Ewart’s command post had grown as his force did. Now, he stood at a map table in the middle of a ring of comms units, all of it protected from the weather by a tarp overhead, stretched between poles defining a square thirty paces across.
Varouforos strode into view, with Ippocampos floating along behind him. Ewart looked up. “Navarch!” he said. “I was just about to send a search party.”
Varouforos smiled and gestured at his coat. “We were briefly detained.”
“So I see.” Ewart pointed at the map table. “We are deployed across the dome just before the amphitheater. The yashcheritsy probed our lines ten minutes ago, but did not press an attack.”
“I doubt they are able,” Varouforos replied. “I am going to the amphitheater to take personal command. I will signal you when I have arrived. Make a general advance when I do. Be prepared to accept surrenders. The yashcheritsy will not have much fight in them.”
Five minutes later, Varouforos and Ippocampos neared the amphitheater. The yashcheritsy were present in force here, and so were Varouforos’ men. A full tourma, twenty-five hundred men at arms, were arrayed in a semi-circle fifty paces from the amphitheater’s rim. Varouforos found the command post, took the commanding officer’s photovisor, and headed for the rim. The falling snow masked his view. He flipped the photovisor to its thermal setting, then had a look at low zoom. He saw what he expected to.
“Advance into the amphitheater,” he said into his comm unit. “Do not fire unless fired upon.” After a minute, troops reached him. Together with them, he descended into the amphitheater.
The audience sat at the base of the amphitheater, in the manner of captives. Not a yashcherit remained standing to guard them, though. The lizard-men huddled together in groups, moving slowly, if at all. They watched as Varouforos’ men marched down the stairs. Most did nothing. Ten paces from Varouforos, one reached for a rifle. His arm moved in slow motion.
Varouforos aimed his pistol. “Please do not make me shoot you,” he said.
The yashcherit’s arm continued onward for half a second while Varouforos’ words reached his cold-addled brain. Another half second passed while the creature thought it over. It slowly withdrew its arm.
“Very good,” Varouforos replied. He pointed at the rifle, and one of the troopers following him took it. Together, they reached the base of the amphitheater. On the dais, Basil and his entourage huddled together.
Basil, at the center of the group, had not lost as much warmth as his companions. “You!” he hissed, catching sight of Varouforos. His voice had a strange, slurred quality to it, as though someone had recorded it and was now playing it back at half speed. “You are killing us!”
Varouforos canted his head and dipped it in Basil’s direction, acknowledging the point. “Perhaps.” He swept his arm out to take in the yashcheritsy freezing all around them. “This is your true flock, is it not? You have the power to save them.”
“What do you—”
Varouforos strode over to the table at the center of the dais. He patted his pockets in sequence, then pulled a pen from one of them, signing the treaty with a flourish.