watched the three Guardians sat in the ornate chairs before him, as he tried to
establish what weaknesses they might have that he could exploit to his
advantage. They had come to Ka a few days before with their servants and
they had kept themselves totally to themselves during the two days he had kept
them waiting for the audience, which was now taking place. The one that
was doing most of the talking was a small man with a name very similar to the
Priest of Priest's own, he was called Razarian. He chattered like a bird
in a fact filled linking of words that left his mouth almost without pause,
while his two companions only talked when this little man bade them add to his
argument some fact or explanation. The second of the three was a tall,
skinny fellow called Kroran and the last was an ordinary looking, slightly
overweight and bearded man in his late forties who went by the name of Tagorsan.
offer they had brought to Ragarian was in fact very interesting, if somewhat
strange and he could see little to lose by agreeing to give them what they
wanted and ending the interview there and then, however he held a deep mistrust
for everything to do with their Order and he could not for the life of him work
out why they should be making the suggestions to help him that they were now
presenting. They had a well prepared reasoning of course, but it seemed to
lack enough importance for the three of them to have traveled across the world
to put it to him and so he let them go on talking, watching and waiting for the
real reasons to appear.
Highness." Razarian said with what to Ragarian's mind took
the guise of genuine feeling, "We are, as you know, an Order
devoted to Peace and the good of all mankind and the news we receive daily
regarding these outlaw remnants of the Asigan Alliance and how they are
disrupting life in many parts of your realm, has brought us to the conclusion
that we must do all that we can to restore the peace that Khanlar knew for
centuries, before the Brotherhood erupted onto the scene."
for yourselves, Guardian Razarian?" Ragarian asked with a
little more of a sneer than he meant to give. "Other than the
good you will do for mankind, what is it that your Order will gain by what you
ourselves. . ." Razarian went on, seeming to miss the
sarcasm, ". . .we have a need to provide for the Nation which
is our home in these troubled times. Our population grows with every month
and the land area we have in Lunza is very hard pressed to support our people
your Highness. . ." The fat one jumped into the conversation,
". . .with the sudden death of Prince Hagor of Dag and no immediate
heir to take his place, we saw the opportunity to increase the lands we could
farm to feed our people. At the same time we thought we would be able to
solve some of your problems with what is left of the lawless element of the
time Ragarian snorted out loud in contempt, not caring what these three white
haired, pompous little men thought of him. "And
what makes you think, Guardian Tagorsan, that you would have any luck in
rounding up these outlaws and persuading them to take themselves off to Dag, to
be farm laborers and slaves for your Order?"
are both well educated men my Lord Ragarian. . ." Razarian
again, ". . .These people have no choice at the moment but to
live off the produce of your administration by criminal means, or face the only
other alternative available to them, which would be to give themselves and their
families up to a lifetime of slavery. They have nowhere to go and unless
they allow your troops to either kill them or put them in chains, they are
destined to a very short life as hunted outcasts. I agree that we are only
offering them a life of hard labor with the implied opportunity of a possible
productive future, but we shall also be offering them the opportunity to escape
the only choices you offer them, which everyone in this room will agree, is but
the choice between a sudden unnatural death or an early natural one."
was obvious that Razarian was the leader of the delegation, as both of the other
Guardians deferred to him, so Ragarian addressed him directly, "So
your Order will go to these outlaws and instead of death or slavery, you will
offer them deportation off of the mainland to become farm workers. In
return, you wish me to hand you title to the islands of Dag, Suvak and Palan.
You also, if I understand you right, agree to take the total responsibility of
ensuring that none of these outlaws will ever return to the mainland of Khanlar
without my knowledge."
so Sire. We shall round up the few hundred outlaws in the western Nations
and transport them to Dag and in return, all we ask is that you pass to us the
title of the islands of Suvak and Palan and the island Nation of Dag. In
fact your Highness, we are also authorized to offer you the sum of five thousand
gold crowns for that title, to offset your loss of taxes over the next hundred
somehow managed not to let his surprise show at the last statement. In
fact the little Guardian went on speaking for a short while, not realizing that
the Priest of Priests had stopped listening already. When the man had
finished Ragarian put his fingers together and pretended to consider the
situation for a few minutes. The silence was deafening before he finally
said to them, "Return
in two days and I will give you my decision."
the Guardians left the audience room and returned to their apartments Ragarian
sat for several hours trying to work out what he could have done for the Gods to
have handed him such a sweet deal at this moment in time.
Nation of Dag was perhaps one of the poorest places on Earth, with little to
make it important to anyone or anything. It's total population was less
than four thousand and it was one of the most desolate places in Khanlar, it was
so poor in fact that old Prince Hagor had finally given up trying to recruit a
wife of the Royal Blood. Every Noble father in the land had refused even
his ugliest daughter to the constantly in debt ruler of that gods-forsaken
place. Apart from the tiny city of Dag itself, which Ragarian had never
visited but had been led to believe was little more than a collection of wooden
huts, gathered around a small and decrepit two story stone palace of less than a
dozen rooms, there was nothing on the island other than a virgin oak forest,
which for the centuries since Dag had been founded had been only used for swine
to forage in. The wood in itself might have been useful, save for the fact
that transporting it to the mainland, where there was already an abundance of
lumber, would have priced it out of the market. In fact it was said on the
mainland that any Dagorian with half a brain and the ability to swim, headed for
the mainland the moment he realized he had been born in the place.
since Ragarian could remember, every joke about human stupidity had been made
about the Dagorians. Why, only a few days ago he had heard the latest in a
long string of anti-Dagorian humor that still made him chuckle.
poor Dagorian laborer had finally saved enough to get passage to the mainland,
where he had applied for a job on a construction site, only to be told by the
foreman that Dagorians were far to stupid to work on his contracts.
