breanna asked breathlessly, she wasn’t ready for them to leave. She didn’t want to be left alone with Mim in the abandoned Tor.
“You too,” Mim replied, “getaway, far as you can. Training you were our last chance, but even that was remote. But now… ” she raised her hands in defeat.
“But you can’t just give up!” Leasha pleaded.
“You must have some idea where the others have gone,” Breanna pointed out, “there must be some other place I could train?”
Mim shook her head and sighed. “There is another, far in the Islands of the North-”
“Then let’s go,” Breanna replied.
“The Wizard’s have gone,” Mim said slowly, “There is no saying if the Wizards of Cara Brae would take us in and it would take more moons than I can count to cross that distance.”
“But when we get there,” Broc asked, “They would train Breanna?”
“I-” Mim raised her arms again, “I cannot say.”
“Then you train me,” Breanna said, “we have been doing well,” she thought back to her slow sessions. They had barely been making any progress at all. She corrected herself, “At least we have made some progress.”
Mim laughed. “I’m good my dear but there were books here containing all the knowledge of the ancients all the work of hundreds of Wizards over generations,” she looked back to marvel at the Tor, “not to mention the different branches of magic, I can teach you some elemental magic, I can teach you to light a fire and if you have the gift then one day I may teach you to bring down rain or even direct lightning… but Dragon speak? I could not hope to teach you that,” she shook her head, “there was one here who had studied the gift although I confess even she did not possess it. It was an obsession of hers and I hoped she could teach you all she knew but…” Mim opened her hands helplessly, “she has gone.”
“So that’s it then?” Leasha asked, “We give up?”
“I don’t see what else we can do-”
Mim laughed. “Fight? We barely survived the journey, how are we going to fight?”
“The Elves would help,” Cassian said, “We have an army of hundreds and many more across the sea in Vingeld.”
“We too,” Koax cut in, “we are of the water yet we fight on land for our friend.” They lay a warm hand on Breanna’s shoulder and it comforted her to know the Fenner was so loyal.
Broc nodded. “The woodlanders would lend their hunters.”
“Hunters, rangers, and fishers?” Mim looked around at their impassioned faces. “You’ll all die at the feet of the Dragons unless this one here can command them.”
“Then we’ll find this Wizard of yours,” Breanna said desperately, “Or you can train me-” she looked around at her friends, they had travelled so far and given up so much because they believed in her, she didn’t want to let them down, “I want to help I don’t want to just… die for no reason. I don’t want my dad to have died for no reason.”
Mim was quiet, she turned away from them and Leasha glanced at Breanna there was hope and a fire in her eyes that made her stomach swirl.
“How many?” asked Mim, turning back to Cassian, “You say hundreds, but how many? And how fast can we can gather them?”
She flummoxed for Cassian a moment.
“They number two thousand mounted archers with a further three thousand footsoldiers trained with stave and spear,” Koax replied smoothly. Cassian raised his eyebrows at the Fenner who opened their hands with a shrug. “An ambassador must know the capabilities of their… friends.”
They laughed but Mim shook her head. “And the Fenwater Marshes, you have how many?”
“The Guard of the Monarch numbers three hundred. And our Border Patrol number four thousand.”
Mim nodded but her frown remained, she turned to Broc. “You?”
“I erm…” mystified, Broc looked to Breanna. There had never been a call to know the number of hunters amongst their people.
But Breanna thought for a moment, “There were twenty-two hunters in our village weren’t there?”
Broc narrowed his brows. “Yes…”
“And how many villages were there in the wood? Thirty? Forty?”
He thought for a moment, “Forty-six.”
“So if they all have more or less twenty… nearly nine-hundred hunters. Then there are elders and those in training…”
He nodded. “I’d say a thousand Woodlanders could fight.” He looked to Mim with enthusiasm but she shook her head slowly.
“Ten thousand… ten thousand willing to die and yet it would not be enough.”
“But surely—” Leasha broke in.
“The Dragon Army number more. We have seen them. And now they have the soldiers of Midwinter to swell their army and provide them with more cavalry. Not to mention the Sycorax, and of course, the Dragons.”
“Then we find more,” Breanna said, desperate that this wasn’t the end. They couldn’t give up, not when they had come so far.
“More?” asked Mim.
“Well….” she stammered, “more people, more armies, more who will fight to stop the Dragons…” she remembered the images she had seen that day on the beach, when she had been in the Dragon Realm; there had been more than Elves, Fenners, and Druids. She had seen them all at once. It had been overwhelming, too much for her to take in yet now as she looked back on it was as though she had travelled the world in an instant. “There are people in snow, in mountains their skin the colour of the sky, and then there are those in darkness living under the earth, thousands of them, and there are people like you, Mim, aren’t there? More Dwarves, Dwarves of the mountain.”
Mim stared at her, pale. “Why do you speak of them?”
“I saw them,” she looked around at the others, as dumbstruck as Mim, “When I was… I saw them… but that doesn’t matter, what matters is that there are other people who have suffered at the hands of the Dragons, others who must join us to put an end to this.”
There was silence for a long time, Mim slowly shook her head but it was more in surprise than in defeat.
“If that is what you want, Bree, then I’m with you to the end.” Broc lay a hand on her shoulder, it was heavy and strong, “We made a promise to our people that we would set out to overcome this and I will not return home until I know there will be a safe home to return to.”
“I’m with you as well.” Leasha stood by her other side and all three of them faced down the defeated Dwarf.
“None of you’re going anywhere without me,” Cassian reminded them.
“You are joined by me until the end.” Koax gripped her other shoulder and she felt strong with so many friends by her side.
“Well,” Mim started, flabbergasted, “this is all very heartwarming but not one practical thing has been said.”
“But,” Breanna said, “If we can all encourage our people to fight can you not… speak to the other Dwarves?”
Mim’s eyes widened, “Oh,” she started, “They was glad to be rid of me I don’t suppose they would be happy to see me again let alone join me in a Dragon war.”
“But they are suffering,” Breanna added and this softened Mim’s features, she turned to her.
“They suffer?” she asked.
Breanna nodded and Mim turned away staring off into the distance. The others looked at one another. They were all beyond the boundaries of their farthest travels. If they had any hope of finding and gathering armies in the wilds, they needed to know where to go, and they needed a way to persuade others to join their fight; they needed Mim. “We cannot go to the Dwarves,” Mim said firmly. And the shoulders of the group collectively dropped. “But mayhap, if we tell people we have a Dragon Mage on our side, they may be encouraged to join us.”
“But,” Breanna started, “I’m not a Dragon Mage. Not properly.”
“You will have to be.” Mim pointed the staff in her direction then sniffed and turned to look toward the south, her eyes narrowed. “There is somewhere we need to go first, a palace. We must speak to the Cornovii. If Wynne has gone anywhere, that’s where she’ll be, and you two,” she pointed at Broc and Breanna, “would certainly ruffle some feathers down there.”
“You’ll help?” Breanna said, delighted and suddenly terrified, “We’re going to gather an army?”
“Well, I’m not about to sit around here gathering dust am I?” Mim smiled and Breanna grinned. “But,” she said, stepping back to look at the group, “if we are to do this it must be done quickly. It’s gonna be a race to gather the largest force, and the Druids of the Dragon March have a head start. This means,” Mim continued, “Some of you are gonna have to go back, recruit the Elves, Fenners and Wealderlings, while the rest of us find new recruits. You must decide amongst yourselves who comes along, and who goes back.”