He opened a drawer of the desk and flipped through a hefty stack of maps until he found one of Germany. He set it flat on the desk with two paperweights. “We will go to this area, here,” he said, gesturing to part of the map. “Not many human settlements, and it is only a dozen or so miles from the Danube. Those who do not wish to fight the battle will remain in the castle, to guard it against vârcolaci scouts. The rest will join us in Germany. Have we any solid number of Heinrich’s followers?”
“A few hundred at most, and not all are based in Germany. He’ll probably call them all together now that there’s been a battle.”
“Hm. Send out the message, then. Any European or Asian strigoi morţi or loyal vârcolaci who wish to participate are hereby welcomed to Castle Dracula to be armed and prepared for war. Inform General Fernandez and Lieutenant Romanov of the plan, and no one else. We cannot risk this news leaking. Do you hear me, Belial?”
“Have the guards continue treating Madam Gwyther as they have, with enough blood to keep her alive. Break her will, if necessary. If she knows of the plan, she may betray us yet again.”
“Abendroth will kill her the second he finds out it’s a trap.”
“Sacrifices must be made. If we can spare her life, all the better. She certainly has her uses. If the plan is in jeopardy, we will have someone spying in the area, downwind of the vârcolaci, who can end Madam Gwyther before our cover can be spoiled. Do we know any dryads in the area?”
“None we’re friendly with.”
“Figures. Then whomever is sent as her potential executioner must have as little scent a possible. Choose someone with discretion, and have them feed several hours before the plan is set in motion. Soak their clothes in sap and mud if you believe it will help.”
Vanessa nodded and rolled up the map. “Any idea when you want this to happen?”
“Give it a fortnight at the most. Heinrich will likely launch his own attack before then, but he must also collect reinforcements.”
“And recover from a nasty bullet wound.”
Fane almost smiled. “Oh, yes, that as well. What a delightful advantage. Then we have more time. Send word to our munitions contact as well. We will need more firepower.”
“Sure thing.” Vanessa scooped up her coat and backed toward the door. “Anything else?”
“That will be all, for now. Oh, and remind me to get on better terms with dryads and nymphs and pixies and fairies, and all those little nuisances.”
Vanessa chuckled and stepped into the hallway. “I’ll get right on it.”
“Thank you. One more thing,” he added just before she could carry out her orders, “do the tengu still owe us a favour?”
“No, your father called it a long time ago.”
“Anything else?” she said again, almost grinning. Her irritation about Caitlyn and anxiety over the ghost of Mircea were vanished, overcome by her lust for war.
Fane considered it for a moment. The strigoi morţi still had running favours with other societies of demons they didn’t often converse with, but he didn’t want to call on them just yet. A vârcolaci rebellion he could handle with those loyal to him. One never knows when one might need the help of shinigami, harpies, encantados, or tokoloshes.
“No. That is all. Thank you, Vanessa.”
She nodded. “Think about what I’ve said.” And she walked away.