Chapter Nineteen 


Building the Peace 


Perigan Marlinger could not believe how both he and the life he lived, had changed since the day that Liana had come into his life.  This morning he sat at the table, eating the breakfast she had prepared for him and watched her busy herself with an arrangement of flowers.  In the garden outside, the end of the summer had brought even more blooms than usual and every morning Liana would be out there soon after dawn, picking the blooms to decorate the house.  She had changed also and looking at her today, as she fussed over the vase trying to make a long green-leafed sprig stand up, he saw how she had also blossomed.  A strand of hair had fallen across her face and with both hands busy, she tried to blow it away by twisting her lips to send the air sideways.  Perigan laughed out loud and was rewarded with a smile by his wife, yet even as he laughed, he wondered how he had lived so long without knowing the freedom to laugh without causing offense.  A frown crossed his face, like a cloud crosses the spring sky and for a moment he was tempted to be less happy. 

For a woman who had avoided him with a purpose for so long and who had refused to answer either his repeated calls at her new home over the years, or the constant string of notes he had always been sending her to ask for her help with their daughters, his ex-wife was trying very hard these days to attract his friendship, perhaps even his long ignored love, back to her cause.  As Perigan's lot had increased, so his ex-wife's position had become worse.  When the Khan's fleet had sailed into Norden six months ago and the Guards and two other regiments had entered the city through it's unguarded gates, his ex-wife's employer had taken to his heels like the impotent, quasi-religious braggart that he was and was soon no-where to be found and every coin Jaksonar owned disappeared with him.  Within a matter of days his ex-wife was back at Perigan's door, pleading for understanding and putting forth her case for assistance.  The woman who had taken twenty thousand crowns from the man who had molested his daughters stood outside of Perigan's door talking about how they should now work together regarding their children now that the situation had changed.  Out of pure malice Perigan worded his acknowledgement of the change in circumstances with words to the effect that ". . .at least he will ruin no more children's lives", which his ex-wife either did not hear, or chose to ignore, as she put forth her request that he share the load with her that she had only recently forbidden him access to.  Perigan refused her entry to what had once been her own home and then had later used his busy schedule as a reason to send her away from his office.  Jaksonar's relatives had his house and the granary he owned, on the auction block the same week as he disappeared, obviously trying to sell it and stash the payment before the Khan's Army took it over as the spoils of war.  They argued to no avail however, when the new City Officer decided to turn the house into a hospital for the poor and impound the grain held in the granary for the use of Norden's citizens and the Khan's Army.  They argued to no avail, because the Khan's Council had appointed a man to the post of City Officer who would neither believe their pleas of poverty, nor accept the bribes they offered.  That was not surprising, as Perigan had never liked the family of his ex-wife's employer and it was he that the Khan's Council had appointed to be the City Officer. 

Had he wanted, Perigan could have taken the house for his own, in fact his ex-wife had the audacity to suggest that they did just that, as if Liana's involvement in his life was of no importance whatsoever, but instead Perigan moved with Liana into a house overlooking the sea.  It had been deserted by it's former owner, his position as Garrison Commander having been recently terminated.   

Perigan's office in the Norden Palace had previously been occupied by the City's Tax Collector, another position which had been done away with on the arrival of the Khan's Legions.  Today taxes went to paying for repairs to roads, supplying teachers for the new schools, or doctors and nurses for the hospital and the thousand and one other administrative responsibilities Perigan had assumed on taking office.  Once that money would have gone directly into the treasury of Prince Kalpon of Norden.  Today the Prince lived on a small pension in a house in the city and had resigned from all government matters. 

Perigan in fact felt sorry for Prince Kalpon.  He was an indecisive little man now in his late forties, who tended to being overweight no matter how much, or how little, he consumed in the way of food.  Kalpon had never really ruled Norden, for he had had a style of ruling that could best be described as accommodating and he had left sordid things like decision making to his appointed officials, all of whom had become very rich in his service and had disappeared very soon after the Khan's Fleet had been sighted sailing towards Norden Bay.  The Prince was somewhat feminine in many ways, the opposite of his head-strong brute of a father who had died leading the first army to go against the Old Brotherhood during the previous war.  Kalpon liked music and Perigan had taken Liana to the Prince's new home on several occasions in the last few months, to be both surprised and entertained by the man's expertise with the harp. 

At last Perigan got up from the breakfast table and called to Liana that he was ready to leave.  She came into the room prepared to go with him to his office, as she did every morning, telling him that the new housekeeper had been informed that they would be eating out later and therefore would not be home until quite late this evening.  He and Liana left the house together and climbed into the carriage that would take them to the Palace, with the light hearts and high ideals of lovers engaged in a lifetime's quest for happiness, not just their own, but of all the people within their sphere of influence. 

