The Lady Sebolt placed a briefcase on the table. “The Blackburns have kept to themselves in recent years, so it is possible that they have combatants we do not know about. However, it is a fairly safe assumption that our most powerful opponent will be Melchor, or Darktide, as he is sometimes called. I’m sure you have all heard of him, but here are pictures for anyone who does not know what he looks like.” She pulled out a stack of photographs and handed them around. “If nothing else, please ensure that all of your subordinates know this man’s face. His power is mercury transfiguration, but even if you believe that you have an elemental advantage over him, DO NOT attempt to engage him unless Xuan is with you.”
Garovel chose to interject. ‘Pardon my ignorance, but how old is this Melchor?’
‘It’s been 104 years since he was resurrected,’ said Xuan’s reaper. This one’s name was Duvoss, as Hector recalled.
‘Holy fuck,’ said Garovel privately, coinciding with Hector’s bulging eyes. Then publicly, the reaper asked, ‘What about you, Xuan? If you don’t mind saying, that is.’
Xuan made as if to answer, but then paused and deferred to his reaper.
Duvoss shook his skeletal head. ‘Xuan is 106.’
Xuan frowned and scratched his cheek. “Damn. Are you sure about that?”
“Shit, I’m old.” He only had a few age lines on his face that Hector could see.
Garovel had still another question for him. ‘In a straight fight, are you confident you could defeat him?’
“Not at all. It could go either way.”
Lord Abel exhaled audibly. “Xuan, please don’t be quite so candid with our troops.”
“Yeah, yeah. Morale and all that jazz. I know my role.”
Abel’s flat stare did not imply an abundance of faith in the man.
Lady Amaya picked up where she had left off. “In addition to Darktide, the Blackburns have several other combatants of which everyone should be aware. Ismael and Nere are of course quite powerful, as they are the heads of House Blackburn, but according to our information, they have no children of their own.” She started handing out folders with personal profiles. “Instead, House Blackburn’s impressive numbers are attributed to its many branches. On the battlefield, other Blackburns to watch out for include Fidel, Silvia, Pilar, Tomas, Horatio, and Sabas. Any of them could rip through our forces if we fail to keep them in check.”