Getting angry the Dagorian had asked the foreman to prove that Dagorians were
stupid, so the foreman had raised his hand, palm outward, in front of a wall and
asked the Dagorian to punch it. When the laborer had punched at the
foreman's hand the foreman had dropped it, allowing the poor man to break
several fingers as he had hit the wall. The Dagorian had then given up and
returned home. His first night home, having drunk several drinks, the
Dagorian met his cousin, who inquired why he had returned to Dag.
I applied for a job, but the foreman proved to me that all of us Dagorian's are
too stupid for him to employ." the man replied.
Yeah!" His cousin had countered, "Well I
you are!" Said the Dagorian, lifting his hand up, palm
outward, in front of his face, "I'll prove it to you. Hit
thousand gold crowns. As for that representing a hundred years of taxes,
well even the notion was ridiculous. In the last two centuries the place
had contributed less than three hundred crowns and owed three times as much to
the treasury at this very moment.
the Guardians had finally shown their weakness, which was a desperate lack of
land to live on, or there was something that he was missing in their
presentation to him. There had to be a catch. Somewhere in all those
words he had to have missed something. The offer to round up most of the
outlaws that remained of the Brotherhood and ship them to a place which the
Church Navy could blockade to ensure that those malcontents remained there, well
that was just icing on the cake. Five thousand gold crowns for the title
to three inconsequential islands. . . Ragarian finally came to the
conclusion that perhaps the Guardians were telling the truth. The three
islands they were asking for would double their land area and although those
wind swept places were the back of beyond to Khanlar proper, they were next door
to the over-populated island Nation of Lunza.
was also logical that if the Guardians were really going to cut down the forest
and convert it into lumber for building and ash to break up the clay there which
they said they wanted to farm, then they would indeed need a supply of labor to
do it. He had heard many tales over the years of the soft living the
inhabitants of Lunza enjoyed. They were traders of the highest
professionalism and from their ability to work a deal they had prospered and
built a very rich little community, in fact it was their reputation for making
deals where they bought one lamb and walked away owning the whole flock that
caused his misgivings. However, lore had it that as laborers Lunzans were
ill-fitted to such tasks, which would therefore explain their need for slaves.
The remnants of the Brotherhood would therefore be a logical and free labor
pool, for the Lunzans to exploit to perform the manual tasks they considered
themselves too good for.
though he already knew that he had approved the deal and that everything made
good sense when viewed from the Guardian's perspective as well as his own,
Ragarian still had a nagging fear that he had missed something. The fact
that his visitors and their fellows might well have had a hand in murdering the
Prince of Dag to bring this deal to the table, merely crossed Ragarian's mind
and was dismissed as unimportant. He found however that five thousand gold
crowns and the chance to be rid of the problem of what remained of the
Brotherhood outlaws, seemed to greatly reduce the nagging fear that he had
* * * * * *
days later Razarian met with Manator and Prince Jarin in the Map chamber of the
Guardian's palace and laid out the scroll he carried on the table, holding down
it's corners with four gold crowns as he reported his success to his superiors,
obviously enjoying the task.
Manator, is the document that takes the first step in the great plan we have
agreed to pursue. Suvak, Palan and Dag are now ours, with the blessing of
His Highness Ragarian, Priest of Priests himself." He smiled
and walked to the huge wall map, calling it alive and then taking up a long
pointer to indicate the three islands that stretched southward from Lunza on the
map. The long stick touched the light colored stretches of water between
the four islands in turn.
it is not apparent to anyone standing on the deck of a ship sailing between our
islands, they are in fact the peaks of great mountains that rise from the ocean
floor, forming a ridge of which we see only the crowns. The deepest point
below the ocean surface between our islands is no more than seventy five feet,
here between Dag and Palan. . ." He touched the point he
mentioned on the map, ". . .and already our engineers have
started dumping rock into the sea at the tip of each island in a project which
will eventually become a causeway to link the islands together. Then the
whole chain will in actuality all become one continuous island, which a man
could walk along from the southern most point of Palan right up here to the
northern most point of Lunza. We shall then build a paved road, wide
enough for three heavy wagons to drive abreast of each other, that will run the
length of this land mass from Palan to the City of Lunza. We are already
clearing the land for future production and we have begun quarrying rock for
this causeway from all four islands as well."
took up the conversation then, explaining to Prince Jarin a little more of the
agents have already begun spreading the word on the mainland and we expect to
pick up more outlaws, as Ragarian calls them, at the rate of a few hundred every
week, as they make their way east. No one knows just how many ex-members
of the Brotherhood are in hiding at this time, nor how many have merged into the
population across the Nations. The Church of course has played down their
numbers, to maintain their hold on things and prevent a nation wide panic.
