Chapter Fifteen




The ship that took Jarin and Sandar out of Sedanna was very different to any ship they had ever seen before and although Jarin would never call himself knowledgeable about ships in the normal run of things, even he could feel that strange mixture between elation and worry, that one feels when experiencing something completely new and beyond all previous experience.  All the ships in Khanlar had their hulls painted, usually either white or in the color of their nation and for ships of lesser importance in a dull green, brown or gray.  The hull of this ship however, was painted black and that was something which was not only unheard of in Jarin's experience, but in fact went against all tradition, for black was a color avoided by anyone with the slightest sense of superstition, a trait that most sailing men are well known to possess.  The ship was also very much longer from stern to prow than felt right, especially when one related the length of the ship to the narrow width of the deck and as they left the harbor it seemed to cut through the waves in a way that the Arrow had never done.  What happened when they were far enough out to sea for the coast line to be no more than a strip of brown and green between the ocean and the heavens, proved to both Jarin and Sandar that this ship was indeed a strange vessel.

With well practiced efficiency, detachments of sailors assembled in teams to man the capstans, while others worked aloft in the rigging, manhandling into position even greater areas of black sail to catch the wind which blew from the south.  The men working above them moved into position quickly, working the ropes through waiting rings and pulleys as they ran extra sails into place and Jarin realized that even he should have noticed before that the masts were far too thick for either the size of the vessel, or the weight of sail they had previously carried as the vessel had left Sedanna.  It was not until those extra sails caught the wind however, with what appeared to be acres of canvas spread above them, allowing the wind to fill them to their full extent, that Jarin began to understand the real value of this strange new type of sailing vessel.  They were driven before the wind faster and faster, into an ever increasing spray breaking over the prow, as the ship slammed and cut through waves a vessel of the Arrow's size would have had to ride.  Then and perhaps not fully even then, he began to understand the revolutionary talents of this ship.

The captain proved to be a young man, young that is for a sea captain of such a ship, being in his mid-thirties at the most and his joy, as he explained the innovations incorporated into the design of his command, was plain for all to see.  His blue eyes sparkled with pride from his deeply tanned face and the wind threw his shoulder-length sun-bleached hair all over his head, as he shouted his orders to his crew above the noise of the wind, sending uniformed sailors scampering across the varnished deck and up into the rigging.

"Is it not like a fairy tale ship, Sire?"  He said like a child with a new toy,  "We can travel at twice the speed of any ship built before her and the Sword could still maneuver in the Great Waterway, she is that responsive to the wheel Sire.  She is a sailor's dream Sire, that she is, a sailor's dream!"

"Our vessel's name is the Sword?"  Jarin asked, prompting the captain to continue.

"Aye Sire and already there are twenty three more like her at sea in trials."  Soon the captain was pointing out the less obvious changes in the ship's engineering to Jarin, when Sandar joined them.

"How many men will this vessel carry Captain?"  Sandar asked, with the lack of ceremony only a soldier can show when interested in new aids to his efficiency.

"One hundred cavalrymen with their horses or three hundred infantrymen with full equipment."  The captain smiled at Jarin then and added,  "But your flagship Sire would take both contingents and still have enough room left over for fully equipped and spacious officer facilities, for yourself and your staff Sire."

"My flagship?"  Jarin questioned quietly.

"Aye Sire.  The Angel."  The Captain continued, a look of some puzzlement on his face, as he realized that all of what he was saying was obviously news to his Prince. "We saw her as we left Lunza, with almost twice the sail we are carrying, leaning into the wind she was and half as fast again as the Sword I have no doubt.  Aye Sire, the Angel is without a doubt the finest ship Khanlar has ever produced."

"Excuse us captain."  Sandar said and led Jarin aside, leaving the captain to manage his command without them.  When they were out of the captain's hearing Sandar let his excitement come out.

"Twenty four ships like this and a flagship even better.  By the Gods Sire, we could travel with an army of over two thousand cavalrymen, four complete regiments, and create havoc anywhere we chose.  Imagine the church's panic, they could never catch us at sea, nor could they ever be sure where we were going to strike at them next.  It's like a solder's dream come true.  Complete control of the place and time to strike and the ability to withdraw whenever the going gets a little too hard on the troops."

"Let's wait until we are sure of all of our facts, before we start planning campaigns Sandar."  Jarin felt like a general who has just found the solution to all of his problems and then is almost afraid to use it, just in case it should fail him.  "I am giving you an order Colonel and one I want you to follow diligently until we dock in Lunza."  Jarin said,  "I want you to spend this trip looking for any possible flaws in the design of this ship from a general's point of view, or any problems we might encounter using such vessels in the future.  Then we will talk about the benefits.  Agreed?"

"Yes Sire."  Sandar replied.  He did not like the order that was obvious, for it was hard for him to give up the tactical advantage he had already granted himself, but like the professional he was, he would test each theory and hunch until he was sure of every aspect of the design and the performance potential of this new vessel.

