The blog has a full Table of Contents and Reference page for Part One: Inundation. It is also advisable that one reads the added scenes with the new character Brisa tu’Onr. (PDF download) Otherwise, we are beginning part two of When Comes the Firetide: Emergents.
WHEN COMES THE FIRETIDE | PART TWO: EMERGENTS
Chapter Six: Though Conquest is Not Favored
Calhalla Holt, Mossreign Dale, Southern Dagger Fells Cord
morning, 2nd Set Integrity, month of Foundations 8178
No small measure of precautions were taken. Most citizens remained in their homes, daring to peek out only in preparedness to defend their family. Armed guards of the Protectorate lined the walls of the audience hall and full rank flanked the three Ganroth escorted through the holt into its heart. Tension charged the air with an energy like static before a storm. One loud noise, one sudden move and Sahaan feared the holt might catch fire. The only thing easing his own was the hint of equal fear and the taut musculature of anxiety he saw in the Ganroth as the guards parted to allow them to step forward.
Unarmed as agreed, they were at the mercy of the holt of armed, terrified and justifiably vengeful Erahs. Skin-taut knuckles clutched weapons eager for a reason to attack. Eyes pierced them with hatred. Only the Venerate and the two women flanking him were calm and somewhat welcoming. Sahaan nodded to the guards, who stepped back to give them some room to breathe. Captain tu’Satin strode to the front and stood beside him, in spite of the four guards also flanking his seat. Sahaan worried the show of protection would insult them, an overt display of they lacked trust.
The Ganroth bowed in their customary gesture. Sahaan, Umisra and Besran rose, genuflected in the Erahs way. Then, as Umisra had showed him, Sahaan extended his hands before him. He pat the air in a slow downward gesture of a ruler to show he accepted their greeting. This also demonstrated that he, too, was unarmed. The diplomatic gesture seemed to ease and impress them. Sahaan could see Umisra grin out of the corner of his eye. It was a struggle not to smile as well. Controlled as he was, he did allow himself a pleasant, welcoming expression.
“A Foeresh, Hallen. I am pleased you accepted our request to speak. I am Venerate Sahaan Orahsi of clan Erahs’Calhalla. Welcome.” He gestured for seats to be brought forward for them. Comfortable, padded stools were provided. The Ganroth regarded them with surprise, but nodded their heads and sat, save one. She was not large for a Ganroth, but carried herself with strength. Sahaan guessed her to be a scout of sorts, one accustomed to traveling terrain like the dense parts of the Green and the Dale. Her skin was as dark as his own, but like flame scorched copper. Only one stripe of black, knotted hair went down the center of her scalp. Dull black horns, like charred wood, were wrapped with coils of bronze metal. The eyes that met his, however, were a vibrant, pale yellow, like buttercup flowers.
“I am Ntaesk-tdes Nkot Raagmin, and speak on behalf of our Vesvud of the Vud-Ntaesk. We are surprised to receive this request. The Vesvud is most intrigued.” After this she seemed at a loss for what else to say, so stepped back and sat.
Himself seated, Sahaan listened as Umisra explained via Elhia what the titles and other Ganroth words were she had used. A trays of drinks were served around, but it did not surprise him they accepted nothing. “I understand your Vesvud’s reluctance to come themselves. I would be no less hesitant. The truth is, the losses we are sustaining at the hands of your scouts are simply unbearable. We feel we are at least owed an explanation. It has become clear that no slaving raid is being attempted. My people have certainly taken no deliberate offensive action toward the Vud-Ntaesk. My Captain informs me, she believes, you are in search of others and not, in fact, targeting the Calhalla at all. Whatever the reason, I wish to put an end to these hostilities and propose a more civilized solution.”
“Yes… the Vesvud read your proposal, a diplomat exchange.” Nkot rubbed her knees as one of the men behind her leaned forward to whisper in her ear. She nodded. “The Vesvud wishes an information exchange first.”
Sahaan nodded, though he dreaded what would be asked. The woman watched him closely as she inquired, “there are those we seek. Two Erahs, one a Jasuuk, the other an Avali. They are gifted. You call them Nelenr and Ndorinr. They may be sick, gravely injured… or were. Have you harbored them, seen them?”
Umisra and Captain tu’Satin’s eyes snapped to him in surprise. Besran however showed no displeasure.
Sahaan raised a hand to Umisra, his expression sad, but calm. “They were here. And yes, one was… ill, but after they recovered they left. I was told, to remain put us in danger. They too had someone to find. I granted them supplies and they departed. It has been half a moon cycle. The one you call a Ndorinr, his ability to waver… I cannot say how far away they are, nor would they tell me where they went. I am sorry I can be no more help.”
“They did leave the holt going eastward.”
Although, Sahaan maintained a controlled expression, his Elhia was anything but. ~Besran, speak again out of turn and I shall have your tongue before you leave.~
Nkot’s brow furrowed, but she nodded. “There are only so many paths from the holt. A waverer likely sought higher ground to port a further distance. Unfortunately, this is not much use. But thank you for your honesty.”
Doing his best not to show his relief, Sahaan bowed his head in acknowledgment. “Is there anything else I can answer in good faith?”
“Did they travel with a Shae?”
“They did, but you ask if it was one of Jaed-blood.” Sahaan shook his head. “It was not. He was a knight of the Jaed Imperium, however. I had more the impression he was a guardian or, perhaps just a close friend of the Avali girl. No more. He left as well.”
The talkative Ganroth sat forward again and whispered to Nkot. She considered his words, then looked to Sahaan. “Again, thank you. Conditions in the realm are tumultuous, as you may be aware.”
