"Not at all," said the King of Transylvito. "If I could fly, I would probably spend more time in the air than my warlords do. Count me jealous. As it is, I am poolside. Swimming is as close as I can come to the sensation."
It was true; in the little window of light that appeared in Tramennis' vision, Don King was shirtless and seated in a lounge chair in some kind of grand bathing chamber. He wore a towel around his neck and dark spectacles, despite the fact that his swimming pool appeared to be indoors. As a diplomat, Tramennis took this as a sign that Don had become comfortable enough over his last couple of calls to begin showing some informalities.
"It really is a lovely feeling," said the Jetstone King, who eased himself forward through the air at just below a walking pace. The flying body armor responded precisely to his will, as expressed in the balance of his back. "I wish I had another such item to send you, but our Dollamancer is gone. I gather from Cubbins that Ace created the gear to impress me, so that I would see that he was being underutilized. I certainly see that now. And I shudder to think how the enemy may now be putting his talents to use."
"Which in fact brings me to the subject of my call," said Don, "if you'll pardon the directness. I thought you'd want to know that I've recently gotten a peace overture from Gobwin Knob."
Tramennis raised an eyebrow and tried not to let his smile give too much away. "Have you? How extraordinary for Stanley."
Tramennis nodded. "Our sources on the matter have been explicit about the man, yes. Not necessarily reliable or complete, but explicit. What did he say to you? What was his offer?"
"Bilateral truce," said Don King. "Details negotiable. But we didn't get down to terms, because I'm not interested."
"I see," said Tramennis. "There's something to be said for it though, given your local situation, isn't there?" Transylvito was currently at war with four of the five sides they bordered: Carpool, Metroland, Jitterati and Gobwin Knob.
"Yeah but we should keep the Coalition intact. I would much rather make peace with Carpool or Metroland, and then push into Gobwin Knob territory, fighting alongside Faq," said Don King. "There's gains to be made there, I think. Queen Jillian should own the city of Gobwin Knob. Faq needs room to grow."
"I didn't think Faq was quite strong enough to attempt a second assault on Gobwin Knob," said King Tramennis, intentionally not adding "or Transylvito" to that observation.
Below him, the cliffs of Palace Hill fell away abruptly, leaving him much farther from the ground. He saw soldiers on the grand steps that ran alongside the cliff face, and gave them a single—he hoped, kingly—wave.
"They will be," said Don. "Give 'em time."
"Stanley will also grow stronger, given time," Tramennis pointed out.Don smiled. "Yeah. That's why I don't want a truce," he said. "I wanna give him trouble in the interim. I hope you can help me out with that."
"I see," nodded Tramennis, remaining intentionally noncommittal. "And do you think it's likely you'll be able to reach terms with your other foes?"
Don made a "we'll see" face, and shrugged. "I think that's increasingly likely, yeah. My Chief Warlord gutted their push in the south, and he's gonna make a grab for Carphone this turn. If he takes it, then I think they'll see were still the biggest baddest beast on this hill, and fall back. It's been a brutal fight. Expensive. But we pretty much got 'em now."
Tramennis made political decisions the way that some highly-skilled warlords made tactical ones. In the span of a split second, the King understood that his counterpart in Transylvito was in need of assurance, and an offer of solidarity. He was volunteering information about his side's strategic position, and hoping that Tramennis would respond in kind. Above all else, he wanted another Royal to validate his decision not to negotiate.
And yet here was Tramennis, about to receive Ansom in a couple of turns. Not to share that fact now would be a violation of confidence. Hmmm.
"Well, you were right, of course," he said to Don, leading with the sweet before the bitter. "It's not the time for peace with Stanley." (He said it this way, where he knew his father would have said, "we shall never make peace with Stanley.")
Don smiled approvingly. "You got some trouble planned for him, I hope?"
Tramennis lowered his eyelids serenely and nodded. "Quite so. We're preparing for our own 'brutal fight' here, Don. But you know we, too, could use some time to regroup. And as it happens, Transylvito isn't the only side in receipt of a recent over—"
"Excuse me," interrupted Don King. "Your Majesty. I must end this call. There's been… a development. Your pardon."
The call cut out before Tramennis could say another word.
The wind whistled in his ears. The grand old city of clay bricks and sandstone spread out far and wide below him. More of his men waved up to him. He waved back, showing them a (again, he hoped) kingly smile."Well. That can't be good…" he muttered.