With the southern coastline off the port bow the ship moved at a tangent to the coast moving further to sea, even as they progressed eastward through the southern ocean.  After less than an hour the shoreline to the north of them was little more than a smudge on the horizon.  The wind was building as they cut through the heaving waves that had yet to adorn themselves with their white caps, as they would when the wind picked up a little more.  The rudder was hard over and the sails were turned as they caught the wind, with the ship leaning a good twenty degrees towards the port.  When at last the island of Goja came into sight off the port bow the Captain made no move to reduce the area of sail, which would have been absolutely necessary for him to have dropped the ship's speed to negotiate the narrow deep water entrance to the Straits of Calvazan.  Instead, the Sword moved even further south before it turned before the south westerly into it's second leg which would be almost due north.  The wind crackled the sails as the captain made his turn and everyone aboard felt the surge of power as the ship picked up even more speed as the rudder came straight and the ship stood straight before the wind.  The Captain had chosen to take them back to Lunza by the Outer Passage, sailing around the islands along their course and going far further out into the open ocean than would normally have seemed necessary, ensuring however, that they prevented suspicious eyes on any passing ship they might meet, from seeing more than they wanted for them to see.  It soon became obvious that it was likely that the Captain sailed on orders that demanded he prevent spying eyes from seeing the full miracle that was this new ship. 

Even so, the journey was done in two thirds of the time the old Arrow would have taken on the shorter route and when they finally sailed into Lunza, Sandar and Jarin felt the exhaustion only continuous excitement can bring to a man.  An excitement that was crowned by the sight of three more sleek black vessels of the same design as the Sword docked at the quay in the harbor.  They had passed the Arrow and two other ships of the older style sailing patrol outside of the harbor entrance carrying plague flags, with catapults loaded and their decks lined with crossbowmen as an obvious warning that no foreign ships would enter Lunza's harbor without dire consequences at this time.  

In the few weeks they had been away, Lunza had changed far more than Jarin would have thought possible in so short a space of time.  It now looked like the great headquarters town for the Army that it was.  It was even cleaner than Jarin had remembered, the obvious benefit of many hundreds of men with the need to be kept occupied.  Their horses awaited them, along with twenty of Jarin's personal Guard, who looked as if they had been cast from the same mold and freshly painted no more than an hour before.  All through the city men-at-arms stood to attention every few feet, right up to the Great Wall, the gates of which were open to them.  There was no doubt whatsoever that all the activity they saw was the result of the Duty Officers doing everything they could to keep the thousands of ready-for-action troops fully occupied, when they were not working in well-disciplined teams on the many building projects going on all around them.  

* * * * * * *

 Absence Intensifies Change


Jarin had expected Manator to be waiting to greet them at the Palace, however a servant informed him that a meeting was to be held at ten in the morning the following day, that would require his presence, at which time Manator would be in attendance.  Jarin therefore went directly to his apartments.

Kirene had changed also while Jarin had been away.  Her face was a little harder somehow than what he had pictured in his memory of her, as he had tramped the roads of Khanlar.  A little more mature perhaps, or maybe the education she was getting was reflected in her appearance?  Whatever, he pushed the thought away from his mind and then forgot it entirely, as she ran across the room to throw her arms round him.

"God's I've been worried about you, Jarin."  Were her first words to him and strangely Jarin recognized her mother's tone, even though the voice was Kirene's own.  That thought too was pushed aside however, as he felt himself enjoying her feminine scents and her firm softness against his body.

"I've missed you too sweetness."  Jarin replied, realizing the complete truth of that statement as he saw how beautiful she was becoming with every passing day.  "Far more than I ever dreamed I would miss my little sister."  He joked, to her obvious amusement.

Happiness reigned supreme at that moment and her next remark, stating that Jarin had only missed her body and to her surprise it had shown signs to her of missing him, had them both undressed and pulling back the sheets less than five minutes after he had entered the room.  There were few signs that she had born a child only a few months past and making love with that remembered hard surface of youthful femininity beneath him, increased his satisfaction with life and his partner in it.  The pride that he was a father somehow or another seemed to give added reason to everything Jarin was doing, although he would wonder later if he truly realized it during it's happening.  After the love making ended however, the Kirene he had watched grow up and had made into a woman, retreated into herself again and it was as if he was looking at her through an invisible glass screen.  Jarin could not pin it down, but somehow she was not as much his as she had been before she had become a mother.  He let it go, there was little else to do for the feeling was so weak, like the forgotten name of someone one will never meet again, nor can one really remember the consequence of the last meeting.  The total bond that had been theirs had eased it's tightness somehow and Jarin was not sure what to say or feel about it, so again he found it easier to put it from him.