They openly admit to several hundred, whereas we estimate that between ten to
twelve thousand people will cross the straits from Khanlar to Lunza by the time
this campaign is over. Many of them are not outlaws of course, but we need
everyone we can recruit, just so long as they oppose the Church and support our
Cause. We are already building accommodations for them to live in once
pointed to the green island of Dag on the map as he took up the conversation.
oak forest on Dag will provide the lumber we need for a completely new fleet of
ships we shall build following carefully the plans we have taken from the
vaults. It is a pity that you have changed your occupation these days
Jarin for we shall have need of many charcoal burners in the coming months.
Every scrap of wood not converted to lumber will be turned into charcoal and
what is left over will become ash to break up the heavy clay of Dag, which we
intend to turn into the most productive farmland in Khanlar over time.
We shall need the charcoal to fire the great furnaces we shall build, in a new
city that will be constructed on the eastern shores of Dag to house our
shipyards. That place shall be named Hagir, after a character in a story
book we found in the vaults. It is a wonderful tale about a man who built
a great warship for a king in some legendary land. The story goes on
incidentally to tell that the ship then came alive and had a soul of it's own.
The smoke from these shipyards should not be seen from the mainland, for it will
be blown away from land by the wind for the main part of the year and any
passing ship that does happen to see it, will report back to the priests in Ka
that we are indeed burning off the forest to provide ash to break down the clay,
so that we can farm the reclaimed lands, which is exactly what we told his
chuckled and returned to the table to pour himself a glass of watered wine.
know Jarin, much of the success of our Order is based upon the careful
preparation of facts to be presented to others in a way that they can accept,
yet which in fact hide the real reasoning behind our actions."
He sipped the wine and laughed quietly again, "It has always
struck me as funny that what one man sees as a difficulty, another can see as an
advantage. Poor old Prince Hagor was always complaining that Dag consisted
of nothing but rock and clay and the only crop he could grow successfully was a
forest that he could not sell. What he saw as his problem we see as the
very raw materials we need to develop that island. The forest will provide
us with building lumber, sturdy oak planks for our ships, charcoal to fire our
smithies and ash to break up the clay into fertile soil. The clay will
also provide us with the raw material to make the best bricks in Khanlar and the
rock will be used to build great buildings and create a road that will allow us
to develop a new center of civilization."
took up the conversation, "The island of Suvak will become the
base for your Army Jarin. It's central position between the two main land
areas of our new domain, makes it ideal and by building gate houses at each end
of the causeway as it leaves each island, security will be completely
controllable. Suvak is fifteen miles long and less than five miles wide at
it's widest part, therefore we have decided that it is possible to turn it into
a great castle in it's own right. We shall make it the most secure place
on Earth by the time we are done. The monks at the monastery there are
already preparing to leave and we shall provide them with passage back to the
mainland next week. Then the building work can begin."
trust your judgment completely of course. . ." Jarin said,
". . .but how will we feed these people we are bringing over, it
seems to me that Lunza is already bursting at the seams and from what you say we
could double the population and then double it again in the next few months."
do not think our young friend knows just how wealthy our Order is Manator."
Razarian said with a chuckle. "Jarin my boy, we own half the
gold in Khanlar, all safely stacked away in the vaults and everyday our
merchants are buying supplies, in inconspicuous amounts in markets from Vanzor
to Dynlar. A little here, a little there and Lunzan ships sailing round
the clock to carry the merchandise back to our store rooms and granaries.
I doubt that the Priest of Priests has ever realized it, but many of his local
shortages are caused by our astute and very discrete merchants, making deals
with his not-so-honest administrators. Once these men take our gold they
become addicted to it Jarin and in their addiction they begin to offer us
assistance far beyond even what we ask, for a man who commits a crime soon not
only justifies himself for being without honor, but he will actually make his
dishonorable act a thing of honor to himself. It is of course to our
advantage that a man who breaks the law, rarely broadcasts the fact to anyone
who might be able to gain by seeing him punished for it. Do not worry
about supplying your army, or our people Jarin, that is someone else's
responsibility and that someone is an expert in his trade."
why have we gone to the trouble of buying three more islands?"
Jarin asked politely.
spread ourselves and gain the secrecy we need." Manator
replied. "Right now if the Church were to embark all of their
troops to take Lunza, we would put up a good fight, but we would without doubt
eventually lose. A year from now they would have to take four islands,
heavily defended and with our supplies spread through several bases. I
believe even the present strength of the Church would find us a little too much
to bite off and swallow a year from now."
why all the secrecy?" Jarin asked "Why did
we not just walk in and annex Dag?"
the impetuosity of youth." Said Razarian with more humor than
Jarin felt comfortable with. "Only a raving madman, or an
idiot, would rape a woman and risk the consequences, when a few presents and
some well chosen words would make her his willing and very attentive companion.
is right Jarin." Said Manator. "Our
diplomacy has given us breathing space. Now when our supporters come over
to us, they will do so with the Church's blessing, even encouragement and
Ragarian will concentrate on his many other problems, certain of which we shall
carefully manufacture for him. It will be some time before he seriously
considers us again. We have become an accomplished task in his mind, so
that he can now forget us and get on with other things and in that false feeling
of safety, he allows us to plan his downfall. It is a little less than
honorable I suppose, in fact one could even accuse us of downright deception,
but even if the Church is not yet aware of it, we are at War with them and in
War the only important thing after all is to win. The good things, the
honorable face of society, the humane and civilized things. . . well often
they must wait until after the war is won I am afraid."
