Kestrel folded her arms, standing still enough by habit that she hardly seemed to move the air when she breathed. Practiced though she was in giving few cues to her thoughts, the sudden end of all the normal tiny nonverbal signals was a signal in itself. To an informed observer it was as though Kestrel were frowning with every muscle in her body right down to her feet.
Tommy offered interesting intelligence, and Kestrel felt obligated to focus on it above all else. Trials indicated dissent in the ranks. Someone with authority to defend or standards to uphold. It meant that this someone was clearly not entirely successful. But that was information for a somewhat longer period of observation and interference. More than likely they were not here to subvert their enemies by means any more complex than a massacre. It was the habit of this group to simply kill whatever got in its way and have done with the matter.
Fair enough, and certainly not without its strategic merit. Carving a swath of death through the enemy ranks was effective and created a diversion in enemy concentration from their larger plans. Sadly this diversion came at the expense of those doing the distracting, as they were likely to be the first to fall so that others might survive.
This time, though, there were no others. There seemed to be no one within easy call who could pick up their mission if they fell. The hazards of a small unit. Briefly Kestrel missed the solid reassurance of a full army at her back, metaphorically if not always literally.
They could not afford to spend time and concentration doing this the careful way. Time was on the enemy's side. Curious as she was about the particular social fractures worth exploiting among their enemies, there simply would likely be no opportunity.
"Hn," she grunted, mostly to herself. "Suggests dissension in the ranks. He was made an example to someone. There may be disunity worth exploiting. Given the time."
Having said her piece, Kestrel shut her mouth. The others would either understand or they wouldn't. If the latter, it could perhaps be left to Kestrel herself. They'd had great success before with recruiting from the enemy's ranks when they learned that their demonic masters cared little for them. In return, Kestrel and her allies had spared them.
She spared a quick flick of a glance to the beaten and decapitated hobgoblin. He was a stranger, and on the wrong side of every line worth drawing. Her continuing stillness betrayed a displeasure she could not have articulated well to her companions. For the most part they were not soldiers. They couldn't understand.
For Kestrel, the honor of her word had been her personal standard of good. Breaking her commitments was the only evil she knew. Sometimes she was obligated to slay well-meaning men and women. Sometimes she was obligated to ignore injustices for the sake of maintaining the greater order. Sometimes she had hurt the people she loved for the sake of commitments and burdens to which she had been born.
To do otherwise would be evil as she knew it. So she'd done as she'd agreed, to be all that she knew of good.
So who was this one, then? What really placed him on the wrong side, if not ill-fated commitments? The previous underlings they had encountered had not as a rule seemed to hope for destruction, chaos, and death. They seemed to care little for the goals of their masters. They merely obeyed.
Tommy had done as he thought best to protect his allies. His first obligation was rightly to them, including Kestrel herself. However, one footsoldier to another could spare a moment to compare. Tommy had not been wrong. But this enemy had... perhaps not needed to die. Judged, beaten, rejected, and left to cry his last breaths in fear of both enemies and allies, this enemy had died poorly.
But such private moral conflicts could not be anything but short-lived. Let men like Ardam fret over right and wrong. Kestrel was just one soldier, and those questions were not her business.
"We should fall back to rest. Return later. Need to pace ourselves when numbers are against us."