He had barely finished dressing when there was a knock on the door and after being bid to enter, his son's nurse brought little Jatrin into the room.  Kirene remained in the bed, but Jarin soon had his son in his arms and was whirling the boy around much to the child's delight if the chuckles and smiling face were any proof of it.  The next hour was to pass faster than any Jarin had lived through in the past month.  He hugged Jatrin to him and felt the comfort of the boys heat as his head laid against Jarin's neck.  He watched and encouraged as the toddler tried to stand, yet failing to do so exhibited great excitement as he crawled around after his father, while the greatest Prince in the land pretended to be frightened, running and hiding behind chairs, only to be found by his fast moving offspring.  Finally, with a little more tartness than Jarin appreciated, Kirene bade the nurse take the boy for his bath.

After the nurse had left with his son, the two of them ate a quiet supper together.  Then Kirene showed Jarin some of the things she had gathered while he had been away and shared some of the things she had learned in her studies and they talked generally for an hour or so before going to bed.

It was not until the door closed behind him when he left their rooms the next morning, and Jarin was walking down the corridor towards the meeting with Manator, that he realized Kirene had not mentioned his trip once during their time together, nor had she asked him what had happened during it.  Again that strange feeling of unease played just outside of his control and understanding and again Jarin pushed it down, only this time he realized that he was doing it.

Manator had changed more than anything, or anyone else it would appear, since Jarin had been away.  Only the change in his friend Jarin soon understood was very obviously for the worse.  He looked much older and very frail, he had lost a lot of weight and his face was drawn and pale.  He began to stand as Jarin entered, but then thought better of it and slumped back into his chair.

"Have you been ill, my friend?"  Jarin asked, as he took the offered chair across the table from the Guardian General,  "You've lost weight and you look pale." 

"Was and am ill, Jarin."  Manator replied,  "I caught a cold the day after you sailed, then it got worse and worse still.  In the end I spent two weeks in my bed and I still feel very weak, however that is unimportant compared to what we have to talk about today, so I thank you for your concern, but I would also suggest that we waste as little time as possible on an old man's ailments."

"As you wish."  Jarin said and changed the subject.  "These new ships are unbelievable, it is like riding a hawk to sail in one."

"Aye, but that too can wait for later as well Jarin.  Let me tell you of what we are facing on the political and tactical fronts at this time and offer you my advice, before the difficulties we are up against become insurmountable problems."  He shifted his weight again and then launched into his usual monologue.

"Two nights past we picked up a man just outside of the City.  Obviously he had landed some way to the north during the previous night, much like our own operation with you and Colonel Sandar in Norden a few weeks back.  Then yesterday we found another on the eastern coast of Dag of all places.  They are spies sent by the Church, that they admitted openly and their presence shows that our religious friends on the mainland have discovered, or at least suspect, what we are doing.  One thing you can rely on the Church for, is their inability to forget a worry once they have discovered it, so sooner or later they will have chapter and verse of everything that is happening here and then any chance for the benefit of surprise we may have at this moment, will immediately be denied to us."  He paused, sniffed a little and then said defiantly,  "Therefore we must invade the mainland now!"

"Is the Army you promised me ready to mount an invasion?"  Jarin asked, as if Manator had requested him to do no more than to accompany him to lunch.

"Ready and champing at the bit.  In fact if we don't invade soon they will have polished every stone and rock on the island."  The older man smiled for the first time since Jarin had arrived and then continued,  "But joking aside Jarin, we have nearly eight thousand crack troops awaiting the order to sail and within six weeks another twenty five hundred will be ready to follow them.  That is the Army that I promised you during our walk in the woods when we first met, if you remember.  There are no more men here to enter training at this time, ten and a half thousand is all of them and in truth the best came first.  Oh, you can invade all right, the Church has less than ten thousand men in uniform these days and the seeds of our call to arms will begin to grow and, like we have planned all along, the slaves and the oppressed will come to you as you advance.  With training and experience, under good officers and endowed with the discipline they will be given, they will become your infantrymen, your engineers and of course, your garrison troops as the invasion moves across the country."

"So when do we go?"  Jarin asked, still refusing to rise to the excitement he could feel pounding inside his chest.

"Not so fast my young friend."  Manator smiled again.  "There is more to it than just jumping on a ship and landing in Khanlar.  There is the matter of politics I mentioned and a lesson that you should by now be ready to learn and put into action."

"You mean debates, meetings and never ending arguments as usual?"  Jarin said with a laugh.

"No!"  Manator coughed a little after his loud statement,  "I mean stopping the politics once and for all and you taking command of the situation as the Khan of Khanlar, as I have wanted for you all along.  The time has come to claim your inheritance.  Many of my brothers in the Order of Guardians have looked upon you as a child ever since you first arrived here, a figurehead to lead the army into battle and someone to sit on an impotent throne after the war is won.  The fact is however, that our Cause has need of a true leader, not a figurehead to stand around while his advisors begin a debate every time a question comes up.  It is my wish that you will take command and hold it if you can.  I shall advise you when you wish me to and will allow me to, but from the moment you leave this room, the future of our Cause must be your only thought and your ultimate personal responsibility.  The Guardians must in time learn to accept the fact, that eventually they must go back to their original place in the order of things, as librarians and teachers, academics and researchers.  You alone Jarin must command from this day on."

