“An inside man would be a big help to you,” said Hector. “You’d be able to avoid a difficult fight.”
“Perhaps. But who doesn’t love a good fight?”
“You don’t. Not when it means... that you’ll have to fight the Vanguard soon afterward.”
Ivan didn’t have anything to say to that.
Finally, Hector could sense an advantage. It felt like he’d just about puzzled it all out. “Isn’t that what you’re really worried about? I mean... sure, you could take the Golden Fort. It would be messy, but you could take it. Problem is... what happens when the Vanguard comes to take it back? Because you know they will.”
Ivan was no longer smiling.
Hector wasn’t done, though. “And... if you let the Sandlords weaken your forces too much, then... you definitely won’t be able to hold onto the Golden Fort. Much less, the rest of Sair.” Agh, shit. ‘Definitely’ was probably too strong of a word there.
For a long moment, however, Ivan just stared at him, the dead-eyed look on his face even more unsettling than usual.
Hector couldn’t think of any more ammunition, though, so he just waited.
“Supposing I accept,” said Ivan, “how would you use your inside influence to assist me?”
Oh fuck. Hector hadn’t expected to get this far. He had to keep the shock from reaching his face. “...Ah. Well. It’s obvious, isn’t it?”
“Pretend it isn’t.” The Salesman didn’t sound very jovial anymore. In fact, he sounded a little annoyed.
Thankfully, Hector did have an idea to fall back on. “I will... uh, I will use my free pass to kidnap a few important Sandlords. Key children.”
Ivan just looked at him.
At first, the idea had felt like it just sprang out of nowhere. But now Hector knew. That tactic was exactly what the Vanguard had done to the Rainlords. His time spent at Marshrock had taught him more than he’d realized, it seemed.