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"Negotiations weren't supposed to be public."

"They weren't." I hoped she wasn't blaming me. "I didn't realize they were going to leak anything."

"The damage is done. I hope we can still contain this."

"I should've known this would be risky with a foreign culture. You never quite know what their diplomatic protocols are."

"What's done is done," the elder repeated. "We had good reason to begin talks."

"Even if the outcome is unintentional shattering of our other alliances?"

"We'll do our best to preserve the parts we need. But this has complicated matters a bit."

"I don't think I should go back next week," I said. "Not until the situation calms down."

"I'll send some of the tribes over to gauge the reactions of our allies. We won't make definitive plans until they report back."

"We never told our tribes we were entering negotiations. This is going to be tricky."

"I think their loyalty to you won't be much of an issue. I have full confidence they'll remain by your side."

"Thanks for the reassuring words," I said. "I just hope I won't be repaying their loyalty by destroying the alliances they had depended on."

"You won't be their leader forever you know. There will come a time when they will have to step up. Maybe it's time they learned to do it now."

"Maybe I should focus on the negotiations. Though it really is going to be hard letting them go their own way."

"Things will work out in the end," she said. "I promise."

"Easy words to say. And I wish I could easily believe them."

"We do need to reassess the kingdom. They've already shown their willingness to defy convention. Or at least what we consider to be convention. Going forward, we may have to be more careful, if their reaction to talks might be something we never considered."

"Sometimes I think we're already too careful. While I can see progress, other kingdoms and tribes seem to have already integrated much more fully into Rain's forces. What if we get left behind? What if we get left out?"

"I don't think Rain is the type of person who would abandon us," she said. "We wouldn't be rallying around her if we didn't trust her."

"So you're saying she can be trusted?"

"I guess we're still trying to figure that out. Sadly we couldn't trust her to keep our negotiations private, but I suspect it was because their negotiators didn't realize how their actions would affect us. They can't know all the concerns on our minds after all."

"War is a dangerous game, and there are many missteps we can't afford to take," I said. "Fortune gave us a fair amount of existing security, but I suppose the downside to that is that our alliances limit our freedom of action."

"A delicate balance to be sure, but trust in your own ability to navigate the paths best for our tribes. We wouldn't have given you that position if you weren't good at it."

"I should break the news to our tribes before they hear a distorted version of what we've been after from a foreign source."

"You might want to hold off on that," she said. "Our tribes have their own problems to worry about. I'm not sure it's a good idea to distract them with negotiation talk."

"Why not? Don't you think they deserve to know? This is going to affect them a great deal."

"Maybe you can give them a brief synopsis in general terms, but you have to trust in your own ability to make the right choices."

"I wish it were that easy. Things would probably be a lot better for us now if all my choices were great."

"Nobody can foresee everything," she said. "You just get out there, and make up your own mind about what you think is right. This is your life too, you know."

"Right now my mind is telling me to hide, and hope everything blows over without incident from our existing allies."

"But you know deep down the Radiant Paths can't survive this right? We wouldn't have contacted the kingdom if we thought everything was fine. We have to seize the chance to make a better life for ourselves before those chances pass us by."

"And if all we end up doing is falling in the gutter?" I asked.

"Maybe the gutter shouldn't be there. Maybe part of what we're after is to remove the gutter, whether that's part of the kingdom's plans or not."

"I guess each side will have their own agenda. I just hope when combined, our goals would align much better than what has happened in the past."

"I hope you don't blame yourself for that," she said. "We can only walk the paths we see."

"Maybe I should be helping our allies and potential allies see more possible paths than they currently see then."

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