“Your letter, however, seems to indicate you are not informed of more recent events. Should you send a diplomat of your own to the Capital… will it be under the banner of the Kithoth Falenoth or to the Valkto?” Nkot looked between the women as both advisors faced Sahaan and silent talks began. The Captain, however, kept her eyes firmly upon their guests, particularly upon the silent one who had drawn no attention to themselves.
Besran immediately asserted, ~The Valkto is their FAITH, their ruling force. This is a test. They seek to see if you understand them.~
~I disagree, Venerate.~ Umisra was far more demur awaited Sahaan’s query for elaboration. It came, as anticipated. ~Venerate, they are a people literally named for war. Their religion is based upon gods of conquest. So while, yes, their religious leader has a strong voice, I do not believe his is the ruling voice. It may appear so, but ultimately, I believe the Greater Kith would follow that of their Vud-Ntaesk… or, as it sounds, the Kithoth Falenoth.~
~What is this Kithoth Fal–~
Greil interjected then, the Captain’s focus still on their guests, but her own knowledge suddenly quite relevant. ~They are the ‘Dead Sisters.’ Of all the Ganroth Army, they are the highest echelon of warriors. Not all are women, but most, certainly the very first. Their God of Conquest was believed to be defeated and devoured by a great warrioress named Hroc Tosh who ate his three hearts, claimed his power. They fashion themselves after Hroc Tosh. The suffix -oth that forms their word for conquest, ‘Roth,’ is feminizing, used in words and names. Kithoth Falenoth. While the Valkto may believe their god Uvall has risen, if the Falenoth challenge this belief, any diplomat we send is at risk.~ Her eyes shifted only momentarily to Sahaan, skimming over Besran with distaste. ~Trust your counsel.~
With a grateful bow of his head, Sahaan met her eyes. ~I do, Captain. Thank you.~
Returning their gazes to the Ganroth liaisons, the Venerate shifted forward in his seat. “Though my understanding of your culture is limited, and I hope to remedy this through our accords, I have great respect for the ones you call the Dead Sisters. The Ganroth may not view the Erahs as a warring people, but we have an ancient history that speaks of great warriors of our own. A legacy of craftsmanship in our weaponry can only come of those who excel in combat.”
Raising a hand, he waved forward a young man holding a folded length of Kirin hide. Timid, the nervous youth walked before the Ganroth to Sahaan. As the Venerate stood, he presented the bundle then stepped back and sat upon the dais edge. Captain tu’Satin’s hand rest firmly on her sword as Sahaan walked down to stand before Nkot. Every gesture was delicate and calculated as he unfolded the dappled fur. Within was a sword of extremely fine metal. Its surface swirled with a faint wavering design forged into the blade, not intended to be decorative, beautiful nonetheless. Along the blade the metal stretched like tendrils and tentacles. Set within were clear gems in hues of peridot green and yellow, sheered flat so as not to disturb the perfect line of the sword. The effect created was that of unison, stone and metal fused, indivisible from one another. The hilt, too, grew from the blade, no discernible break, just a swirling of metal vines looping up and around a smooth, leather wrapped handle. Within this were cyan blue stones, the only one standing apart at the pommel.
Holding it out for her to take, a generous gesture of faith, Sahaan explained. “This art has been lost to us since the time Viridian and Iaegonaul were ours. It is known as Pallasin. Very few of such weapons still exist. Like our cities, and this Holt, it was not forged by the means of your blacksmiths, but by the magic of powerful gifted ones who were able to reshape the world around them on a whim. Our Weyd… keepers–”
“Meyaf–” Sahaan cast puzzlement to Umisra in a sidelong gape, but it was Nkot’s previously silent advisor who spoke with a grim resonance fringed with insult.
Stifling any embarrassment, Sahaan inclined his head in gratitude and repeated it as precisely as he was able, “Our…meyafdedat… say that in those times the stones within these weapons were charged with magic and our warriors were once a reckoning of a kind.”
Ignoring the advisor’s soft snort, Sahaan returned his gaze to the sword. His grey-green eyes studied it with sadness as Nkot admired it with the eyes of a warrior and one whose culture knew nothing of such wonders. “But this was a very long time ago, perhaps before the Felling… regardless, this way is lost.” Gesturing with the Kirin-skin in his hands. “I wish to send this with our diplomat. A gift for the–”
~–Vesvudak.~ Umisra quickly supplied.
“–Vesvudak of your Kithoth Falenoth. IF this is a suitable show of our desire for peace and understanding?”
Genuinely speechless, Nkot stood and lowered the blade into his hands allowing him to once again wrap the artifact. “I cannot imagine there is any greater than this.” Shaking her head, she lifted her yellow eyes to his and asked with deep interest. “I do not understand. Though my people do not condone the slavery of yours, too many have been complicit… this war with the Shae, it kills your people too, those in the cities, the clans too close to flee. Were I you, peace is the last thing I would seek.”
“As you say, your people do not condone the slavery. I sought help from the Shae when the dust creatures attacked and was overlooked as unimportant.” Looking down at the weapon in his hands, Sahaan sighed. “My wish is not to take sides, it is to see my people survive. The name of our clan, Calhalla comes from the word calvasuei– to hide and hallen, our word for stranger. We have not been, nor can we continue to remain hidden. Tybraes is too changed. We are too changed. There is little hope that this legacy will ever be returned to us. If I can at least find us a place that is not beneath another’s boot… then some small piece that was the Erahs of this time is restored.”
Every Erahs guard flinched as Nkot bent forward and rest her brow against his brow. “This is an honorable goal for a leader of warriors.”
Pressing back against her as if he had horns to meet hers, he replied, “then we are in accord?”
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