As they traveled along the street, Perigan contemplated the wisdom he had learned these last few months about the state of marriage and wondered yet again if it really was as simple as his own experiences had now convinced him it was.  It seemed as if he had experienced a lifetime where his wishes and feelings had been completely ignored by his ex-wife.  His pain, while witnessing the lot of his daughters after the court case, had been answered by both his ex-wife and her mother, by the simple decision that they and therefore his daughters, would be better off with him out of their lives.  The fact that his daughters had begged to be with him, or that he had cried himself to sleep night after night for months, had obviously never even occurred to their mother or grandmother.  Once his ex-wife had decided that her life would be better without him, she had also decided that he had no rights whatsoever.  When she had other things to do, or the children's demands had got on her nerves, she allowed Perigan to have them for an hour or so, at best for a day, in the way another woman would allow a servant to look after her pet dogs.  Now that the tables were reversed on her and her lack of concern for the girls in the past was being stated out of their lips, she was whining and blaming everyone and anyone, circumstances or events beyond her control, for everything that had ever happened to them. 

Perigan had decided that the difference between being married to someone and merely living with someone, was in many ways like any other form of partnership.  When you were only living with someone, then it was normal to preserve an identity and individual life outside of the partnership.  What that really boiled down to Perigan's mind, was that only living with someone meant you only had to devote a part of yourself to the partnership.  Being married on the other hand, meant that one only had the partnership to be involved in and everything else became secondary to it.  He now understood, many years too late, why his ex-wife had felt constrained by his constant attention and his wish to be part of everything she did.  She never had understood how he had felt that something was not fair and that he was losing out in the partnership, when she became upset that he wanted all of her time and attention.  His time with Liana had convinced him without any shadow of a doubt that he had indeed been married to his ex-wife, however he now knew that she had only been living with him.  In a way he now accepted that he had much to thank her for, for if she had not left him when she became convinced that he could not increase her standard of living anymore, he might well have lived unknowingly in a parasitic relationship for the rest of his life.  As it was, she had finally sucked all the confidence out of him and thrown him aside for someone stronger, meaning, someone whom she would not have to support with affection, attention or anything else that detracted from her main objective of concentrating on herself. 

It had been his ex-wife who had years ago gone before a Priest and later the Judge, to ask for the separation of their property and the ending of the marriage.  He still felt pain when he remembered how cold and calculating she had been throughout it all and as far as he had been able to figure it out later, the main reasons for her wanting out of the marriage was that he was too poor and too old fashioned.  It still shocked Perigan, all these years after he had learned to accept it, that Lidoreen had never seen that she was in any way responsible, nor that he or the children had had any right to expect love, affection, care, or even basic loyalty, from the day he had been unable to provide her the high life style which she demanded.  Now however things had changed and Perigan held the upper hand for the first time in a decade.   

Several years ago his ex-wife's generous employer and his kind and understanding wife had pushed her out, after all those years of faithful service she had given to them, leaving her no choice, but to become the mistress and then wife, of one of their senile old retainers.  Even so, when they left Norden and the old man she had married to please them died, leaving all of his worldly goods to his sons by a previous marriage, so did her security leave her also and she realized what Perigan had known for years. 

His ex-wife had convinced herself that her employers were her friends, whereas they had really only seen her as merely another retainer and, suddenly deserted by those upon whom she had relied for support, duty and responsibility were words she was able to use again.  Obviously, for now she was calling for what Perigan had cried out for so long ago, when she had coldly dismissed him by telling him that he was a romantic and a dreamer who lived beyond his means.  The latter slur had become something that amused Perigan these days and no longer tempted a feeling of guilt from him.  He had lived beyond his means alright, of that there was no doubt, for that was the price that his ex-wife had made him pay since just after they had arrived in Norden, just for the honor of her staying with him, long after she had relinquished all the responsibilities of being a wife to him and a mother to their children. 

Perigan had already made decent provisions for his daughters should anything ever happen to him, now he had to decide what he should, or should not, do to help his ex-wife.  He had given the matter a great deal of thought lately, in fact it had interfered with his sleep some nights.  His ex-wife had forgotten him and her marriage vows, when he and the girls had needed her, merely because she had expected a high standard of living without the responsibility of having anyone who needed the return of affection and support.  He also knew the pain and heart-ache her total self-concern had subjected his children to and that he would never be able to fully forgive.  That she could ever have the character to be more than just a selfish companion, always jealous of any attention given to others, or of their daughter's lives ever exceeding the narrowness of her own, he very much doubted. 