* * * * * *
A New and Better Future
the first day of Spring the last of the Monks had left the monastery of Suvak
and ships bearing ragged groups of erstwhile outlaws and their families began
arriving every day in Dag. These refugees were taken directly from the
docks to a holding camp a few miles south of the city, where they were
interviewed, medically examined and then given papers re-directing them to the
next stage in the program for which they were best suited. For those not
transferred directly to the Army, what awaited them was little more than slave
labor on the many clearing and building projects which were underway across the
four islands that now made up the Nation of Lunza. They however enjoyed
privileges most slaves never had access to on the mainland, which ranged from
comfortable and secure lodging to regular good meals, from attentive medical
treatment to schooling in both academic and trade subjects for those in need of
City of Dag itself was systematically torn down and rebuilt over the first six
months after it became part of the Lunzan State, with it's citizens being
absorbed into the society with full and equal rights. Dag grew in size
three times during that first half year and would have grown more no doubt,
except that craftsmen were in demand throughout the islands and new arrivals
with a trade found themselves absorbed into the guilds within hours of their
arrival, yet still there were never enough experienced hands for the work
available. All through the Spring every man, woman and child found
themselves fully employed in the building projects, the greatest of which was
without doubt the construction of the inter-island highway which ran like a
paved ribbon from the southern most island of Palan to the city of Lunza in the
of tons of rock were actually carried in carts and baskets propelled by human
effort, to build the great causeways and the road that was to link the islands
into one continuous Nation. Over the next few months the handles of a
thousand hammers turned black from human sweat, breaking the rock that was to
pave that highway, mixed with cement manufactured in a new factory on the
outskirts of Hagir to a formula gained from a book in the Archives.
Hagir, on the eastern coast of Dag, a great shipyard with three dry docks was
constructed and in it ship wrights, from those refugees of the sea-going Nations
of Dang, Sedanna and Dala, were soon at work laying the keels for a new navy,
built with the lumber gained as woodcutters slowly cut their way through the oak
forests of the island.
Suvak the old Monastery was renovated to act as a Military Headquarters
surrounded by barracks, warehouses and all the other buildings necessary to
house an ever growing army, laid out with military precision in uniform rows
along uniform streets, all contained within a stone wall almost fifty miles
long, twenty five feet high and never less than ten feet thick, that followed
the island's coastline.
On Palan, Guardian architects designed and built a great cathedral and many other buildings to house the administrative center of the growing Church of the One and Only God, having first obtained the permission of the Priest of Priests to construct a temple to the Goddess Herthe. Razarian had explained to Jarin the reasoning behind this blatant misrepresentation as being the only answer to what was otherwise a paradox that might have seriously hindered the greater benefits of their overall plan, for the place grew like a great fortress out of the southern cliffs of the island and soon became a wonder for the sailors on every passing ship to admire.
openly admit that they supported the new religion to the Priest of Priests would
have at the very least have identified the Order of Guardians and the now
expanding Nation of Lunza, as a potential threat and at the worst Ragarian might
have revoked his order legalizing the annexation of the three new territories,
or even at a long shot ordered an invasion to round up the leaders of the new
religion that threatened his authority. On the other hand, when they were
so consciously assisting in the conversion of all the people who lived on their
island chain to accept the superiority of the One and Only God, not to have
provided the pomp and circumstance religion needs to lead the faithful, might
well have undercut their efforts at home. The deception was therefore
planned and enacted and although the Church of the One and Only God's Priests
grew slower than the other branches of the administration, it soon appeared to
Prince Jarin that the shaven head priests in their dark blue habits were
everywhere, working just as hard as any lay member of the Nation in the never
ending building program.
was little rest for anyone living on the four islands for many months.
Spring came and went and then Summer moved through Autumn and the first signs of
winter began to appear before the work started to slow down. Even the
children worked during that time, grouped together under the caring guidance of
chosen minders, they mixed their days between schooling, play and working as
general clearers and cleaners, from one end of the islands to the other.
who had returned to their old profession after years as outlaws, found
themselves working from before dawn until after sunset, as they cleared, plowed
and planted an ever increasing acreage. By the onset of winter it seemed
that every square inch of the islands had been converted to a well tended
garden, being either built upon, paved over, or plowed for crops and the
landscape acquired a cared for look not common in Khanlar.
was wasted in this economy. Every scrap of waste wood was gathered by
women with small carts who spent their working hours at nothing else, to be
recycled as ash to mix into the clay or manufactured into mulch in great vats
which appeared everywhere. Every basket of prunings, grass clippings and
even the waste from vegetables prepared for the table, were gathered each day
and taken to those vats, where they would be allowed to rot down to provide
compost for the fields and gardens. Grass seed was scattered over the more
inaccessible areas and where the forest had not yet been cleared, herds of cows,
sheep and deer were tended and harvested in the most efficient manner, by men
either too old, too young or too disabled for other work. After centuries
without change the hillsides of Dag were sculpted to the needs of man, changing
from wilderness to carefully tended gardens and farmlands even as the seasons
Guardians obviously knew from the outset however, that there would never be
enough meat produced on the islands to serve the needs of it's growing
population and the importation of tons of meat could have been a certain clue to
the Church authorities on the mainland to the real size of the new population.