Manator was obviously tiring fast and as he sipped from the water glass he took from the table beside him, his bony, blue veined hand shook slightly. 

"To do that my friend, you must gain the respect of your people and you must put their interests before everything.  For a leader is no more than that when it all comes down to reality.  He is only `someone who leads'.  Without believers and followers no man can be a leader.  The leader takes the praise if things go right and the blame if they go wrong, therefore he must be allowed to lead, for there can be no responsibility without the authority to carry it out.  Forget the `all men are equal' tales of your lessons, for you will find that you will have to be far more than just equal from now on and you will have to learn also to carry the responsibility for being so.  You should listen to all the advice you can gain of course, but never allow yourself to be swayed away from what you know to be right.  Take no qualified changes from the path you choose my boy, for one will follow the other until you are lost, then the people will seek someone else to take them back to where they were when they urged you to leave the path in the first place.  If you can not decide, do not decide.  If you are not sure what to do, wait until you are, but allow no one to lead for you.  Should you so decide and I know you must from time to time, you may give away the authority, but the responsibility will always be yours."  Manator had tired himself and was breathing heavily as he took another drink from the glass beside him.

"You make it sound like a sentence into slavery my old friend."  Jarin said jokingly.

"It is!"  Manator replied,  "A self-induced, self-directed, self-maintained slavery, or you will not be a ruler in the real sense of the word.  But fear not Jarin, I and many others have more than enough faith in you, even if your own faith should fail you from time to time.  You are a good man.  Stay a good man and you will be a good leader for your people."

"Thank you Manator, you know that I have always been grateful for your confidence.  So when does all this begin?"  Jarin poured himself a glass of water and sat back, expecting a long and detailed explanation of Manator's plan, instead of which his old friend laughed out loud, a laugh that ended in a wheezing cough.

"It started ten minutes ago Jarin when you walked in here.  I have nothing left to say.  When you leave this room you must go out and take command.  There is nothing left for anyone to tell you, no advice, no opinion really either. . .  until you have won the first battle in Khanlar."

"Right now?"  Jarin said, quite shocked at the immediate responsibility,  "Just go out there and take over.  Will not a few of your people feel that I am jumping in before they have finished?"  He asked.

"Of course they will.  So will some of your officers, some may even argue your tactics."  He put his frail blue veined hand on Jarin's hand,  "You are their Khan, Jarin.  Rule them.  Lead them into the future we have talked about for so long.  You have been taught by the best teachers and you have a ready intelligence.  Use it.  Deliver to them their inheritance!"  


 * * * * * * *

 The Paradox of a True and Trusting Life


It would appear that leaders, much in the way of fathers, are destined never to achieve their life's goals and ambitions, for no-one's fault or connivance, but simply because they have, on the one hand, a life's ambition which, on the other, would appear to be negated by the more human needs within every man's life.

The complexities of trying to accommodate the needs, wishes, fears, ambitions, insecurities and complexes, real or imagined, of all the people looking to them  for either leadership, salvation, just an excuse for their own shortcomings or inabilities, will soon reach a climax of confusion and frustration being placed upon he who would take the responsibility of leadership.  So that in the end he will no longer know what is really important and what is not important to him anymore, in any true meaning of the word.

Leaders and fathers alike face exactly the same paradox.  It will be very long time before someone will come to them and offer to solve any real problem for them, unless it is in a way which would have them either lose respect for themself, or be forced to sacrifice something in their ultimate Cause.   Very few would ever offer to mentor them with any unswervingly impartial and convincing advice that is pathologically obvious to be correct, once it has been fully considered and evaluated based upon their own experience.  It would seem however that the opposite is true, and that they will most often be surrounded by people who are convinced that if only the leader would change his beliefs, opinions and talents, to be more in line with their own, then the leader could solve the follower's, or dependent's, problem quite easily, and thereby solve their own.  In fact it would appear that having accepted a man to be the leader, or husband, or father, as their savior, guide and provider, they can only exhibit anger and incredulity when the poor man is unable to perform the beyond human miracle to deliver them from that which they are unable to deliver themselves.

A leader, just like a father or husband, has only problems and shortcomings that seem to those being provided for, invisible or unimportant, with most people close to him seemingly convinced that any difficulty, or challenge he might face, is created simply because he has, for some inadvertent reason, chosen not to deal with it yet.  Incredulous as it may be, it would appear that they believe, that either the leader or father can have whatever he wishes for, or can protect and provide for them merely by applying himself to the task of achieving it.  Having granted the leader this omnipotence they then seem amazed, even injured, when he does not set out the way they would have him do, were they him, to achieve it, sometimes even admitting that they could never do for him what it is they are asking him to do for them, as if this were a compliment rather than an insult.