Once Perigan had felt deserted and he had built up many arguments to excuse the mother of his children for her actions, no matter how selfish they seemed, even to others who came to him and comforted him.  Now however he knew the simple truth and it made him pity her.  Lidoreen just did not have the capacity for love.  Like some people can be born without the ability to hear, so she had been born without the ability to love.  Looking back on what he knew of her family, Perigan decided that it might well be genetic, for it seemed to run in the women of her family the way brown hair and light eyes ran in his own.  She could recognize gratitude and generosity and had confused the latter with the proof that one person loved another.  Success was wealth, therefore love was rich living and expensive gifts, rewarded with intimacy and loyalty.  No gifts - no intimacy or loyalty! 

In the end he had decided that he had really never had a wife and two daughters, but in fact had been a single parent with three daughters.  This morning, riding along in the carriage with his new wife, Perigan Marlinger came to a conclusion.  He still remembered with heart wrenching pain how his ex-wife had laughed at his love and their daughter's needs.  He also knew without any doubt whatsoever, that he could never again respect her.  Strangely though he felt no anger towards her, for he realized that her inability to love was as much a natural condition as would have been blindness in another.  It was these reasons that made him decide that he could not just allow her to use his old-fashioned principles against him anymore.  It was time, he had decided, that she faced up to the responsibilities that the very act of being alive demanded.  Perigan had decided that his ex-wife could sort out the problems she had created for herself, by herself. 

Within a few hours of arriving in his office that morning Perigan had been able to achieve what he had never been able to achieve before, due to the power of his ex-wife's benefactors, their influence and their money.  That morning he called a judge to his office and explained how without his support the girl's future would be less than it could ever be with it, especially now that his ex-wife had lost her source of unlimited gifts and loans.  The judge agreed, established that Perigan did not have to provide support for his ex-wife and accepted that the money at her disposal the last time he had been in Court and the conservative, establishment protecting motives of Judge Koltesar, could well have prevented Perigan from obtaining even the semblance of Justice.  Judge Koltesar was at this time running as fast as his well shod feet could take him after Perigan's ex-wife's benefactor, his day of reckoning still a few years hence.  As it was, in a matter of an hour, his ex-wife's true character surfaced through the words she used in her defense and Perigan left the court the legal guardian of his children.  He had his daughters back and was able to truly protect them for the first time in years and his ex-wife had the freedom she had always wanted.  Only this time she had been given the extra freedom of having to support herself. 

Perigan had however not completely vanquished his real anger in the affair, for somewhere in the territories controlled by the corrupt establishment of the Old Order, Judge Koltesar still lived and avoided the punishment Perigan Marlinger had waited for years to deal to him.  The one true hate of the quiet apothecary's life still walked free and unpunished, for the crime he had committed against Perigan's daughters.  Judge Koltesar had refused to hear doctors, experts and witnesses, when Perigan Marlinger had been a nobody who had come forward to defend his daughters against a man of the establishment and Perigan had sworn that there would come a day when that pompous little man, who gratuitously wore the robes of Justice for the self-centered rewards it brought him, would see his own children change their names rather than be associated with their self-serving and unworthy father. 

Perigan rarely could get the thought of revenge out of his head.  The pain of the long years since the court case where he had been denied any access to even the vestiges of Justice, had savagely stripped him the beliefs he had held since childhood.  Now in the position of City Officer Fate had brought him one step closer to punishing those who had so cruelly used him and many other powerless citizens of Khanlar, for so many years.  The power it gave him, moved him one more step to avenging his daughters for the loss of their childhood, that those uncaring, self-concerned parasites of the Old System had caused them.  One day his wife's employer, the fat, body odor reeking woman lawyer who had pleaded her lies, the stupid retainer of his ex-wife's employer who had committed perjury and most of all that pompous small minded gray haired judge, who had all worked together and prevented his daughters getting any semblance of justice, would pay for their actions.  They had probably already forgotten the insignificant little apothecary and his daughters. . .  but Perigan Marlinger had not forgotten them and time was most certainly on his side!


* * * * * * *

Satisfaction is the Greatest Prize of Victory

Jarin stood on the balcony of the Prince's chambers in the palace of Norden and looked out on the bay that morning with a feeling he could not describe.  It teetered between complete satisfaction and justification and a nagging sense that Fate might well have already taken the reins of control from his hands once again.  In less than seven weeks his army had conquered a quarter of Khanlar.  His enemy's main army had been destroyed and thousands of their best troops now wore chains for having opposed him.  Beneath him in Norden Sound four Blackships tacked towards the open seas, a sign of the power he now controlled.  Yet he somehow felt like an observer in many ways, as the strength of his administration gathered up the peoples and land his army had won and crafted them into a manageable empire. 

