Jillian sits on her bed. In front of her is the Thinkagram image of Don King. Her armor lies on a rack next to her bed, and two swords and two daggers lie symmetrically on the wall on both sides of her bed. Above her bed is a picture of a field at either sunrise or sunset.
"Jillian...others might be inclined to see cowardice in your choice, but I see a certain nobility there. Reckless and foolish, of course, but noble. There is a passage from Scripture that comes to mind. Give me one moment..."
The image lowered its gaze. She couldn't picture his hands, but he seemed to be leafing through a book on his desk. At one point, he licked his thumb.
"Ah, here. This is from the Book of Buddy. 'For a King or a Warlord may cut a fine swath by sword, yet still they may fall to an enemy blow. Or a King or a Warlord may hide behind walls, safe from the weapons of their enemies, but still they may starve and depop. But the King or the Warlord who goes forth, a sword in one hand to conquer, a shield in the other to protect, shall both progress and conserve, and therefore prosper, whatever their Luck may bring. Wisdom stands with one foot on either side of the bell curve.'"
She sort of stared at the image of Don, waiting for what he was saying to click. It didn't.
"I don't use a shield," she pointed out.
"And it shows," said Don, smiling. "And I don't use a sword, as you can see from my big fat belly and my terrible Signamancy. We could both, perhaps, learn something from this passage. Some Rulers play for gains, and some play to prevent losses. You could have stayed and protected Slately, but you made a play for Ansom instead. You played for a gain, as is in your nature. It is not the choice I would have made, but I can respect it."
She looked at his image dubiously. "Really?"
"Ansom was a Royal," said Don. "If he could have been redeemed, turned, restored to himself? That, I believe, was an effort worth making. We've lost too many lately. Far too many. I do miss my talks with Bea."
"But," said Don, brightening suddenly, "we will soon have new gains! My son or daughter will pop in less than forty more turns. And since Vinny also mentioned that your Turnamancer returned safely, I assume that yours will pop...tomorrow? Are you excited?"
Actually, Jillian had been trying not to think about it. Avoiding thinking about things was a skill on par with her swordsmanship.
"Of course," she lied.
"What I really want," said Jillian, looking down at the rug where her slippered feet were planted. Her ankles looked swollen, for some reason. She guessed her own Signamancy was changing, too. "Is a flyer. I think I'd be happy with anyone, if they could fly."
Don King smiled. "So you wish for still another sword. Be careful, that's—"
But the image faded. The Thinkagram had ended.