For most men who take on the role of leader, husband or father, it will not be long before they begin to see the humorous side of the situation.  Those who do not see the funny side of their predicament do not last long in the role and usually run away from it the first chance they get.  It would be constantly amusing, if it were not so frustrating, to be surrounded by people who believe that you have it in your power to do for them what they could never do for themselves.  After they have appointed someone to be their savant, their leader, it is not very long before they will demand he provide what they wish, lead them where they wish to go, and react the way they wish him to react.  Considered from a singular point of view they appear to have promoted him to be their alter-ego, an oracle of only the wisdom and advice they wish to hear and a cornucopia of the plenty that they wish to receive.

It would also appear that having appointed him to the onerous task of providing them with what they believe they should receive, they adopt the profession of critic when he can not provide for them the full extent of that which they cannot provide for themselves, nor be the paragon of virtue and gentlemanly manners which they must have proved already to themselves they can never achieve individually.  It is as if they wish to lead the parade without the added burden of carrying the flag or paying the price demanded.  They do however demand entrance to the leader's power and lifestyle without being willing to accept the responsibilities, burdens or controls that such a life demands.

It is rather like wishing to dance with the famous composer to the point where he can never have the time to ever compose anything again, and then becoming angry when he wishes to take the time to develop the repertoire that was the main attraction he had in the first place.

Most leaders, and fathers for that matter, soon come to the conclusion that they can never truly win in this situation.  Being a husband, father or leader is rarely more than an act of sacrifice.  It is as if in taking on the responsibility they have set out to devote their life to being the driver of a wagon hoping to reach Utopia.  Having equipped themself with an adequate horse and cart to get there and having given themselves ample time to enjoy it when they do, it would at first appear that they have every chance of achieving their life's goal at the start. 

Along the way passing pedestrians without a set destination of their own, or in other cases without the means to get where they wish to go, ask the driver where he is going and upon learning it and comparing it to their own future, either decide that they would like to join him on his stated journey, or that he can help them reach where they are going if he will allow them to ride with him for a while.  They then ask to be allowed to ride on the cart with him and, for the company, for the type of man who becomes a leader or a father in the first place dislikes traveling alone, he invites them to climb aboard.  At the beginning they are grateful beyond belief, consistently thanking him for helping them and doing all in their power to assist him, however after a while they begin to resent the fact that it is his cart and he sees no reason to allow them to drive, because he fears that they do not know the way; or they begin to request that he take the time out of his journey to take them somewhere out of his way and to a place he has no wish to go.  After a while it is very likely that such a man will have picked up such a large number of passengers, that it becomes ludicrous to the extreme.  Forgetting that it is his cart after a certain period of time, or jealous that he has a cart and they do not, they begin to argue, first with the driver for being selfish and soon amongst themselves because they will most likely never agree.

When he refuses to change course, or let someone else take the reins, they accuse him of being selfish, and as more and more passengers are taken aboard they forget the small matter of who actually owns the horse and cart and eventually they will begin to argue as a matter of habit, sometimes to the point where they will even insist that the driver respect the outcome of their voting on what should be done.  It never becomes easier for the driver either, for he magnanimously helps other needy pedestrians aboard, as earlier ones get off the cart in anger and disgust when he will not agree to their demands, forgetting in the heat of the moment that after they get off the cart they will either be forced once again to walk, or they will most likely have to pay dearly for any other ride they might be offered to them in the future.

Most leaders and fathers soon become as angry and confused in this common scenario as the poor driver.  Not wishing to journey on alone, but with no wish to hand the reins to someone who has either never driven a horse before, or merely does not know the way to Utopia, he is faced with a paradox which he will soon no longer know how to handle.  He may dread the prospect of loneliness and yet he will also learn to dread the continuous arguments.  If his life is in fact a journey towards a fixed and chosen destination, which it must be unless he wishes to join the mass of aimless pedestrians, it would appear he has only certain options, none of which is likely ever to appeal to him.

He can refuse to pick up passengers and suffer a lifetime of loneliness, or he can decide that rather than be lonely he will accept to spend his life being the servant of his passengers, driving them wherever they wish to go and never getting where he wished to go at the beginning of his life's journey.  Or, he could give up and hand the reins to someone who does not know where Utopia is and ride around aimlessly for the rest of his life.