As always, the efficiency of the preparations of his Guardian mentors had once again slipped into play, even as his armies had moved across the land in the flood of annexation.  No sooner had his regiments moved on from one victory to the next, than a contingent of administrators, policemen and organizers had moved in behind them, ready to take over the day-to-day tasks of managing the Empire he had won.  Even the prisoners they took did not suffer the usual months of boredom and uncertainty that had always been the way of war in the past.  No festering prison camps, hastily erected and poorly managed, sprang up during this campaign, for no sooner were their shackles put on than they found themselves being marched to prearranged sites where their labor would consolidate the conquest.  The more fanatic and dangerous of them were shipped off to the islands of Pida and Yadar, where their labor would transform those barren places into fortresses that would serve as very secure prisons in a matter of months.  The chain gangs of once defiant soldiers kept on the mainland, found that within a day or two at the most, they were being efficiently worked, fed and housed as part of a well organized plan of re-construction and consolidation.  Like a great renewing, (Jarin smiled at the memories that word evoked), every enemy prisoner was allotted a task under the strict supervision of well-disciplined and motivated captains.  Roads, bridges, cities and hamlets alike, soon had their contingent of brown uniformed prisoners-of-war laboring to improve them and create a new superstructure throughout the conquered territories.  Those members of the former administration who had not taken off for other parts, were interrogated, judged and either carted off in chains, or returned to the same tasks as they had performed before the conquest had rolled over their lives, only now they answered to a new administration. 

For Jarin however there was no such immediate purpose.  In a few days he would meet with the Priest of Priests Ragarian to negotiate a truce and until then he was effectively unemployed.  Exactly how this unprecedented meeting had been arranged by the Guardians he had no idea, but it had been, and that was his reason for being in Norden.  Today however he was going to meet an old friend, Perigan Marlinger, the man who had provided Sandar and himself with horses and supplies the last time he had been in this gray stone city. 

Prince Kalpon, whom Jarin had been introduced to briefly on his arrival in Norden, was a civilized man who had had a passion for gardens and it was in the Prince's garden that Jarin greeted Perigan Marlinger.  The small apothecary had changed little since Jarin had last met him, however he now wore the uniform of the Khan's Administration, the bottle green color of it's tunic complimenting the man's small frame and graying hair. 

"Well my friend, things have changed a great deal since you provided General Sandar and I with our disguise as merchants."  Jarin greeted the older man, offering his hand for a stronger than expected handshake. 

"They have indeed Sire."  Perigan replied,  "And all for the better I would add." 

A young woman stood behind the City Officer, dressed in a soft flowing gown of a lighter green than his, her hair carefully braided about her head like a turban, emphasizing her high cheekbones and large amber colored eyes.  She stepped forward on Perigan's urging and bowed her head, as the obviously proud official introduced her to his Lord. 

"I believe you already know my wife Sire. . ."  Recognition came to Jarin even as Perigan put his arm about her,  "Yourself and General Sandar rescued her from this place and I will never be able to thank you enough that you brought her into my life." 

"By the Gods, it's Liana. . .  I thought you settled and adopted in Paramal. . .  How did you two ever get together. . ."  Jarin observed their obvious bond and found that he was immediately thinking of his own wife, whom he had not seen in several months. 

"It is a long story Sire. . ."  Liana began, and for the next few hours the three of them laughed and compared histories, surrounded by the scent and beauty of Prince Kalpon's roses and when the time came for lunch, they entered the palace laughing and talking like long lost family members.

* * * * * * *

The Meeting

The meeting with the Priest of Priests adopted all the trapping of a religious ceremony and was carried out with more pomp and pageantry than Jarin would have preferred, yet once again he found that much of his part in it was already scripted and choreographed down to the provision of a great white quill, with which he would sign his acceptance of it all. 

The location for the auspicious meeting with the two contenders for the title of overlord of Khanlar, was set in the small village of Kitania in the western most reaches of the Nation of Araz.  It's location was in fact the main reason for it's choice to be the site of this first meeting of the two most powerful men in Khanlar, for it stood on the only ford for ten miles on either side of a small river that cut through a large bowl shaped valley.  It was a place almost without trees, where it's inhabitants earned their livelihood by raising great flocks of sheep, that over the centuries had made the place like a large well tended lawn.  There was no place for armies to hide here, nor cover for hiding marksmen to commit assassination. 

Far to the west though, an army of Church troops stood prepared and far to the east the Khan's officers had drawn up three regiments, just in case the conference should become a battlefield.  As planned, a little after nine in the morning on that fateful day, Jarin rode forward with a dozen of his advisors and a dozen of his Guards, just as the Priest of Priests' party, of similar size and composition, rode from the west towards the now deserted village of Kitania.  Every inhabitant of that place had been transported away for the duration of the meeting.  In the center of the village was a large barn, which had recently been cleaned and newly white-washed, that also had the advantage of having an entrance at either end.  A dozen or so minor functionaries of both sides had arranged the place ready for the meeting and they stood ready to lead away the horses as the dignitaries arrived. 