That was something the Guardians did not want known at that time and so the
shipyards first task was to build and equip a fishing fleet. Using mass
production techniques taught them by the Guardians, the ship wrights of the
northern most yard at Hagir were soon launching a new fishing boat every ten
ships, with their stern cabin and two masts, would leave the island of Lunza
from the fishing village of Toran every day on the first tide, always sailing
east into the great ocean. The fleet sometimes sailed for days away from
land into the emptiness of that uncharted world of heaving blue water, but as
time passed they learned where to cast out their nets and soon they were
bringing back a huge harvest to feed the population. In Toran the fish
sheds sent out boxes of fresh fish packed in ice and an industry grew up to
produce smoked fish, which soon became a favorite delicacy of the people.
Toran was also able to produce a harvest of fertilizer as well as food, for
again nothing was wasted. Everything that could not be eaten was dried in
great ovens and ground down on huge stone mill wheels, until it was reduced to a
powder that the farmers welcomed as if it was worth more than gold dust, which
to them of course it most definitely was.
cities of Lunza and Dag grew and expanded, while three new cities were laid out
by Guardian architects, rising from the landscape in buildings of red brown
colored bricks, yellow Lunzan limestone and capped with red clay tile roofs.
The town of Rolon grew around the Lunzan end of the causeway connecting it to
Suvak, while it's larger cousin of Hagir blossomed to house the workers in the
dock yards on the eastern coast of Dag. On the southern most tip of Dag
the small hamlet of Tamal was built, until it was larger than the old city of
Dag had been prior to the takeover, to house the foresters and charcoal burners,
farmers and herdsmen, with their families and to provide lodging for those who
traveled to the Cathedral of Palan. Even with the three new islands added
to their domain, the Guardians knew that the shortage of land would continue to
haunt them for many years to come and so most of the new buildings they designed
were three stories high and connected to each other in long rows. However,
they never forgot the human need for green plants, trees and flowers and this
need was met by having wide tree lined streets and large open squares with
garden areas in their center. Fountains and water gardens were planned
into the towns, as were human gathering places, where squares of shops were
built around paved areas on which enterprising Innkeepers soon placed tables, to
allow the population to rest and watch the world go by, while they sipped
refreshing drinks at the end of a work shift.
the northern outskirts of Rolon the Guardians built a factory to manufacture
cloth, using water wheel driven looms, whose design had been taken from books in
the vaults. Many women who had lost their husbands in the troubled years,
congregated there to begin a productive life again working as weavers and loom
minders. Soon after opening the factory they were producing the heavy
serge cloth, for which the town was to become famous in years to come and Lunzan
merchants on the mainland were already bidding for the wool harvest of the next
brick factory on Dag produced ship loads of distinctive red brown bricks, each
one carefully hand thrown into it's molding box by a master craftsman. Yet
no matter how many bricks left the kilns each day, there never seemed to be
enough for the bricklayers who labored to build the new towns. Jarin spent
a day with some of those men, when they were building the new housing in Tamal
and was even persuaded by one of them to lend a hand. He learned how to
throw the mortar onto the previous line of bricks and then trowel a lump of wet
mortar onto the end of the brick he was placing, before he put it down and moved
it into place with a slight squashing side to side movement that forced the
mortar beneath it to ooze out on both sides. Then he would run the trowel
along the joint to take off the excess and with a twist of the wrist slap it
back onto his mortar board. He learned to chop and turn the mortar on his
board, to allow the water in the mixture to keep all of it moist and prevent it
from drying off at the edges. He also learned that every brick had a smile
which must always be inverted as one laid the brick in place. Every brick
when it is thrown has open lines in it's face which form into the shape of a
series of curved indented lines that look like smiles as the brick sags in the
turning out and drying. The bricklayer explained how, if one laid the
brick with the smile in place, any rain water that landed on the brick during
it's lifetime in the wall would collect in the bottom of the smile and
eventually destroy it. That little trick of laying the brick sadly could
double the life of a wall the old man had told him, adding one more fact to
Jarin's ever growing store of knowledge.
in the brick factory nothing was wasted. Every day the floors were swept
and the gathered dust and chips were loaded into bags and placed aboard a wagon.
