Sunday, July 17, 2011



....“I can vouch for Lord Ktovoli and his men, Lord-Regent,” Mathios said to Dovosir, “they would be a valuable asset on the walls.”
“Good, good,” said Dovosir, “but now we must turn to those of you who will have the greatest responsibility of all: guarding the city from within.”
“We can surely handle that,” said a man who sat next to Kótahro, “Bóþaro, my Lord-Regent, Second Out-warden of the North-bounds of Kihar. While Lord Kótahro’s men are well-trained to handle the field, my men are the best hope you’ll have of defending the city. I should know: this year alone we have withstood a dozen attempted werewolf raids on Kihar from the Southern Highpeaks.”
“You fool yourself, Easterner,” said one Tavâñgos of Hádakaš, “no one has the stomachs of the Hádakašians. We will defend the city.”
“I think not,” said Ktovoli, “the Blue Contingent has defended the city of Mekelir for millennia. We will take on this task at the Regent’s pleasure.” The difference of moods began to overtake the unity of the table, and the Elders jumped into the fray, trying in vain to calm the men as their words got louder and louder until it rose to a clamor. Hóctar and Tavâñgos rose up in argument against Kótahro and Bóþaro, and Parótyas and Naekos exchanged words hotly with Ktovoli and Šihaktu. Only Ektiro of Štélue, commander of Dovosir's Regent-guard, sat in silence, sipping from his cup.
“Silence! All of you!” Mathios shouted.  At that moment all noise ceased, and even Dovosir stared at the young prince in astonishment. Mathios’s eyes were fierce and bright, yet they were not smoldered with anger, but the burning fire of a commander who commanded with respect. He leaned forward and rested his hands on the table, addressing the commanders both simultaneously and individually.
“We can not bicker amongst ourselves,” he said, “this time of crisis has too much hanging in the balance for that. You are all commanders, gentlemen, men who are respected by those in your charge and those whose charge you are in. And that means that you have my respect as well. You have all accomplished great feats in your time, adopted courage where your men might have abandoned all hope, and it is by those merits that you sit at this table tonight.
“I will not have the shadow that tore the Council asunder do the same to us. We are presented with a test of our will as a people and as a kingdom, and I for one will not have us fail that test by lowering our standards to those tyecun. I will be damned if I do, and you will be damned for allowing me to do so.
“Right now, as Kir-Dovosir has said, nothing is certain of what the Uprisers’ next move is. They could attack tonight; they might sit and fester for a thousand years before mustering up the courage to strike. Nevertheless, while they maintain their unity, we must maintain ours. Commanders, you have each brought men of specific skills, and we will use them where they will be the strongest. But as for those who will defend Avakaš itself from within, those men must truly represent how united we are. Kihar shall walk alongside Hádakaš, Mekelir shall stand next to Néktas, and we will be stronger for it, stronger than any Upriser that dares defy our King.”
“You’re learning to speak like a king yourself, for one so young, Ser-Mathios,” Hóctar nodded. “Your father would be very proud. What say you, Bóþaro?” Kótahro’s second in command said nothing, but nodded his agreement. Ktovoli and Šihaktu stood, and they inclined their heads to Mathios.
“Mekelir shall stand, fight, and if need be, die next to the men of Néktas,” Ktovoli said. “And we are honored to do so for our King and for you, young prince. Forgive our folly.”
Mathios smiled, and returned the show of respect to the other commanders. “We may be Cénáre, but we are still human, Ktovoli. Just don’t let the Kôvudéneans in on that secret.” This was met by an uproarious laughter from everyone in the room. Mathios relaxed his stance and drained his mug of ale.
“Now, if you will all excuse me, I must now attend to my mother. Kótahro, let’s walk and talk for a while, shall we?”
Mathios and Kótahro walked for a while in silence. Out of the corner of his eye, Mathios saw Kótahro arch his neck, straining to see the ceiling high above their heads. Mathios followed Kótahro’s gaze, just in time to see one of the Fúzilo corridors rotate as someone disembarked. Kótahro whistled softly in amazement, and the melody echoed off the walls of the obelisk.
“Is this your first time west of the Greatwater?” Mathios asked.
“It is,” Kótahro replied. “Although I’m sure it won’t be my last. I’m still young compared to your father.”
“But you’re still my elder,” Mathios countered. Kótahro glanced at the prince, confused. “I’ve been taught to show my elders the proper respect,” Mathios continued, “and yet my own stupid knack for propriety caused me to lose sight of that bit of common sense.”
“Is this an apology from a superior?” said Kótahro incredulously.
“As a matter of fact, yes,” Mathios replied with a smile. “Your father fought and died for mine, even though they barely knew each other. Songs of Kedaer the Martyr are still sung in Avakaš, Kótahro. Your father is greatly respected for what he did that day.” Kótahro nodded, but Mathios sensed a deeper sadness in the Kiharian’s somber expression.
“At times, I’m angry at your father, truth be told,” he said. Mathios did not speak or react, but waited for Kótahro to continue.
‘Patience is the key to authority,’ Mathion had taught his son once, many years ago when Mathios was still considered a boy. ‘Authority is given by the respect you have earned, not by the fear you have wreaked upon those in your care. We are servants, Mathios. It is our duty to understand our people, and hear them out to the last word.’
Kótahro sighed deeply, “Angry at the fact that my father had to die, and that I would never know him, so yours could live. But when I came of age and entered into the Wardenship of Kihar, Lord Azadir told me exactly what happened that day, and why my father died. He spoke of your father as he spoke of the South-realm: we are all called to defend it one way or another. And if we must die, then so be it. There is no greater sacrifice.”
Mathios smiled, and placed a firm grasp on Kótahro’s shoulder, shaking him as he would a brother if he had one.
“Ser-Mathios.” Dovosir had followed them out of the hall. The council had long since adjourned, and the other commanders were filing out of the Citadel to return to their men. Mathios caught a curious expression in Dovosir’s eyes, and he knew that Kótahro had seen the same.
“Bóþaro, rejoin the others. Tell them I will be with them shortly. I need to speak with the Lord-Regent in private.”
“Yes, Out-warden,” Bóþaro replied, upon which he swiftly exited the Tower.
“You have an idea, Dovosir,” Mathios said with a smile, “a dangerous one.”
“Indeed,” the Regent replied. “Apparently your father’s influence has not waned in six centuries. "Nevertheless, we need to talk. Kótahro, who is your best infiltrator?”

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