Once inside Jarin was struck by the cool simple lines of the place and flanked by his aides, he walked down the carpet towards the great oak table that was to be the site of the discussion, even as the Priest of Priests and his aides entered from the other end of the room.  Fawning functionaries ran forward to hold the chairs as each man took his place, flanked on either side by those upon whom they could call for advice or assistance, in the coming debate.  No sooner were the actors in this great play seated, than the orderlies left the room with the utmost of haste and the two most powerful men in the known world faced each other for the first time. 

It was Ragarian who broke the silence.  Jarin was surprised to find that this tall and dignified man had a countenance as wise and seemingly caring as any man he had ever met. 

"I am honored to meet you Prince Jarin, even if the circumstances under which we meet are not those that I would have chosen, had I had the chance to choose them."  Ragarian said in a measured and almost friendly tone. 

"I trust that we shall feel the same way at the end of this encounter, Your Highness."  Jarin heard himself reply, noting that his enemy seemed to be thoroughly enjoying the exchange already. 

"It would seem, Your Highness. . ."  Ragarian took up the same address,  "That your forces have the upper hand at this moment and that we come here today to evaluate the logic and outcome of either continuing this war, or of finding a way to live with each other in the situation we find ourselves, at least until events should find us a more sensible solution to our differences." 

General Toragor was having a hard time maintaining his composure, however he entered the conversation without any visible sign of being a defeated man. 

"You have won this campaign full square Your Highness, however we have sufficient troops and reserves to counter any further attack upon the lands of the Church.  I myself feel that we have reached a position of stalemate. . ."  The General lost control and showed his anger for a moment, when Sandar made a quiet snort of contempt at this statement,  ". . .and should you decide to press your invasion further at this time, it might result in a situation where neither General Sandar nor myself, will be able to prevent Khanlar from deteriorating into a state of anarchy that might last a millennium." 

Before Sandar could answer, the Guardian Razarian tapped the table with his ring and using that moment of attention Jarin took up the discourse.  "It is true your Highness, just as General Toragor states, that we may well have reached a situation of balance.  It is also possible that if either of us was to press an attack at this time, we both might just possibly lose control of the situation.  However, for us to draw a line around our present position and sit within it, we would need assurances from the Church that you would abide by the same rules of non-aggression." 

"I shall do exactly and precisely what His Highness Ragarian orders me to do."  The General replied. 

"I should expect no less of you General, nor of our own commanders, however agreeing to such a situation and policing it, have far different levels of trust involved, I am sure you would agree." 

"Your Highness. . ."  Ragarian seemed to ignore the exchange that had just taken place and was looking directly at Jarin as he spoke,  ". . .I assume that you have brought with you an Agreement, perhaps I should refer to it as a Treaty, which you would have us agree to; just as my ministers have brought with them a long list of things they would have you agree to so that we can achieve something from this meeting.  If it were to suit you, I would suggest that both you and I retire and allow them to broach these two versions of what we all require and perhaps they will find what we already agree upon.  Then when they have forged an acceptable document that both sides can live with, you and I can return for the final negotiations of what we should deliver as our announcement to the people of Khanlar."     

"I can see nothing wrong with that, Your Highness."  Jarin tried to make his voice carry the conviction of a man who has already won the day,  "However, this Treaty, as you call it, will be signed before the week is out.  I am not prepared to allow this to develop into a continuing diplomatic play, which would feed upon itself and become the cause of a thousand bureaucrats for the next year." 

Ragarian merely nodded and then stood up and with the composure of a man who knows his power, waited for Jarin to stand before they both turned and left the room in equality. 

Two days later the two leaders once again entered the village of Kitania to sign the Treaty which would forever bear the name of that small farming community that would never again be mentioned by History.


 * * * * * * *

A Fall from Grace


Kirene watched the new arrivals step from the ship without really noticing them, intent as she was on identifying the messenger that always arrived on the evening packet.  She suddenly saw the man in his black and red uniform and moved towards him.  Not looking where she was going and making her move as sudden as she did, she stumbled and would have fallen had not the newcomer grabbed her.  As if she weighed no more than a toy, he righted her and nodded to her thanks, his head bowing as he did so.  Kirene noted the jagged scar around his neck, the obvious brand of a long term slave, before she forgot him and was at the side of the messenger.  The messenger brought his fist up to his chest in salute, before averting his eyes in acknowledgement and denial of the question he knew she would ask of him. 

This time Kirene did not ask.  There was no message from Jarin again.  It was more than two weeks since he had sent her the last simple note, most of which had dwelt upon questions of their son Jatrin's fortunes rather than her own.  Her anger made her again unable to concentrate upon those around her, as she turned on her heel to go back to her waiting coach. 