Broken bricks and larger chips were crushed beneath a large piston like hammer,
which was driven by a water wheel and the dust and sand produced were also
shipped out on that same wagon. Mixed with compost and wood ash and then
plowed into the thick clay of Lunza, Suvak and Dag it would one day form part of
the most productive farmland in Khanlar.
on the four islands it seemed that everyone was working every hour that the Gods
gave them. Before dawn the streets were busy with workers on their way to
their employment and long after sunset they remained busy, as people moved to
their secondary activities under the light of the seemingly always burning oil
lamps. Like a large family who have just taken over the farm they have
worked many years to acquire, the whole population labored every hour they
could, neither taking a vacation, nor complaining about the workload they
* * * * * *
And the Legions Build
first day of winter that year Jarin spent on the Parade Ground at Suvak watching
the fourth contingent of newly graduated troops assemble behind their banners.
Later that night, after the day's pageantry and ceremony, Manator came to
Jarin's rooms, his face serious and with what was obviously a matter of great
importance on his mind. Kirene was already in their bed, whether waiting
for her husband or lost in a dream of her own making, Jarin did not know, but a
quick glance through the door at her innocent smiling face lost in some dream or
another, proved she would not object to Manator and her husband talking most of
the night. Their son was asleep in the cot beside his mother's bed, his
face serious with that expression that very young babies adopt when they sleep.
When Jarin returned to the main room of his apartments his old friend was
already seated and drinking a glass of wine, so Jarin picked up his own glass
and sat down across the table from him.
them on the table a Khanlar board stood laid out ready for a game. It was
a new set, presented to Jarin by a group of Natanese who had come to Lunza in
answer to the call put out by the Guardians. The men had each taken a
special part in it's manufacture and it was without doubt one of the finest
Khanlar sets in existence, for they had put many hours into the making of it.
The board had been crafted from rare hardwoods and stood on four perfect brass
feet that were shaped in the form of lion's paws. The squares were inlaid
pieces of ivory and onyx, seventy two in each color, polished to be without flaw
in their level with one another and separated by carefully placed gold wire.
The pieces had each in turn been exquisitely carved in wax, and then cast in
bronze from the molds so carefully made of each individual carving, after which
they had been painted and decorated with precious metals, so that each looked
like a miniature human being, frozen into a pose it would hold for all time.
Two fairy armies lined up ready to do battle, they faced each other across the
board, one in the uniforms of the new Brotherhood and the other in the maroon
colors of the Church. Tiny swords and helmets of real silver and bronze
adorned each figure and the Priest of Priests stood across the board from a
small sculpture of Prince Jarin himself in full dress uniform as the Khan.
picked up a Cavalry piece in the colors of the Church and moved it forward to
open the play. He did it in a seemingly absent-minded manner, yet Jarin
knew that no one of intelligence, especially not Manator, was ever casual when
it came to a game of Khanlar. Jarin opened by putting a Cavalry piece of
his own forward.
was a meeting today of the Council." Manator stated bluntly,
coming directly to the point, "The general opinion was that you
should travel through the country you are preparing to conquer."
He reinforced his first move by bringing a Warrior forward.
you think Colonel Sandar would allow me to do that?" Jarin
half joked, moving a second Cavalry piece forward to stand before his opener.
has been informed." Manator said quietly. ".
. .and he has asked to be allowed to go with you. The Council has agreed
that he may travel with you if it is your wish also. You will of course
wear the belt of power and you will go in the disguise of a Lunzan Merchant with
all the necessary passes, licenses and permits needed to allow you to travel at
Guardian General sipped at his wine and studied the board for a moment before
going on. "I
was against this idea from the start Jarin, for I have always thought that
without a Prince of the Royal Blood the Brotherhood might just fall apart, to
say nothing of my concern for the welfare of a dear friend. However, it
appears that your death might be as great an incentive to our Cause, through the
revenge motive it would bring, as would your being alive and actually leading
your army, or so the majority opinion believes. My concerns for a friend
were brushed aside by reference to the child you and Kirene gave birth to a few
months ago. You see my friend, the Council believes that unless you have
first hand experience of how life is lived on Khanlar and especially in the
cities that remained loyal to the Church during the Great War. . . well,
it is their feeling you would not be fully equipped for the decisions you will
have to make after the invasion."
would of course prefer to be alive to lead my army, if my opinion counts for
anything that is." Jarin said, not feeling as confident as
the words sounded. "Why, after all this time would anyone
decide that now is the moment for me to go wandering about through Khanlar?"
finished his wine, carefully placed the empty glass back on the table and
increased his line of Warriors facing Jarin's Cavalry. Jarin in turn
brought his fourth mounted figure forward to complete the block he had built for
is the opinion of the majority that it would be the best thing."
Manator said, "You can of course refuse, but that would lose
you much of the support you have already gained and there are still those who
only cooperate with us because it is the majority will of the Council that they
do so. Those people still believe we should stay out of the affairs of
Khanlar and busy ourselves with the tasks we were created to perform. For
you to refuse to go would increase their numbers, of that I have no doubt, my
I must go, must I not?" Jarin said, somewhat shocked by the
news that not all of the Guardians supported the Great Plan as he had always
believed. "When must I leave and how long am I to wander about
moved a Cavalry piece forward, siting it so that his advanced Warriors covered
it and thereby forcing Jarin to start his minor pieces moving forward.