Most men consider these options carefully over the years and eventually decide to only pick up passengers that wished to travel to Utopia with them.  It would seem however and is completely understandable, that if the journey turns out to be longer than the passenger thought it would take when they climbed aboard his wagon, then they begin to doubt their chosen leader still knows the way.  If the road becomes bumpy at times then they blame him for taking the wrong route, even though they know of no better one to suggest.  If it rains, they will complain he started the journey at the wrong time.  If he takes shortcuts they will panic that he must have lost his way.  If a wheel breaks, it will always be because he did not choose a strong enough one.  If an axle squeaks then it will again be because he did not grease it enough.  As the driver a leader, husband or father will always have to accept that as far as those he leads are concerned, whatever is annoying to the passengers will always be his fault.  And, God forbid, should the wagon be held up by robbers, well he will be on his own, after all it is his cart is it not?   Simply put, a leader or a father, or a husband for that matter, can only lose in the blame game of his journey through life.

And so has been for most leader's, husband's and father's, lives.  They will avoid shortcuts they knew off, rather than ever panic their passengers.  They will have accepted their blame for a bumpy road and every sudden shower, they will have held the reins until their hands were raw, because handing them to a passenger would only get them all lost.  They will have watched people get off the cart, only to realize afterwards that walking was far harder than they remembered and the price other drivers demanded was far higher than they had expected to have to pay.  They will have taken breaks when the passengers complained of being tired and they will have taken diversions just to stop them complaining for a while.  They will have also taken on passengers when others would have refused, just because they felt sorry for them and the people seemed tired.  Sometimes, when a leader truly believed he was able to trust one of them he will have handed them the reins when they asked, only to be pushed from the cart and have everything stolen from him while he was 'asleep' in his trusting them.

Perhaps the cruelest barb of all is that in the end he will really doubt that any of the passengers, those people he chose to share his life with, will ever believe that his motives were never selfish, nor heartless in any way.  He will have always truly believed that what he was doing, the route he was taking if you will, was the only one open to him at the time.  He will have truly loved those that he invited into his life and aboard his cart, yet perhaps his greatest failing will be that he was never able to stand by and watch people injure themselves without pointing it out to them and suggesting a safer and easier way.  For that he will have been judged selfish and self serving at every turn and he will know that no one will ever believe that he truly was trying only to protect them from themselves.  For all his work, for all his compassion, he will soon know he will be judged a dreamer and a fool, if not a selfish and arrogant tyrant, after he is dead.  Yet had he ignored them all and left them to walk on and never invited them to join him on his journey and he had reached Utopia, then they would have been right had they then judged him selfish. 

In other words, it would seem the choice to be alone or accept companions was completely unimportant, he was bound to be wrong, whichever he chose.  Often, when old age finally brings the leader, the husband or the father, a little wisdom, they  realize that they will probably die long before they ever get to Utopia, as do most leaders, husbands and fathers, and no one will ever give them credit for listening to them, when in fact they were making him waste the time they did just because he was trying to keep them happy.  In fact it can be expected that those still on the cart when he finally falls off dead will probably blame him for leaving them in such a fix.  The sad fact is that more often than not, a man is asking for failure every time he takes up the challenge to either a leader, a husband or a father, which is possibly the reason why so many of them fail so greatly.  

* * * * * * *

 A New Order of Things


Manator was right and so was Jarin of course.  A lot of people did object, some openly, some in more devious ways, but thanks to Colonel Sandar and Jarin's personal Guard the grumbles and other dissenting whispers did not last long.  Jarin had walked back to his rooms after the meeting with Manator and had given his first independent command within sight of his own door.  Jarin ordered himself to have more faith and of course he found the order very hard to obey and would do for a long time he guessed.

His second order that day was also questioned.  Jarin asked a passing servant to find Colonel Sandar and the Regimental Commanders and have them report to the Council Chamber at four of the clock.

"I will check that the room is not being used Sire."  The servant answered politely.

"If it is, throw the occupants out and have my officers there at four."  Jarin snapped back,  "Otherwise my man you will be serving the rest of your life out quarrying rock in Dag."

"Yes Sire."  The man paled visibly and hurried away.

At four Jarin entered the Council Chamber to find his staff sat in the seats normally reserved for Guardians.  Sandar was on his feet first, but the salute came from all of them at the same time.  The two Guardians present did not take part in the salute, as was their custom, but they must have dropped everything else they were working on to be there at such short notice and that in itself was respect enough.  Everyone remained standing until Jarin had taken his seat at the table in front of the great wall map and from that sitting position he announced his plans.   "Gentlemen, we invade Khanlar in three days time."

The shock was obvious and it was Zavir, Colonel of the Wolves who spoke first.  "Sire, no one has informed me of this action, I have half of my men engaged in tactical exercises on the other side of the island of Dag."

"I have just informed you, Colonel Zavir."  Jarin said, more sharply than he had intended,  "If you can not bring those men back in time Zavir, then we shall have to sail without them."

"They will be ready Sire."  Colonel Zavir answered, obviously somewhat confused at Jarin's tone.