"Excuse me Ma'am."  The voice was deep and soft, a man's voice.  "I am supposed to go to Suvak, but no-one told me which way it is.  Could you tell me the way, Ma'am?" 

Kirene was about to stamp past him without answering when her eyes caught his, and she watched him drop his head again, as if he felt that he was not good enough to look at her straight on.  He was clad in a tunic and trousers which had obviously been made for a man of smaller stature.  "Serve Jarin right if I took up with this fellow and cuckolded him for ignoring me."  She thought to herself, that thought promptly followed by another that said, "Which is probably why he does not have time to write to me.  He is probably bedding every girl he can get his hands on."   

"Come with me."  She heard herself saying,  "I will take you there.  I have little else important to do this day, or any other for that matter." 

The man followed her back to her carriage and when they arrived at it, he helped her up into it and threw his sack onto the roof.  He was about to follow the sack, when she took his hand and told him to ride inside.  "The company will be good for me."  She heard herself saying.   

Following the road that ran along the docks and around the base of the city wall, they soon left the city and were striking out across country towards Suvak, when Kirene realized that she was already having fantasies about the unfolding events.  What if this big man were to reach out with his rough hands and start touching her?  It would not be her fault that Fate had taken this turn, for if there had been a letter from Jarin she would be heading in the other direction right now, back towards the palace and her own rooms, where she would have curled up upon their bed and read and re-read his words until she fell asleep. 

She heard herself calling to the driver to slow the horses.  Then she heard herself telling him to take the coastal track, feeling the coach turn off the paved road onto the earthen track a few minutes later.  Then she called for him to turn off the track and park the coach near to the shore, where a convenient copse of trees hid them from the road.  Then, even worse, she told the driver to walk on down the road and bring her back a flagon of wine, "..and take one hour, no more, no less!"  She heard herself demand.  The coach tilted slightly as the driver dismounted and from her vantage point she watched him walk away.  Then she gave her attention to the man she had waylaid and who now sat opposite her looking quite apprehensive. 

Her heart was rushing.  She could feel every extremity of her body trembling with the illicit anticipation she was enjoying.  This was wrong.  She knew it was, but it was also so exciting! 

"What is your name?"  She asked, watching the man's embarrassment grow.  He was a lot older than she was, forty at least.  His hair was gray and he looked as though he had experienced the hardest of lives.  She found she was most excited by the thought of his large scared and rough laborer's hands touching her.  Touching her most private places. 

"Parsis, Ma'am.  My name is Parsis."  He replied, his discomfort now increased as he felt the growth in size of his manhood stretching slowly down inside those tightest of tight trousers he wore. 

"That's it?  Parsis?  Parsis what?"  She felt wonderful,  "Who are you Parsis?  Where are you from?  Do you know who's company you are in right now, my man?" 

"Just Parsis Ma'am.  I was born in Dynlar, I think.  I am a . . .  that is, I was a slave.  I came here to serve in the Army Ma'am."  Suddenly he was frightened.  She felt it.  "Look Ma'am I don't know what a lady like you want's of me, but I don't want no trouble Ma'am." 

"There will be no trouble Parsis.  Provided I leave here unharmed and you forget about me the moment you leave me.  I am a lady of importance Parsis my ex-slave, but even a lady occasionally needs her desires met, and I have decided that you will serve me for an hour in return for the journey I am making to help you." 

With that she slowly lifted her dress.  Taking the material at the knee with each hand she pulled her hands back until her naked legs were exposed to him.  Then she unlaced the bodice and slipped it over her head.  Naked as the day she had been born she lowered herself onto the carpeted floor of the coach, to announce that she was ready for him.  The moment was not what had Kirene had expected.  It was as if she had just given the man a reprieve from a sentence of death.  He relaxed immediately and within minutes they were tangled in a lover's embrace.  Her clothes were crumpled on the seat behind her, his trousers bundled on the floor beside them, as she felt the weight of his body upon her.  His male scent reeked from the tunic he had merely hoisted up about his chest, letting her see and feel the coarseness of his body hair.  Jarin was almost devoid of body hair.  This man's hands were both rough and strong and his body was a trunk of muscle that excited her as he labored to satisfy himself, while she ran her hands over his muscled back and tried to hold the sweat slippery bulges of muscle in the arms that held her.  His loins slammed against her's like the torso of a stone sculpture, his hands pinning her shoulders to the carpeted floor.  Suddenly, without warning she felt this adventure filling her with a feeling that was deliciously wicked, she felt her fingernails digging into the tense bulk of his back.  A cry escaped her lips as she opened her eyes in ecstasy and found herself looking straight into Parsis' gray eyes.  The same gray eyes as Jarin's.  In a mixture of excitement, guilt and fulfillment she closed her eyes and it was Jarin's face that filled her mind, as the grunting man who was using her joined her in her satisfaction. 

