“Conflict seems to be inevitable, the lords of the outer cluster have made a move towards the reinforced positions. I suspect they are intending on siding with your brother.”

She lent back and spat out a curse in the old tongue then looked at her chancellor.

“And what of those simpering cowards spinewards?”

“They seem to be predisposed to waiting and seeing.”

She clicked her tongue “There are no bystanders in this entanglement. Inform them in no uncertain terms that if they do not follow my standard to battle then they are our enemy. Send Admiral Trailworld, tell it that it has full authority to execute my command with full prejudice.”

The chancellor paused a moment, as if weighing up whether he should speak, he decided it best not to.

“Very well Empress.”