"Gentlemen.  Two Church spies have been picked up in the last few days and I believe that there must therefore be more.  Therefore we attack now, or we shall be defending Lunza from an invasion as soon as one of them conveys to Ragarian what we are doing here.  I want you to act as my council of War, along with our chief Naval officer, Admiral Kovis, who has been sent for and will arrive in Lunza this evening.  General Sandar. . ."  He announced Sandar's promotion  ". . .you and the others will decide on any other officers who could serve us well on the General Staff and you will assemble everyone in this chamber this evening at eight of the clock."  Sandar nodded his assent and then Jarin added as he rose to leave.  "Gentlemen there is much to be done and little time to do it in.  Bring your regiments to readiness and prepare for the invasion we have all waited for, for so long.  I trust you to assemble a team that can assist us in the planning of our campaign and in the actual invasion itself."  They rose and saluted again as Jarin left the room.  Outside he paused and listened as they started to talk in hushed tones.  Obviously his news had shaken them more than just a little.

A few hours later after a light early lunch with Kirene, Jarin met in the same chamber with a vastly different group of his supporters, in a meeting that had been organized by the Guardians many weeks before.  The people gathered before him represented every social class in Khanlar, every age group and no less than one in four of them was a woman, or so Jarin had been informed by Razarian earlier.  They were dressed for this occasion in the uniform dark blue tunics of the Brotherhood, except that this group wore round fur hats, that carried a silver disc bearing a sunburst symbol mounted on the front.  From the sides and the back of these hats a veil of dense dark blue silk several layers thick, fell to where it was meticulously tucked into the collars of their tunics.  Only the eyes of the wearer could be seen and it added a sinister look to the people gathered there that evening.  The same disc device was worn on the left side of the chest, while on the cuffs of their tunics a series of silver braids denoted their ranks.  Jarin soon established that no-one in the room it seemed was below the rank of Sergeant.

Razarian, who had been at the earlier meeting with his officers, was now seated at the table when Jarin entered.  He rose as the assembled officers jumped to their feet and saluted their Khan.  Jarin returned the salute and moved to take his place beside the small Guardian.  Razarian nodded to Jarin and smiled slightly, as he re-seated himself and waited until his audience had done the same, before he addressed them.   "We all look very military tonight my friends, but your ability to salute is secondary at this meeting, therefore I suggest you all make yourselves comfortable.  This meeting could take several hours I believe."

Jarin then listened as the Colonel of his Intelligence Corps, who came from the audience to the table after Razarian's introductions, explained the Grand Plan.  The fact was that the Colonel, a large middle aged Asigan who went by the name of Kramakor, had spent an hour before the meeting with Razarian, briefing Jarin on the main points of the Grand Plan, however it was still an exciting meeting for Jarin to be a part of.  Colonel Kramakor did not wear a veil, yet his face showed little or no expression as he began to talk.   

"Your Highness, Guardian Razarian, Ladies and Gentlemen. . ."  Kramakor's voice was very soft and assured, something that had surprised Jarin when he had first heard it, coming as it did from such a large body.  "This is the first time that the Officers of the Khan's Intelligence Corps has ever met as a body and it is very likely that we shall in all probability never do so again, until our Khan rules all of Khanlar as a peaceful land and perhaps not even then."  The soft confident voice continued,  "Even here we wear our uniforms as a disguise, for we of all people in this world will never be able to claim recognition for what services we will and have performed, for the Cause.  We came together here for a briefing my friends, on the actions we should take during many months of preparation.  Instead, we find that we must return to active duty to prepare for an invasion that will take place a few weeks, perhaps even days from now."

Jarin tried to guess what those people sat before him guarding their identities with such carefulness, would think, if they knew that in only a day or so the Brotherhood would be landing an army in Khanlar.  Colonel Kramakor, Razarian and Jarin had debated whether to tell them the truth prior to the meeting, but it had been Kramakor himself who had warned against trusting even the men and women he trusted with his own life, saying,   

"If one of them was caught Your Highness and the torture proved too much for them, you just might find an army waiting on the shore to kill your men even as they struggled through the water to the beach.  It is better that no-one knows the exact date, hour and landing place until the invasion is actually taking place."

A hundred pairs of ears hung on every word the Colonel spoke as he continued:  

"You are our secret weapon my friends.  You are farmers and fishermen, housewives and even a few priests, you are shop keepers and tradesmen, clerks and merchants and you are our ears and eyes on the mainland.  The Church will not be able to assemble a troop of cavalry, or move a shipment of grain, that we will not hear of it.  The pigeons that the gentle monks of Suvak bred and kept for so many years will see to that.  Already your contacts on the mainland have had thousands of those winged messengers shipped to them in secret and thousands more are being bred and trained even as we speak.  You get your messages to your contacts and they will get them to us without delay."