"You have tonight to bid goodbye to Kirene. The Arrow awaits
you at this moment, ready to sail on the morning tide. You were to be
given more time, but the debate dragged on until the last moment."
He opened a side flanking movement into the game by advancing a warrior to the
left and then he said, "You will be picked up again in a month,
or whenever you arrive at the place they have chosen. I am sorry that you
must leave your family at this time my friend, but the majority must rule."
talked little more about this startling news, but instead lost themselves in the
careful strategies of Khanlar for the next few hours, enjoying the quiet, warm
comfort that a room has after nightfall when most other people have gone to
their beds. The candles burned lower and as time wore on the game
established four separate fronts, three of which presented Jarin with major
problems and they were well into the second flask of wine before Manator called
it a night and left for his own apartments. He stood to leave, looking
down on the board, as if memorizing the exact position of each piece and nodded
thoughtfully as Jarin bade him good night. "Sleep
well my friend and may the Gods grant you a safe journey. I look forward
to finishing this game when you return."
escorted Manator to the door and closed it behind him after he had left.
Then he went to his bed, grateful for the warm company of Kirene's sleeping body
beside him as he dropped off into a fitful sleep.
* * * * * *
Where Stands a Wife at the Start of a Campaign?
was a few minutes before dawn the next day when he woke Kirene, sitting on the
bed beside her. Her hair was tousled and her eyes were red rimmed with
sleep as he told her the news. She began to rise, but he put his hand on
her shoulder and told her not to bother, she sat up nevertheless, bunching the
pillows up behind her.
he had explained the facts to her, she seemed almost angry. "I
sometimes wonder what these people really want of us Jarin." She
rubbed her face where the sheets had creased it. "They keep talking
about you being the Leader, they call you their Prince and are always giving you
titles but it seems sometimes that they treat you like you are just another one
of their servants."
feel the same way at times, my love." Jarin replied,
"But after all that they have done, I guess they have the right to
expect me to go along with their plans. At least we live in luxury we
could not have dreamed of a short while ago Kirene."
I would exchange this luxury for the contentment we had before the Holding was
destroyed." She looked drawn as she spoke, "Then
we could make our own choices, whereas now we seem to be running this way and
that, just to be polite or fit into someone else's plans."
realized that there had been many times when he would have agreed with her and
that included this present decision the Council had just announced to him
through Manator, but instead he kissed her and bid her go back to sleep, tucking
her in as she snuggled back down under the covers. As he blew out the lamp
he realized both of them were having difficulty becoming civilized as fast as it
was being thrust upon them. Then he put aside his personal feelings and
set off to find Colonel Sandar and board the Arrow for Khanlar.
two years had passed since Jarin and Kirene had first met Manator in the forest.
Kirene had soon discovered after arriving in the Nation of Lunza that her life
in the Palace of the Guardians as the Lady of the Highest Prince in the Land,
was one that was full of activities, both state and private, yet she found that
more and more lately, she resented the way Jarin always seemed too busy to have
any time for her. From the moment she had told him that she was pregnant
she had somehow expected him to show his love and concern by being with her, to
always be there, showing her the love he always told her he had for her, but
instead it seemed he spent more time away from her now than he had before she
had broken the news to him.
was strange how she could now look at how she had changed during the time they
had been in Lunza, almost as if the she doing the examination was a separate
person to the she being examined. Like two lives being lived alongside
each other through the passage of time. She felt that she was in fact two
bodies walking along the road of life together, twins separated by place and
person, one unsophisticated, uneducated and poor, living on Havor's Holding for
ever, while the second twin walked the corridors of power as the wife of a
Prince, poised and educated, sophisticated and secret within herself.
since they had arrived on Lunza, perhaps even from the time they had first met
Manator, Kirene had learned to keep her own counsel whenever others were
present. She spoke rarely these days, controlled her movements and
deferred to everyone and by doing so, she had yet to find herself in a situation
where she had been publicly embarrassed.
had understood the power of her beauty almost as soon as she had found it and
now she had found that she was able to use it to mask herself from every
stranger she met. When she had first put on the clothes of a lady in that
dressmakers shop in Atlar she had been surprised at the transformation she saw
in the mirror that they had provided for her. Her first instinct had been
to bow low to the reflection, lest she insult the aristocratic beauty she saw
there. Then, as she had walked back to the Traveler's Rest with Jarin,
she had seen the looks she received from the men they passed in the street and
she would never forget the feeling of power that had surged through her veins as
the understanding had come to her. One stranger after another had bowed,
smiled or deferred to her, as she had walked that short distance and in their
eyes she had seen a reaction that was new to her. Everyone of them had the
same look in their eyes, a mixture of lust, admiration, fear and embarrassment.
She had known, there was no other word for it, she had just known, that they
would have returned any interest she might have shown them with gratitude and
there was no other word for that either.
she understood that if she looked like a Lady and acted like a Lady, then there
was no way anyone would know she was not a Lady, unless she told the fact
herself, either openly or without realizing that she did so and with that
knowledge, she had purposefully become the demure and quiet person she now was.