Then it was over.  The excitement was gone, replaced by a screaming cut of guilt, salted with an instant terror that she might have caught this man's seed.  Kirene pushed him off of her, even before his gasps for breath had completed themselves.  She dressed quickly and then watched while he casually redressed himself.  They sat there in silence after that, with her cutting off any attempt by the man to strike up any form of conversation. 

The driver returned not long after and without a word passed the jug of wine through the window.  Neither of them touched it as the carriage moved off and it was still untouched when they reached their destination.  As Parsis stood to leave the coach Kirene heard herself advise the driver to remain in his seat.  The man who had just used her. . . or had she used him?. . . stood above her, his hand on the door handle and his body bent so that his head cleared the roof of the coach.  The feeling of power came to her again as he stood there and before he could turn the handle Kirene watched her slim ladylike hand reach up to touch the soft bulge in his trousers.  

"Remember my fine ex-slave, I have the power to accuse you and have you back in chains."  She enjoyed his immediate expression of fear, as she slowly ran her fingers down that obvious bulge in an almost longing farewell,  "Or I have the power to return your favors a thousand fold."   

Her hand left him and he opened the door and stepped down, looking into her eyes with what she would forever remember as a mixture of fear and sorrow.  Then he closed the door behind himself, the driver threw down his sack and without any comment whatsoever, the sullen man drove her back to the palace. 

Sleep came hard for Kirene that night, and for many of the nights that followed.


* * * * * * *  

There are none so blind as the uninformed.


Jarin stood on the balcony looking out onto Norden sound.  The sun was setting behind the mountains on the other side of this natural inlet of the great Northern Ocean and the glass in his hand needed refilling, as Liana came out onto the balcony with a jug. 

"If it please you Sire, I have to tend to my son, so I will retire and leave the jug here and you men to your talk."  She said, as she first refilled Jarin's glass and then crossed to where Perigan sat in his chair to refill her husband's glass. 

True to her word she left them immediately and Perigan rose from his seat to join his Sovereign at the small balustrade. 

"You are a lucky man to have such a woman for your wife."  Jarin said quietly,  "Make sure you give her enough of your time, Gods know I wish I had the time to spend more hours with my own wife." 

"I am sure she understands."  Perigan said. 

"I am sure she does."  Jarin replied, "But that does not mean I would not rather be with her than leading an army from one city to another every day of my life." 

"With the treaty signed with the Church Sire, you should be able to return to Lunza for a few weeks to see your wife and son."  Perigan said, adding, "It gets cold Sire, would you join me in my study, I am sure Liana will have had a fire set for us.  I have a bottle of brandy that I have been saving for such an august occasion as this, perhaps you would help me enjoy it?" 

"Glad to and to pick your brains, if I might."  Jarin replied, leading the way into the house. 

An hour later the sun had set, the glasses had taken their second pull of the bottle and the logs on the fire were in the first stages of becoming embers.  As if bothered by some great secret, Jarin rose from his chair and asked a singular question of the apothecary, now City Officer, Perigan Marlinger.

"Perigan, what do you think of our situation?  You were at the Kitania Conference, you have lived within the Old System for years and you know our Cause as well as any.  What do you see of our position at this moment in History?"  The Khan was absolutely serious as he asked the question. 

"Sire, I have been a man of the middle for all of my life.  I have had an opinion on every change and every law that government has put me under, yet I have never had to be part of the decision making.  I feel Sire it is easy to question anything, when one is not requested to ordain a better course."  Perigan smiled, as did his Khan before he continued,  "However, seeing as you ask my opinion, you shall have it.  I see Sire that we have been given an opportunity that makes me wonder how much the Priest of Priests was taught in his geography lessons as a lad.  We hold Araz and Mozag, with Zikon central in the line between them.  If it were I Sire I would build a great wall from Araz to Mozag running down the western bank of the River Araz, across the neck of land that connects it to the River Mozag and then down to join the very walls of the City of Mozag.  It would give us a border that few Church Generals would wish to attack." 

"You must be talking to Tamerin,"  Jarin smiled,  "He suggested the same thing and we are presently looking for someone to take on the task.  Continue my friend, but concentrate upon the administration of this great Empire I am now expected to rule." 

"Sire, I believe you have the opportunity to change the very character of government available to you at this time, however, if I might suggest what I think might be a better way. . ."  Perigan waited for a moment and was rewarded with a nod from a suddenly more attentive Khan. 

". . .Well Sire, for the first time in History one Prince, if you will, rules many Nations at the same time.  In all matters Sire you are now the Prince of all the Nations you have conquered." 

"Agreed.  What is your point?"  Jarin asked. 