Kramakor turned to Prince Jarin to address his next words,  

"Your Highness, the people you see here this evening are only the officers of your Intelligence Corps of course and each of them has his or her own group operating with them.  There is a group in every major city of every Nation and there are also groups which operate in the countryside of all the Nations, keeping their eyes on special functions of the Church Government.  We have a group who watch the fishing industry, another which works in the City of Ka itself, other groups have special responsibility for monitoring the movements and postings of the Church Army, another which monitors the Church's transportation and distribution activities and another that watches the operations of the Guilds throughout the mainland.  Even I do not know eighty percent of my own troops Your Highness and should the Church interrogators capture one of our people, they could only get to a very small number of others, for each person has only two or three contacts that are known to them.  It would be like trying to catch a flock of geese with one's hands, Sire.  You can catch one, maybe two, but the others will always get away before you can deal with what you already have.  If one of our people is picked up, then the others who were linked to that person are able to disappear before the organization can be damaged in any real way."

Still seeming to address Jarin, Kramakor continued:  

"It is amazing just how much damage can be done to an economy from within Your Highness.  A slave freed here, a building burnt down there, or a field of wheat, even a pin removed from the wheel of an already loaded wagon. . .  it all leads to a constant drain on the ability of the Church to govern efficiently and it ties up great numbers of their Army in trying to stop it all, or to catch those responsible for it."

Jarin heard of some of the tactics that his Intelligence Corps had been brought to Lunza to learn also, things similar to Sandar giving his knife to the slaves inside the wheel in the Temple of Sedanna.  Most important of all however, he understood by the time that the meeting came to an end that his officers would plan their campaigns with more in-depth and reliable information, than any commanders had ever had available to them at any time in History.

Eventually the meeting did end and that group of secret individuals again stood and saluted him and Jarin left the chamber wishing that he could somehow get to know exactly who they were.  Perhaps he would one day, when all the intrigue was no longer necessary.  Tonight however, the ships posing as trading vessels and fishing boats, would sail to put each of these men and women ashore at their appointed spots to prepare for the invasion to come.  

* * * * * * *

A Holy Battle Plan


Even as Jarin and Sandar were descending the steps from the City of Sedanna to the docks where their ship awaited them, Ragarian, Priest of Priests, was entertaining several of his staunchest supporters to a light luncheon in one of the dining rooms of the Great Temple of Ka.  They had gathered that day to discuss a plan they had put into place only a few days before and Ragarian was still evaluating in his own mind whether or not it was enough, or too much, in his constant worrying about the Order of Guardians.

"General. . ."  Ragarian addressed General Toragor with the respect of an old friend,  "You say your spies have already been dispatched to find out exactly what those magic makers are up to, however have you considered what we shall be able to do, or should do for that matter, if we do find that what they are doing threatens us in any way?"

"We shall have to wait and see Sire."  The good General replied, easing a morsel of the cold chicken into his mouth with a finger from where it had perched itself upon his lip.  "For all we know they are merely clearing and planting the land as they told us they were planning to do.  If they are actually doing something other than that and you decide that it threatens Khanlar in any way, well then Sire the entire Army is at your disposal."

"Sire." It was the Prince of Rigan who spoke, "I have seen with my own eyes no less than three or four thousand men, women and children board Lunzan ships since you gave them Dag and allowed them to export outlaws and the remnants of the Brotherhood.  I have heard Sire that there are several cities where as many have embarked in similar numbers."  The little man was obviously angry.  "These people do not leave in chains Sire, nor do they leave with any fear, as one would expect of men going off to a life of slavery and hard labor.  They go with eagerness, sometimes they cheer as the ships come in, as if they were being saved or offered a great prize.  Something is wrong my Lord.  This is not right.  I fear that Lunza is building a new Army and if it is, then my Nation will be one of the first to suffer the consequences."

"They are building a great causeway that links all four islands into one My Lord."  This time it was Bishop Fradaran of Vanzor who spoke,  "One of our fishing boats, which has used the passage between Palan and Dag for years to reach the kelp beds there came upon a great stone wall where a year ago there was an open water passage to the Great Eastern Ocean.  He also reported that he saw a great fleet of strange ships a week or so later, when he sailed round the southern tip of Palan to reach his favorite grounds.  He says there were no less than fifty of them, but the idiot can not count so who knows how many he saw, yet there remains the question of why the Guardians would need such a fleet Sire."

"Indeed there does."  Ragarian said, feeling as if he was again missing something in this great play that had begun many months before in his own chambers, when he had granted deed of Dag and it's two small sisters to the Guardian's delegation.  "How soon will your spies return with factual news General?"

"A week or so SireHowever long it takes for them to gather real intelligence and get back to the mainland."

"When they return General you will bring them to me immediately."  Ragarian lifted his glass for a servant to refill, "It will be interesting to discover just what those clever old men are actually up to.  Perhaps it is time at last to bring these Guardians  to a reckoning."

* * * * * * *


Chapter Sixteen

Table of Contents