It was not a game, nor could anyone say that she was acting a part, although
that might have been true at the beginning, it was something she was very proud
of and the more it fooled people, the prouder she became.
was surrounded every day by true aristocrats and people who had strived for
years to attain the position in society they possessed and yet she was able to
mix in their company as an equal, carefully smiling and nodding as was
necessary. She found herself gliding gracefully through rooms populated
with the best that society had produced, yet inside she was still little Kirene
Havor, the daughter of a penniless charcoal burner, who secretly studied
everyone and everything she saw, every hour that she was awake and she found
that she was able to fool them all. In a way her respect for those around
her diminished, little by little, as they accepted her and as they themselves
appeared to quickly come to respect her company. She often wondered why
they were so willing to welcome the presence of a quiet, well-mannered beauty
without question and then she realized, that had she been the short framed,
heavily built peasant woman that her own mother had been, lacking the benefit of
fine clothes and manners, it was more than probable that they would have treated
her with disdain, had they noticed her at all.
when she had been pregnant, this thought had never left her mind and in truth
the constant effort to play the part she had chosen, sometimes became very
tiring, both physically and mentally. She was always conscious of how she
looked, how she moved and every other detail that made her the socially accepted
person she had become. She spent hours each day secretly checking every
aspect of her appearance and she never forgot that every morsel of food she
chose, every hour of sleep she missed and in fact everything that affected how
she looked to those she was in contact with daily, were important beyond the
slightest moment of negligence.
demurely glided through every day alone, a vision of perfection to the best of
her ability. She never missed a comment which might help her and she never
interrupted any advice she heard which might make her part in this great play
the more convincing. Alone was almost her way of life, even when she was
surrounded by crowds of courtiers, counselors, servants and even friends.
husband seemed rarely there to be with, or available to confide in or defer to,
in moments of encounter where her hauteur began to slip. In the old days
back in the forests of Natan Jarin had always had time for her, he had always
been there whenever she needed him to take the lead and in fact, she had grown
to womanhood enjoying his careful words, soothing advice and the warmth of his
never denied comfort. She had been in love with him from that first day
when she had found him half dead in the undergrowth, soaked to the skin and
unconscious, delivered to her as the Prince she had always dreamed of.
When she had first found him, she had thought him to be dead, his skin had been
so white, but when she had screamed he had moved, almost as if he was trying to
curl up into a ball, while at the same time reaching with his delicate hands to
find his place, like a small child who has lost for a moment his appointed
position between his parents in the bed.
he had been dressed in the most beautiful of clothes, with jewelry that matched
his handsomeness even that close to death. His hair had been perfection
despite his wounds and soft to her hands, as she had stroked his head to comfort
him. As the years had passed his very presence had meant safety, security
and all those other good feelings that will always be love to any young and
she had grown and matured he had always been there, quietly strong and always
understanding, sometimes like a big brother and at other times able to make her
blush without thought, but when she had gone to her mother and tried to talk
about her feelings for him, her mother had laughed. Then her mother had
sat her down and explained how babies were made, how one day soon she would have
to find a husband to look after her and lots of other advice that had kept her
confused for days. It was the idea of being married off to a stranger and
the stuff about babies, that had occupied her mind for weeks after that.
In the woods that day, when he had put his hands upon her breasts, well
everything had happened so fast, it had felt as if she was in a dream. It
was a dream of her own making of course, a dream she had had a great many
nights, when she had woken up flushed and embarrassed. It was like sitting
by the fire on a cold night with one too many cups of mother's home made wine in
your belly, fantasizing about the future.
a way she regretted that it had happened now, although she realized that life
might be very different for her, or it might have ended that day the Holding had
been destroyed, had Jarin not been swept away by the offer she had made him of
her body for his male satisfaction. She had wanted the baby of course, but
there was the nagging doubt that it had happened too soon. Perhaps she
would have been lucky if she had not caught his seed for a year or so, like
mother had told her some girls experienced when they first got married.
all in all things were wonderful, compared to how they had lived on the Holding
in the forest of Natan. She had wardrobes full of fine dresses and
undergarments of lace and silk and boxes of jewelry. She lived in a great
palace, in the finest apartments, amidst splendor and luxury she had not
imagined even in her wildest day dreams a few years ago. There were her
friends as well, Malinda and Rabella, who insisted upon calling her "My
Lady, Kirene", but were good fun in all other respects. She could
write in a passable hand now and read more words than she had ever thought
possible for one brain to remember.
were of course some mornings these days when even her brain was affected by her
new love for wine. The liking for that soothing, mind-numbing escape, had
begun as a way to get to sleep when Jarin was away, but it had developed to a
situation where there was hardly a night these days when she did not drink so
much of it, that she could rarely remember the actual act of going to bed.
It was a life of course that every girl in the land would want, if she had the chance to get it. Her husband was handsome, rich beyond the understanding of most people, a true Prince of the Royal Blood and in the shadow of his importance, she walked in her own importance and she was the mother of his baby and his heir. Yet she longed for some of the things other woman took for granted. If only Jarin had more time to be with her. If only she was still the most important thing in his life. . . Kirene suddenly realized that the tears were running down her cheeks again as she thought about it.
* * * * * * *
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