"Well Sire, although you are the Khan and therefore have replaced Prince Kalpon of his rights here in Norden, you have in fact chosen to rule much in the way that the Priest of Priests rules the Nations under his control.  Put bluntly Sire, my office quite closely resembles the authority of those that served the Princes of Norden of the past." 

"What are you getting at Perigan?  Speak freely my friend, you have my trust and I want answers, not politeness in this matter." 

"There is only one way to explain my concept Sire that I can think of. . ."  Perigan continued,  "Let us say you build that wall from the City of Araz to the City of Mozag and the situation we have were to last a hundred years.  Then you could look at North Eastern Khanlar much the way I look at the Nation of Norden.  Lunza is to you, what the City of Norden is to me.  The Nations under your control are therefore like the towns, villages and hamlets under mine.  In other words Sire, if I were you I would wipe away the borders between the Nations you rule and see the lands you control as one Nation, whole and unto itself, controlling all of the cities, towns, villages, hamlets and holdings as I do here in the Nation of Norden.  Establish a Nation of Khanlar without borders or other Nations within it." 

"Change the ways of a millennium?  The people see themselves as Nordenese or Lunzans, Karianese or Vanzorians, they might not like being denied their birthright my friend?"  Jarin however was obviously wondering on what the older man had said even as he questioned it. 

"Sire it has worked within you Army, it will work within your realm.  The only reason for Nations has been the need for the Church to play one Prince against another and for the Princes themselves to protect and preserve what they consider their birthright and property.  It is all a matter of property and feudalism my Lord.  Well now the property is yours and the people's loyalty is to a common cause."  Perigan smiled and continued,  "It will be simple to implement also Sire, for we merely need expand the concept of ruling one Nation to ruling one land.  As I have my town and village officers, you would merely add City Officers to that administration and above them would be the Khanlarian Administration as today the Norden Administration rules this place." 

The conversation might have gone on for hours, but an officer came to summon Jarin, the hour being after midnight.  Gathering up his cloak, Jarin headed for the door accompanied by Perigan. 

"You know Perigan, you have a valid argument.  I will not forget it, in fact I will have my Council begin considering it at once." 

"Thank you Sire, you honor me."  Perigan bowed. 

"No my friend, you have honored me with your hospitality and your advice."  Jarin smiled as he waved at the mounted guard awaiting him in the courtyard of Perigan's home.  "Now however my nursemaids await me.  I never thought years ago that there would be so many people who would like to see me dead as there are today my friend.  Bid thy wife my grateful thanks and best wishes Perigan.  Mind her well, I meant what I said when I told you you were a lucky man, make sure you look after her." 

"I shall Sire.  And I trust we shall be able to welcome you again soon."  And with that the visit ended and yet an hour later Perigan still paced his study.

* * * * * * *

The Treaty of Kitania


The Treaty of Kitania was unique in Khanlar's History, in that never before had two opponents sat down and decided to live with each other, before one of the parties had been humiliated and totally defeated in the field of battle.  At no time during the Great War between the Asigan Alliance and the Church, had either party called for a conference that might allow them to live together in peace, not only that, but it had never even been contemplated by either side to even suggest it. 

Razarian's coup, of bringing together the Khan and the Priest of Priests, had therefore been a first in every meaning of the word and so both sides had seen to it that every line, every word, of the treaty was observed, in public if not in private.  It was true that both men secretly sought the destruction of the other, but they also feared the very real observations of General Toragor, that if they did not live together in peace, at least for the moment, then the most probable alternative was wide spread anarchy, where both of them would lose what they most sought. 

So it was that the great armies of both sides took up a duel personality in their actions after the Conference of Kitania.  Training for war increased in both camps, just as closing the border between them and keeping the peace were made the first order of the day.  The Church built new forts and increased patrols along the border, even as the Khan's forces built a great wall from the northern coast all the way to the Lake Asiga.  Patrol boats of both sides sailed at regular intervals along the Eastern Waterway, keeping well apart from each other and to their own side of that great thoroughfare, but always present to prevent illegal crossings by the citizens of either side. 

Trade and cross border travel of any kind, all but ceased, except for the clandestine crossings made by refugees and criminals and slaves fleeing their bondage in Church lands, while diplomatic exchange reduced with every month.  Families were torn apart and the everyday lives of the citizens of Khanlar were disrupted for awhile, while the two sides adjusted to the political and therefore physical, separation. 

Once the political separation was achieved, both sides began preparing for war with the appetite of two young boys trying to see who could eat the most at a friend's birthday party.  In a mood that could only be compared to a frenzy.  Both the Church and the Brotherhood worked from dawn to dusk and sometimes longer, up-grading roads and defenses, forging weapons and training armies, as they sought to out-pace each other in the inevitable journey towards the War to end all Wars.



* * * * * * *



Chapter Twenty

Table of Contents